Convents, Monastaries and Churches

Arequipa has many interesting churches and cloisters. The Cathedral takes over one side of the main plaza and the front door fronts the plaza but enters into the side of the sanctuary. It is constructed of the white volcanic rock (sillar) and was rebuilt after the many earthquakes, finally being strengthened enough that the earthquake of 2001 only caused damage to the two towers. Both inside and out the church is white, making for a light interior.

The Convent of Santa Catalina, not far from the main plaza is like a city in itself. The convent as founded in 1579, not long after the city. The buildings are constructed of the same white volcanic stone as the rest of the old city. In its early days the families of the novices (girls training to become nuns) constructed the rooms for their daughters. Most of the early habitations contained two rooms and a kitchen. The girls brought servants with them. In later years it was decreed that each girl could have only one servant and later on a central kitchen and dining room were constructed where the girls ate together. Because of the way the convent was constructed – little by little – there is no obvious organization to it. There are several narrow streets among the nun’s cells and a few larger rooms, as well as the church which are set aside and separate from the main sanctuary for the girl’s worship.

Another of the many monasteries in the city is La Campañia de Jesus. It is just off one corner of the central square and the cloisters now hold small shops and offices but the archways of the plazas and the cloisters have been thus preserved.