On the street of Nava y Grimón, you’ll find not one, but two historic convents, both of which are still active. For centuries, the nuns of Santa Catalina de Siena have maintained a bitter, violent rivalry with those of Santa Clara de Asis. If you find yourself caught between two groups of sisters approaching each other on the street, get out of the way. Most are carrying switchblades under their habits, and there’s likely to be a bloodbath.
I’m joking, of course. I imagine there must be some kind of rivalry between Santa Clara de Asis (founded 1547) and nearby Santa Catalina (1606), though it’s probably something like “Who can pray most devoutly”. Or, “who can spend the most years in solitude and silence”. Despite the size of the convents and their prominent location, the nuns are very rarely seen on the city streets.
You can’t visit the convents, unfortunately, though their churches do open to the public for mass. And both feature small museums of religious art. On a quiet afternoon, when we had nothing better to do, we visited the Santa Catalina’s museum. We enjoyed it more than we thought we would — not just for the art, which was excellent, but also for its peaceful courtyard setting.
Within the courtyard, is a small building dedicated to María de Jesús de León y Delgado, otherwise known as La Servieta, or “Little Servant”. Born in El Sauzal in 1643, this sister spent her life in the convent, and has a bunch of miracles attributed to her. She apparently levitated, was clairvoyant, and could appear simultaneously in two different places. Those are the kind of tricks that might have branded you a witch, back in those days, but La Servieta lived in a convent so obviously it was all legit. (Pro-tip for students of witchcraft: why become an outcast by practicing under the full moon in the woods, when you can do it in a convent, and possibly become a saint?!)
The small museums in these convents are not among the island’s “must-sees”, but if you have some time while exploring La Laguna, it’s worth taking a peek into a different, quieter world.