Santa Catalina Monastery
Arequipa Travel Blog› entry 26 of 30 › view all entries
We had an amazing hostel! Our room
was a separate little house in the backyard of the rest of the building. It was
called Hostal las Torres de Ugarte. Across the street there was the Santa
Catalina Monastery. For tourists there is a real treat to be found
in Arequipa. Inside the historic center of the city (A Unesco world heritage in
itself) there is a cloistered convent, which is in effect a tiny walled city. I
am talking about the Santa Catalina Monastery.
This monastery was
founded 400 years ago. Typical are its vividly painted walls. Inside the
monastery there are still about 20 nuns living in a closed off quarter, while
the rest is open for visitors. In the past, up to 450 people lived
in this walled city, lots of nuns and servants. It was an elite place and only
the daughters of high-class Spanish gentry were accepted as nuns. The women
were to remain within this cloister for the rest of their lives. The
monastery is very small from the outside, not much bigger than a city block,
but from the inside it is a little village with streets, plazas, stairs and
passageways. It even has different housing blocks for nuns of different age and
the walls of these blocks are painted in different colors.
It is really a maze,
yet it is all so tiny. At the entrance hangs a map that tellingly illustrates
the maze for the new visitors. Lots of houses (cells) are open to the public
and are restored in the way that the nuns lived. Some have a measure of luxury
with whitewashed walls and flowers, other show very basic kitchens with
blackened stone ovens and wooden tables. The nuns also had a common garden and
a common place to do the laundry outside. I mentioned the colors.
All the walls are painted in bright red or blue or white, so much so that it
almost hurts the eye.
The monastery is a photographer’s paradise. Also: there
is some great cake to be had at the cafe halfway into the monastery.