Exploring the brilliant “White City” of Arequipa, had lead me to also explore a colorful little city, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina – it was a city within a city. Just a few minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas is Monasterio de Santa Catalina, and it is a fascinating place.
Santa Catalina is a stunning convent, a block in size, and is complete with three main cloisters of dormitories, courtyards, a kitchen, gardens, a cemetery, and other necessary structures for convent life.
Although Santa Catalina only opened to the public in 1970, it has been the home to Dominican Nuns since the 16th century. The convent was constructed in 1579, and housed prominent women who never left the premises. It became the home of girls from aristocratic families to spiritually educate them, and keep them safe. During those years the tradition was the second child, son or daughter, would enter a life of religious service to the church.
At Santa Catalina only girls (as young as three years old) from very wealthy families would be accepted, and had to pay a large dowry to enter the convent. Some of the girls entered the convent with servants, maids or slaves in order to maintain their luxurious lifestyles.
Almost 300 years later in 1871, Pope Pius IV instructed the nun, Sister Josefa Cadena, to revise and restructure the convent. Sister Cadena sent all the dowries back to Europe, as well as releasing any individuals in slavery, but allowed them to choose freedom or continuing of service.
Inside the convent walls there were many artistic treasures created by the nuns, including a life size scene of Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, during the Last Supper.
There is also a magnificent art gallery inside with a collection of paintings that were once scattered throughout the buildings. Prior to the restoration and public opening of the convent, hundreds of mostly religious themed art pieces and paintings were restored to their original appearances.
During the convent’s most notable years, there were up to 450 people living inside the walls. Today, approximately 20 elderly Dominican Nuns remain and have relocated to the northern corner of the convent. The remainder of the property is open to the public, and is a wonderous place to visit.
⛪ For visiting hours and information, please visit – Montaserio Santa Catalina
And then I realized that adventures are the best ways to learn…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre