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Photographer's Note

Santa Catalina Monastery is probably the most attractive monument you can experience in Arequipa.
In my poor opinion it's one of the most inspiring places of all Peru

MORE INFO:
The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a cloistered convent located in Arequipa, Peru. It was built in 1580 and was enlarged in the 17th century. The over 20,000-square-meter monastery is predominantly of the Mudéjar style, and is characterised by the vividly painted walls. There are approximately 20 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 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. 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.

In 1871 Sister 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. In the 1960s, 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.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Silvio Garda (Jeppo) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1821 W: 10 N: 1796] (17639)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2011-08-09
  • Categories: Architecture
  • Exposure: f/7.1, 1/320 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2011-09-05 12:16
Viewed: 3683
Points: 44
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Additional Photos by Silvio Garda (Jeppo) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1821 W: 10 N: 1796] (17639)
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