The Santa Catalina Monastery in Cusco, west of the Plaza de Armas, now functions as a museum of religious art and is also worth a visit for its colonial architecture.
The Santa Catalina convent was founded by Lucia Isabel Rivera de Padilla at the end of the 16th century in Arequipa. There, a veritable convent town, still inhabited by nuns, still amazes its visitors today.
The Santa Catalina Monastery came to Cusco in 1601 after Arequipa was hit by an eruption of the Waynaputina volcano. Today it is one of our top 10 monasteries in the world and our top 10 sights of Cusco.
Visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery
The monastery building was built on the remains of a so-called Acllawasi and still bears witness to colonial architecture with Romanesque arches. In the "House of the Chosen", the most beautiful girls of rich families used to serve the sun god.
They cooked and sewed, wove clothes for the Inca priests and prepared flatbread and corn beer for sacred ceremonies. In its early days, the Santa Catalina convent was inhabited by 25 professional nuns.
Today, the Cusco monastery is partly open to tourists and worth a visit with its painted archways, ornate arcades and a chapel worth seeing with baroque frescoes. The chapter house, the nuns' meeting place, is also decorated all over with murals and is one of the most beautiful in all of Peru.
Museum in the Santa Catalina Monastery
Since 1975, the monastery has housed a museum that exhibits both Indian and colonial religious art from the 17th and 18th centuries. The monastery's collection is one of the most important Indian-Spanish art collections in Cusco. The most common motifs include Saint Rosa of Lima, the Virgin of Belen, the Assumption of Our Lady and the Archangel Rafael.