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The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

What do you do when you feel like you are going to die from altitude sickness? You find just enough strength to go to the closest monastery… By the time I arrived in Arequipa, I was having a hard time breathing due to the high elevation, we were staying in town for a couple of days to acclimatize a bit more before heading to Machu Picchu. Yet, I was not sure I will make it through the day. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to go (slowly) and visit The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

The place is beautiful! The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena is a large Dominican Second Order Monastery located in Arequipa, Peru, built beginning in 1579. It has a solid 4-meter-high wall surrounding it, and experienced destruction due to earthquakes in 1600 and 1604.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

It is known for its architectural features such as flying buttresses and strong arches, and its art pieces such as Baroque altars and paintings from the Cusco School. It is also known for its cloisters, cells, and Bell Tower, which were modified and added to over time.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

The monastery has suffered damage due to environmental pollution and seismic activity, so it was placed on the 2008 World Monuments Watch. A private group partnered with WMF to restore the mural paintings, walls, and roofs using traditional techniques, and the spaces were adapted for cultural programs. The monastery is still a functioning religious complex and tourist site, providing living quarters for the nuns and a destination for the community and tourists.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

Nuns of white criollas and mestizas origin still inhabit the northern area, and a private company manages the monastery. It contains a large art gallery of 400 colonial art pieces, and is featured in the book ‘The Book of Human Skin’.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

After a couple of days in Arequipa I started to feel a bit better, but let’s just say altitude sickness can be a serious issue and you need to give your body time to get used to higher elevations at its own pace. I managed it eventually but I would not do it again, it’s the strangest feeling when you breathe normally yet you feel like you are suffocating. Maybe this visit to the monastery was so kind of Devine Intervention…

The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru
The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Arequipa, Peru

Thanks for visiting and reading. Please do not steal images from the website. All images are watermarked and copyrighted. Feel free to engage by leaving a comment below. Until next time.

PS. There are a lot more photographs from Arequipa in Peru, so if you are interested I put together a little silent photo slideshow below:

Here are 10 little-known facts about Arequipa, Peru:

  1. Arequipa is known as “The White City” because many of its buildings are made from a white volcanic stone called “sillar.”
  2. The historic center of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  3. Arequipa is located at an altitude of 7,660 feet (2,335 meters) above sea level.
  4. The Misti volcano, one of the most well-known volcanoes in Peru, overlooks the city of Arequipa. It is also considered to be a sacred mountain by the local people.
  5. Arequipa is the second most populous city in Peru, with a population of over 1 million people.
  6. The city has a rich culinary tradition, including dishes like rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), adobo (marinated pork), and chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder).
  7. The Santa Catalina Monastery, a well-preserved colonial-era convent, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arequipa.
  8. Arequipa was the birthplace of the famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010.
  9. The city hosts the annual Festival of Arequipa, which includes music, dance, and food from the region.
  10. Arequipa is home to one of the oldest universities in South America, the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, which was founded in 1714.

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