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Posts Tagged ‘arequipa’

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

Calle Cordoba, originally uploaded by Meg&Adam.

Obviously, we love to travel. We wouldn’t have left our jobs, packed up all of our stuff, and headed out to do this had we not loved traveling. Many of the reasons we love traveling are obvious. Seeing great natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, taking in huge and energetic cities like New York, camping, hiking, and biking in places like Utah and Colorado. All are things we’ve done in the past that have helped feed our hunger for travel.

When planning this trip, we planned it around wanting to see and experience places like these. We know that Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires, Angkor Wat, Bangkok, the beaches of Thailand, the Taj Majal, and India are all going to live up to expectations. But another great thing about travel is the unexpected wonders we’re going to encounter. And last night here in Arequipa, we experienced one of those unexpected experiences that literally took our breaths away.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a convent over 400 years old right in the center of Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru. It was one of the more expensive “museums” here, so at first we weren’t sure it would be worth the price of admission given our budget. Boy are we glad we didn’t miss it.

It is open 7 days a week, but it closes by 5pm, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays when it stays open until 9pm. We decided to see it at night, and we got lucky because there was a concert going on in one of the rooms inside, and it only cost us a third of what it normally does. Because of the concert, the rest of the convent was virtually empty, so we got to explore as if we were the only ones around.

Shortly after walking in, we knew we were in for a treat. This place was not just any convent. The Santa Catalina de Siena Convent was founded in 1579. The unique thing about it, though, is that no one besides the nuns who lived there saw the inside of this city within a city until 1970. Ever since it was built in the 16th century, many women entered the convent to serve as cloistered nuns and live in total seclusion to the outside world.

Like the majority of the city of Arequipa (which sits at the bottom of El Misti Volcano), the convent was constructed from Sillar, a white volcanic stone quarried locally. Because this part of the country has been hit by earthquakes throughout its history, the structure of the convent is particularly unique. The nuns constructed private cells within the convent where they could be isolated in prayer. The huge walls surrounding the entire convent sheltered them from the rest of the city. Inside these walls lie narrow streets and maze-like bedrooms, cells (very small rooms for prayer), kitchens, dining rooms, courtyards, cemeteries, and chapels.

We were lucky enough to go at night and see this without many other tourists around. We got to wander in and out of the streets, tiny doorways, and rooms while snapping photos and standing in awe. It truly was one of the most remarkable things I have personally ever experienced.

After the convent sustained damage from earthquakes in 1958 and 1960, it was restored and opened to the public on August 15, 1970, the 430th anniversary of the city’s founding. During this restoration period about 400 pieces of original religious paintings were found and professionally restored by art experts.

We didn’t have the best first day in Arequipa, as we didn’t really take to the chaos and crowdedness of the tiny streets and sidewalks, but the trip to Monasterio de Santa Catalina seemed to change our outlook on this city. We entered wondering whether we made the right choice in skipping Huacachina for Arequipa, and exited mouths agape thankful for the experience we just had.

The internet access is not as quick here, and it is taking a long time to upload picture to the blog, so the two here are just to whet your appetites. Here is a link to our Flickr page with the rest of the pictures from the beautiful and amazing site (from the Flickr site, you can also access the rest of our pictures from the trip that we did not upload to our blog; we plan on linking it somewhere on the front page of our blog soon): http://www.flickr.com/photos/7845154@N06/sets/72157608275243505/

We have our room booked for tonight and tomorrow night, then Friday morning we take off at 4am to do a 3 day, 2 night hike into the Colca Canyon. So if we don’t update until next Sunday/Monday, don’t worry, we’re safe, we’re just going to be at the bottom of one of the deepest canyons in the world.

Until next time….

~Adam

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