Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa

Extravagance was the name of the game at Santa Catalina Convent. Wanting to keep the convent high class and pure, the monastery's founding mother only accepted nuns from the richest Spanish families. The chosen girls continued to live it up in solitude. Profligate with their dowrys, ornate furniture, paintings, curtains, and gowns were bought by Jesus's bridezillas.

Nagging rumors of hedonistic parties and pregnant nuns caused the Vatican to send a new madre. Sister Josefa Cadena carried a long stick and set new rules for the convent. Rules including: 1.) Women of the convent were to be called sora, and could no longer demand to be called doña, and 2.) Only one slave per sister.

The rules might have restored some order, but apparently did not help long-term with finances, and the convent eventually opened to the public to remain solvent. That is how we got to explore the vast fortress of a convent that takes up more than a whole city block in Arequipa.

The convent is still running, but only in a locked off corner. Geranium and narajo filled cloisters are divided by walls of red, blue, and orange. A little more cheery than I expected. But there were also things I did expect: lots of gaudy religious paintings, scary dolls dressed in gold-encrusted habits, and room after room of normal, daily things like beds for sleeping, kitchens for cooking, benches for kneeling, baths for bathing.

Poverty, chastity, and obedience were their vows. Obedience must have been their strong point, because there was obviously a little bit of plentitude and licentiousness on the side.

Window lighting up the opposite wall in one of the many kitchens.
From arequipa and colca

From arequipa and colca

From arequipa and colca

From arequipa and colca

1 comment:

  1. Erin - Great photos of the convent. The color and interesting composition of many of the images is wonderful.