Location: Arequipa, Peru
Santa Catalina Monastery is one of the most important sights in Arequipa. The monastery is known as a city-in-a-city because the nuns were quite self sufficient.
The entrance fee is 35 soles (S$17.50) which is quite expensive for Peruvian price. One of the tour guides in the monastery approached me and said the usual rate for a 1-hour guided tour is 20 soles (S$10).
With a guide, you will know more about the history of the monastery and hear interesting stories.
Back when the monastery started, it was a period when the people in Arequipa followed Spanish customs and sent their second child into the church. “To pray for the whole family,” said my guide.
It was an honor to go into church and become a nun. The girls who entered the church were from upper class family. The families were able to afford building houses for their daughters which is why there are separated houses–complete with a bedroom, a kitchen and a servant’s room for the smallest houses.
The custom of having servants for the nuns stopped when one of the Pope Pius required the nuns to live together and share a same kitchen so they can understand how the poor live.
Now, there are still nuns staying in the monastery but they live in a separate section, called “New Monastery”. They make cookies, soap and perfumed rosaries which are sold in a small shop in the old monastery.
At the end of the tour, we reach the paintings hall where religious painting by the Cusco School are displayed.