Ephemerratic
Get Updates by Email

Catch up in your inbox.

Us ⤵
Photo of Lauren and Todd

Lauren's the writing shutterbug. Todd's the artist. Together we have a bit of wanderlust. Learn more...

Places

Jarred hearts, dead nuns, and a spring bride: Arequipa’s Santa Catalina Convent

April 25, 2013 by Lauren in Peru, Travel Stories with 2 Comments

I’d been led to believe that a visit to Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Monastery) in Arequipa, Peru would be a serene, beautiful experience.

Sure, sure. Except for the presence of death everywhere. Other than that, yeah, total bliss.

Dead nuns, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

They’re not sleeping. They’re dead.

The postmortem paintings of long-lived and now long-dead nuns are one thing. The hearts tucked in jars like holy hipster pickle products is a whole other thing. I so easily forget that Christianity is weirdly obsessed with saintly effluvia.

Heart in a jar, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Heart in a jar, with a bespoke label even!

Then there’s the typical and overwhelming convent theme of life-without-sex-because-Jesus-is-my-man.

Nuns. I get them less than they get some.

Nun nightmare, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Nun nightmare.

For a while though, the nuns of Santa Catalina Monastery lived a lot like the average Arequipeño rich girl probably did. They might have been sequestered there by their families, trapped in a city within a city, but in the late 1800s the young ladies were known for their Paris Hilton living. Even cloistered they managed to drink and dance, surrounding themselves with servants and a fair bit of luxury.

They may have even strayed from their vows of chastity. Kick off your Sunday shoes indeed.

Stabbed nun, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Shot through the heart, and God’s to blame

Last supper, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Jesus Christ, could someone PLEASE pass the salt?

Alas, nothing lasts forever, particularly women having fun when they’re not supposed to. The servants got booted and the nuns were made to act like nuns. Contact with the outside world was forbidden. The monastery enforced it’s anti-fornication and pro-flagellation stance. Behind locked doors and high walls, the nuns lived (if you can call it that) and died.

Silent demand, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Silent demand

Today, a few nuns live in Santa Catalina Monastery, but we don’t cross paths. Instead of the brides of Christ, I see a bride in white strutting for a photo shoot through the convent’s salmon- and blue-painted walkways.

Bride awaits, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Bride awaits her cue

Apart from the religious nuttery, this nunnery was also where people lived — sleeping, washing, cooking, and pooping — doing all those mundane things that keep our insides functioning. In the convent, there are many well-restored homes to explore, most only missing the still warm teakettle to feel like they’d been hurriedly abandoned just moments before.

Grinder, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Grinder

Oven, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Oven

Bed, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

A nun’s bed, very likely where nothing interesting ever happened.

Music staff, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Music staff

Throne room, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Throne room

As I walk the sprawling streets of Santa Catalina Monastery, I feel haunted by centuries of unresolved guilt. Not my own guilt, mind you. I left my guilt behind in a jar back at home.

Cross in red, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Cross in red

Cross in white, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Cross in white

Put a bird on it, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Put a bird on it

Insect-burrowed door, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Insect-burrowed door

Blue window view, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Blue view

Tall and narrow doorway, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Tall and narrow

Street sign at Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Street sign at Santa Catalina Monastery

Sun and shadows, Santa Catalina Monastery and Convent, Arequipa, Peru photo

Sun and shadows

Tagged , , , ,

You may also like

2 Comments

  1. jillMay 1, 2013Reply

    How the heck did I miss the pickled heart in jar?

    • LaurenMay 1, 2013ReplyAuthor

      There was a whole room of weird little preserved saintly bits! There were so many many rooms at the convent, it was easy to miss. I’m so glad though that we didn’t (Todd is very thorough explorer.)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Book Hostels Online Now Pimsleur Spanish Blue 125x125button Shop at UtrechtArt.com for Quality Art Supplies for Less Equal Exchange, Inc

Ads

Must-Have Travel Gear

When you click links to other sites, we may get a tiny bit of money, which won't increase your price yet supports our blogging costs. We always disclose freebies or compensation we get when we post about it. Much to some people's dismay, we're always honest. Advertise with us >