ultramarinus – beyond the sea


Like many Spanish colonial cities, the historical core of Arequipa is laid out in a grid pattern.  Occupying two city grids located three blocks north of Plaza de Armas, the enormous complex of Monasterio de Santa Catalina is the biggest tourist attraction in the city.  Founded in 1579, the monastery is a nun convent of the Dominican Second Order.  Dona Maria de Guzman, a rich widow, was the foundress of the monastery.  At its peak, the 20,000 sq.m monastery housed about 450 people (nuns and their servants).  Many upper class families were willing to pay a large sum of dowry in order to send their second daughters to the monastery as nuns.  Nowadays, about 20 nuns still live in a private quarter in the complex.  The majority of the monastery has been turned into an open air museum.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a great example of Spanish colonial architecture with unique local influences.  With vivid colours, tranquil cloisters, and centuries of modifications and additions since the earthquake of 1582, the monastery has become a collection of colonial architecture and religious antiques.  We spent a good couple of hours wandering in the monastery.  The vivid blue, orange, and white walls gave the splendid and solemn architecture some delightful touches that echoed the vibrant colours of native cultures in Peru.

0A floor plan of the monastery in display showing the extensiveness of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

1Cloister of the Orange Trees, one of the main cloisters in the monastery, is decorated with vivid blue walls and religious wall paintings.

2Frescoes depicting religious stories at the cloister.

3Fresco and the vivid blue wall by the cloister.

4Roof drainage and the white washed walls of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

6A small court adjacent to the outdoor laundry area in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

7Steep exterior steps leading up to the rooftop.

8Cluster of laundry basins where nuns washed their clothes.

9Calle Sevilla in the living quarter is flanked by dwelling units for nuns, with the chapel in the background.

10AThe vivid orange walls in the nun’s living quarter coupled with stone bench, large roof tiles, and unique roof gutter.

10bAn atmospheric pastel coloured street corner and plant decorations looked surreal.

11Stone inscription above a window opening in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

12Antique tools in a kitchen where nuns made their own food, including bread.

13In almost every kitchen in the complex, there is a ceiling oculus for smoke ventilation and natural light.

14There are many well preserved antiques in Monasterio de Santa Catalina, including the stone filter on the left and a wooden furniture on the right.

15Portraits of nuns in a bedroom at the living quarter.

16View of the living quarter, internal streets and outdoor fountain from the rooftop in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

17View from the roof top in Monasterio de Santa Catalina towards the scenery of volcanoes and mountains outside the city.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


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