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There are 17 cloistered women's convents still functioning (in some cases, flourishing) in Seville today. Some are very small, some are in steep decline, and some are so obscure that their doors are almost always closed to casual visitors. But if a peek into this medieval lifestyle intrigues you, the most interesting (and most accessible) cloistered convent is Santa Paula, which offers infrequent but viable tours wherein a cloistered nun conducts the tours in Spanish.

The convent of Jerónimas nuns (followers of St. Jerome) dates from 1475, the facade -- a stellar example of the so-called Catholic Monarch's style -- from 1503. Gothic, Mudéjar, and Renaissance decorations combine here. The single nave of the church is covered by a ceiling designed by Diego López de Arenas in 1623. The main altarpiece is in the baroque style, the creation in 1730 of José Fernando de Medinilla. On-site is a small museum with various ecclesiastical art and sculpture mostly from the 16th to the 18th centuries. You can also admire the main cloister of the convent, which dates from the early 16th century.