Nuns with Slaves?
Arequipa Travel Blog› entry 39 of 71 › view all entries
Arequipa´s center was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000, and it wasn´t too hard to see why, especially after visiting Plaza de Armas which is huge, and very beautiful.
Today we visited the Santa Catalina Monastery. The monastery was built in 1540 and pretty much clouded in mystery until it opened to the public in 1970. The nuns themselves no longer live there, but in another section which is sealed off to the public. If it is what we saw while being there (a pretty modern complex) then they are living pretty darn well!!
The monastery was brightly decorated in gorgeous colours and filled with flowers. It was a mini-town with lots of rooms off it and a large communal kitchen.
The following is from Wikipedia and gives a good insight into the way the convent run -
The tradition of the time indicated that the second son or daughter of a family would enter religious service, and the convent accepted only women from high-class Spanish families. Each nun at Santa Catalina had between one and four servants or slaves, and the nuns invited musicians to perform in the convent, gave parties and generally lived a lavish lifestyle. Each family paid a dowry at their daughter's entrance to the convent, and the dowry owed to gain the highest status, indicated by wearing a black veil, was 2,400 silver coins, equivalent to US$50,000 today. The nuns were also required to bring 25 listed items, including a statue, a painting, a lamp and clothes.
In 1871Sister Josefa Cadena, a strict Dominican nun, was sent by Pope Pius IX to reform the monastery. She sent the rich dowries back to Europe, and freed all the servants and slaves, giving them the choice of remaining as nuns or leaving. In addition to the stories of outrageous wealth, there are tales of nuns becoming pregnant, and amazingly of the skeleton of a baby being discovered encased in a wall. This, in fact, did not happen in Santa Catalina, and there are rumours of the same story in the nearby Santa Rosa convent, as well.
The convent once housed approximately 450 people (about a third of them nuns and the rest servants) in a cloistered community. It was opened to the public in 1970, when the nuns opened their doors to tourism to pay for the installation of electricity and running water, as required by law.