Santa Catalina Monastery

Arequipa Travel Blog

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Karen and Jason stand in a large, 17th-century kitchen. The walls are so charred!
      Our first stop this morning was the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a serene convent founded by the Dominicans in 1579. We spent two hours wandering around the labyrinthine complex, which today only houses thirty cloistered nuns, who are kept out of sight of the tourists that flock to the impressive religious monument. We walked along narrow, cobblestone alleys lined with brightly colored walls painted cobalt blue and sunburned orange. We passed by aged fountains, silent patios, and painted arches. We entered the sparse, stone-walled cells the nuns previously called home. A few of them had small stone gutters running along the wall and on the floor, allowing fresh water to pass through the room. Most of the cells also had a miniature kitchen attached, which simply consisted of a stone oven, used to make breads.
The cobalt blue walls of the convent were gorgeous.
The walls and ceilings of the miniature kitchens were charred, and we could still identify the distinctive smell of wood that had been burned.
      We also visited the communal lavanderia, or place to do laundry. The lavenderia consisted of a long boulevard with large, halved earthenware jugs, in which the sisters would wash their clothes. We next ventured to the banera, which consisted of a large, stone hole in the ground with steps leading to the bottom. It was in here that the nuns would bathe. The orange tree cloister was a lovely courtyard with mural paintings that cover the arches. We also visited the main chapel, a smaller chapel where the nuns take their religious vows, a large 17th-century kitchen, the communal dining room, and the chapel's choir room. We were also allowed to visit the room where Sor Ana, a 17th-century nun, lived and died.
Jason and I stand in a colorful street inside Santa Catalina.
She was beautified by Pope John Paul II, and she is on her way to becoming a saint.
      In all, the city-like complex we visited contains three cloisters, six streets, eighty housing units, a square, an art gallery, and a cemetery. The convent, which was only recently opened to the public in 1972, was recently placed on the 2008 World Monuments Watch List of the Most Endangered Monuments. It was placed on the list because it is apparently threatened by structural damage caused by both earthquakes and pollution. To learn more about the convent, you can visit its website at www.santacatalina.org.pe.
      Later in the day, we took a taxi to the Mirador (lookout point) in a tranquil suburb of Arequipa, called Yanahuara.
This is where the nuns would wash their clothes.
From there, we were able to get a few shots of some of the active volcanoes that surround the city. We also enjoyed another serving of helado con queso at an ice cream shop, visited a few markets near San Francisco Plaza to purchase our last souvenirs, and even relaxed while watching a movie in our hostel.
      At 7:00, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at the unassuming La Trattoria del Monasterio, a small restaurant cleaved into the outer sillar wall of the Santa Catalina Monastery. Afterwards, we returned to our hostel to pack our bags for tomorrow's trip to Colca Canyon.
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Karen and Jason stand in a large, …
Karen and Jason stand in a large,…
The cobalt blue walls of the conve…
The cobalt blue walls of the conv…
Jason and I stand in a colorful st…
Jason and I stand in a colorful s…
This is where the nuns would wash …
This is where the nuns would wash…
This is a typical room that a nun …
This is a typical room that a nun…
This is one of the many streets in…
This is one of the many streets i…
A large fountain is the focal poin…
A large fountain is the focal poi…
Arequipa
photo by: halilee