In the city of Arequipa, in southern Peru, we find one of the architectural and urban wonders of this country: the monastery of Santa Catalina. It is one of the monuments that you can not miss if you visit the White City.
The origin of this monastery It is located in the first half of the 16th century. Its gestation was due to a group of upper class Spaniards who wanted to create a private nun monastery.Cloister of the Orange Trees
During the visit of the viceroy Francisco de Toledo to the city, the Cabildo transferred this desire to him, obtaining the opening license of «a monastery of nuns deprived of the Order of Santa Catalina de Siena». In this way, this It is the first monastery of nuns founded in this Peruvian city.
However, it was not until the entry into the Order of Doña María de Guzmán, a young and wealthy widow, when she began to have the importance of which we are witnesses today. It is a monastery that it came to have a population of almost 500 people between nuns and maids.
It is also considered "a city within the city" because it houses spaces of worship, homes, recreation areas, common equipment and its own urban planning. Everything, within some iron walls that isolate it from the hustle and bustle of the current city.St. Catherine's Monastery
The monastery that we can see today It is the result of multiple construction phases, additions and landslides by the constant earthquakes that ravaged it. It occupies more than two apples and can be visited for the most part.
The set is colonial style and it is built, mainly, with sillar stone. It is a type of white volcanic stone very characteristic of the area.
It consists of a church, three cloisters, several orchards and a network of alleys that reminiscent of Andalusian neighborhoods such as Albaicín or the Jewish quarter of Córdoba. These streets open the cells, which seem more like small houses with their own living room, one or more bedrooms, kitchen and patio.
It is a magical space that constantly surprises visitors for its color, originality and diversity.
Tour of the monasteryMonastery street
The visit starts from a small open courtyard next to the church. The contrast that the visitor perceives is enormousWell, we went from sober walls outside to colorful spaces inside. Red, blue and yellow, fresh floral patterns and canvases flood all the spaces of this impressive place.
The first space we find is known as Patio del Silencio. From it you can access a small cloister called the Novices, in which you seem to hang religious paintings.
Breaking our steps, we access the Cloister of the Orange Trees, of archery painted in deep blue. From there we will arrive at Malaga Street, where we find the first cells of the nuns.
In this small town We will see a great variety of small houses. In them, the novices even had room for a maid who used to accompany them.
More treasures of the monastery of Santa Catalina de ArequipaMonastery Street - Ivan Mlinaric / Flickr.com
Of urbanism, Zocodover square stands out, with its beautiful fountain and its views of the dome of the church. We must also mention Córdoba Street, with its pots of geraniums hanging on the walls. And curious is the outdoor laundry, made with half jars attached to a channel through which water still flows.
After her, We found the great kitchen, of heavenly light thanks to an open oculus in the vault. This causes the light to enter almost magically into space. At the end of the tour we will see another cloister, the largest, called the Cloister Major.
From that cloister you access the art gallery.During the rehabilitation of the complex, many paintings have been recovered of the viceregal, Italian and Spanish schools shown here. They are endless treasures that are worth admiring.
Nowadays, The monastery can be visited every day of the week. It has several rates as well as optional guided tour not included in the price.