Santa Catalina Monastery
Santa Catalina Monastery
The cloisters in the Santa Catalina Monastery.
The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a cloistered convent in the centre of Arequipa. It was built in 1580 and was enlarged in the 17th century. Over sixty thousand square feet, the monastery is predominantly of the Mudejar style, and is characterised by the vividly painted walls. There are about twenty nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public.
The founder of the monastery was a rich widow, Maria de Guzman. 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 two thousand four hundred silver coins, equivalent to US$ 50,000 today. The nuns were also required to bring twenty five listed items, including a statue, a painting, a lamp and clothes. The wealthiest nuns may have brought fine English china and silk curtains and rugs. Although it was possible for poorer nuns to enter the convent without paying a dowry, it can be seen from the cells that most of the nuns were very wealthy.
Some of the many alleys at the Santa Catalina
In 1871 Sister Josefa Cadena, a strict Dominican nun, was sent by Pope Piux 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 one hundred and fifty nuns and three hundred servants in the cloistered community. In the 1960's, it was struck twice by earthquakes, severely damaging the structures, and forcing the nuns to build new accommodation next door. It was then restored and opened to the public. This also helped pay for the installation of electricity and running water, as required by law.
The Profundis Parlour. The place destined for wakes. The name comes from Psalm 130: "From the depths I will call for you. Oh Yave!" The thirteen images around the room were resident at the time of their death between 1691 and 1884.
This cell was the last one to be left by the nuns. It features an armchair upholstered with fabric made by the expert weavers from the province of Caylloma and an oil lamp. The image in the cupboard is of the Virgin of La Merced.
The income of Saint Catherine's Convent used to come from the dowries provided by the novices when they took their vows, from incomes generatred by properties and from donations. In 1585, the overhead costs comprised of the salaries of the chaplain (two masses each week), the choirmaster, the physician, the procurator and the hairdresser. In addition were the trunning costs for food, clothing and on occasion, building works and ornaments. The situation was not always good: natural disasters sometimes prevented incomes from being collected punctually and there were even times when it was necessary to resort to barter, where products, objects and even slaves girls were exchanged. There were also times when the budget was deficient as a result of non-payment of dowries and an excess of lay sisters, whose number therefore had to be reduced. During those periods, special contributions were received from the city authorities, the bishopric and from pious Christians. Nowadays, one of the main incomes of the community is from tourists. In accordance with the rules of living for Dominicans, they should scourge themselves moderately, but only with the express authorisation of the Prior or personal Confessor. This was not a common practice among the Order of Preachers since this is a contemplative rather than penitent order. Scourging was suffered on certain days and during certain times of the year: the eves of Holy Days, to fulfill promises, or to pay penalties for offences committed, especially during Lent and times of plague or war. The virtue of penance included fasting, abstinence and bodily mortification in order to temper the spirit and make the soul deserving of salvation.
Beata Ana de Los Angeles Monteagudo was born in Arequipa in 1606 and died in this cell in 1686, after having spent her last ten years of life blind and paralytic. Her profound mysticism and Christian mercy awoke the devotion of the people of Arequipa. The catholic church has admitted the curing of a cancer patient to be a miracle. She was beatified by Pope John Paul the II during his visit to the city in 1985. Her remains rest in an alter of the church.
Inside this cupboard, made into a reliquary, are the ancient relics of bishops who wanted to show their closeness and connection with the Monastery. In containers are the hearts of Bishop of Tucurnan, Monsignor Angel Mariano Moscoso Perez Obitas and of the Bishop of Arequipa and archbishop of Lima Juan de Almoguera are kept together with the tongue of the bishop of Arequipa Juan Gonzaga de la Encina.
The Refectory with The Last Supper - Ultima Cena - Escuela Cusquena Siglo XVIII
ALL IN ALL WE WENT IN FOR AN HOUR AND STAYED FOUR - INCREDIBLE PLACE