Have you ever heard of a city within a city?
In Arequipa we find a clear example of this, an architectural wonder that captivates those who visit it.
“The monastery of Santa Catalina occupies a territory of 20,426 m2 and was opened on September 10, 1579, just 39 years after the foundation of Arequipa city”
This incredible monument is located in the historic center of Arequipa. It served as a cloister for Dominican nuns from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and still houses a small religious community today.
The complex is built from volcanic ashlar stone and is organized into cloisters, houses, patios, square, a gallery and a small chapel.
Viceroy Francisco Toledo granted the licenses for the foundation of the “Private Monastery of Nuns of the Order of Santa Catalina de Siena”, however the foundation was in charge of a person outside the religious sphere.
This person was María de Guzmán, widow of Don Diego Hernández de Mendoza, who donated all her properties in order to create the beautiful place that we can enjoy now.
Today16 nuns still living in the Monastery, who offer advice, sell articles made by themselves and above all, they pray constantly for the peace of the world.
In 1944 the monastery was recognized by the National Institute of Culture as the national heritage of Arequipa and Peru, and in year 2000 it was also with Arequipa city recognized as a cultural heritage of humanity (UNESCO).
It should be noted that it was not until 1970 that the monastery was opened to the public. Its multiple restorations have made it one of the city’s greatest cultural attractions today.
The monastery of Santa Catalina is considered a citadel within another city, because in this there are: six streets, three cloisters, a square, the church, the gardens, the cells, the courtyard of silence, the kitchen, a laundry, the church , vaults and even a small exclusive cemetery for the nuns of the monastery.
“This convent should not be missed, even if it has had an overdose of colonial buildings. Occupying an entire block and guarded by imposing high walls, it is one of the most fascinating religious buildings in Peru ”- Lonely Planet.
“When you walk through the monastery of Santa Catalina it is very clear to us why it is the main monument of Arequipa architecture”
The monastery clearly presents the three styles of architecture that we can find in Arequipa city, the baroque, neoclassical and neocolonial. It was built using the volcanic stone of ashlar and joined by lime, sand and pozzolana.
When you are entering to the monastery, the intense colored walls stand out at first glance. According to the Architect Marizol Velasquez Gutierres (specialty in art), the color used in the architecture of the Santa Catalina Monastery is not the natural color of the material (ashlar stone), but the color based on pigments that has the property of changing its appearance (wall painting).
“According to its use, it can be classified as flat wall painting and decorative wall painting. In the Monastery of Santa Catalina coexist both, inside and outside the spaces, which configure it as an urban complex “
The colors that we can find in the monastery are indigo, blue, predominantly in the cloister of the Naranjos, the red ocher color for most of the streets, the white color for the novitiate cloister and the interior of the cells, the color orange ocher for the entrance and the main cloister, among others.
Velasquez Gutierrez also indicates this image was not always the same over time, because the quality of the color allows changing the appearance of the architecture according to fashions, remodeling, extensions, maintenance and also for health reasons, as evidenced in the polychromies hidden in the walls.
On the other hand, the decorative wall paintings of the interiors contain religious and floral designs and are the result of technical, social, historical and environmental facts.
How to visit Santa Catalina Monastery:
From March 1 you can visit the monument in the following ways:
1.- Virtual Tour: Virtual Tour with 7 chapters about its history. You can book a virtual visit of the place through the official website of the Monastery of Santa Catalina.
It is a way to anticipate the excitement of your next visit in which you can directly appreciate the majesty of the place.
2.- Direct visit to the Monument: From March 1st you can visit the Monastery with a fixed date and hour using the service of booking of the Monastery website.
*If you want to book a specialized guide please call 958 348 214
Open: Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 17:00. – * LAST ENTRY 4:00 p.m.
Closed to the public Easter Friday, December 25 and January 1
IMPORTANT INFORMATION – COVID -19
The Monastery of Santa Catalina has developed a strict biosafety protocol, to enjoy a safe and pleasant visit. You can read all the protocolo here .
The sale of tickets will be online and with reservation of time. Payments can be made with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Dinners Club, Unionpay and Maestro.
Giardino Tours Blog
Gutierrez, M. V. (27 de Enero de 2020). Universidad Catolica San Pablo.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina. (septiembre de 2020). Monasterio de Santa Catalina.