on…Santa Catalina, Arequipa

Posted: 31/12/2012 in Americas, Architecture, History, Religion, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Arequipa, Peru is a beautiful place with old colonial squares and those traditional Spanish era churches. The main reason I visited Arequipa was to see Juanita the ‘ice mummy’, however, I also stumbled upon the serene and beautiful Santa Catalina Monastery. This monastery is a monastery of nuns of the Dominican Order. I always thought convents were for nuns and monasteries were for monks,  but what do I know? It was founded by Maria de Guzman  and built in 1579, it was enlarged in following century. The rather large monastery takes up a sizeable part of the older part of Arequipa and there are still some nuns living in the closed off part; tourists can visit the rest.peru032

This city is no sprawling metropolis compared to Santiago de Chile or Buenos Aires, but it’s busy enough in that typically Latin way with taxis beeping their horns and people squabbling loudly. The mildly chaotic atmosphere outside is hard to detect once you get inside the peaceful cloisters of Santa Catalina. There are some interesting exhibits on life in yesteryear, but by far the best thing to do is wander around the peaceful maze and get lost among the painted walls and flowers. I even found some guinea pigs nibbling on salad in one of the quieter chambers. If you know anything about Peru then you can imagine what will happen to those little creatures.


Santa Catalina is built in the Mudejar style. This is the style adopted by the Moors who remained in Iberia after the Christians took it back. It’s not as obviously Moorish as some of the buildings you would find in Andalusia, but there is more than an echo to the styles of the Al-Andalus Moors. The tiles, brightly painted walls, and vaulted ceilings would seem familiar to anyone who has seen the old Moorish buildings. This particular building is very simple and sits perfectly into the surrounding streets of Arequipa. It reminds me of the places you would see on Spaghetti Westerns with peaceful locals being harangued by angry gunmen.


I find that most of the colonial Spanish, or Iberian architecture I have seen in South America fits seamlessly into its surroundings. I think this is a combination of parts of Iberia having similar light and climate, and because the buildings have had time to age. Looking at the history of European exploration, the Spanish and Portuguese have been in America a long time. The reason I talk about this is because I have often found Anglo-Saxon colonial styles to be completely out-of-place, especially in hotter climes.

peru006 peru007 peru009 peru010 peru016 peru018 peru020 peru026 peru033 peru036 peru038 peru041 peru042

  1. You have captured its beauty with an amazing eye! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s