So, we arrived back in Arequipa after our fun filled trip to Colca Canyon (allow 1 1/2 - 2 days to fully enjoy the experience). After a lovely dinner with friends - more embassy folk enjoying the long weekend - we again packed it in early and readied ourselves for another day of touring.
Our Monday tour was of the city center - more colonial churches and colonial buildings.
The Plaza de Armas.
Views from above the town...
And the local flora and fauna...
Artichokes (alcachofa) are a big export and dietary item here - we're loving it!
And everyone loves the variety of llamas and alpacas (and the great products that they provide).
Then we were on to the real historic thrill of Arequipa - the Monastario de Santa Catalina. This convent was opened in 1549 and is essentially a city within the city. Over the centuries the wealthy - and not so wealthy - families of Arequipa sent their younger daughters to join the religious orders. While they took vows of poverty, many of these women brought their finest silks, china, musical intruments and art works. They had minimal contact with the outside world from the time they entered at the age of 16. But they absolutely maintained the comforts of the life from which they came.
Our first notice as we entered though was to respect the silence of the convent life..
I'll now wander through the convent and invite you along if you choose to come.
A map of the convent city. This convent covers a full, very large city block and has winding streets within as well as all possible services - medical, dining, chapel, cemetary, and so on.
Since this was a cloistered life, contact with family and visitors was severely limited. The community members would sit in this room while family sat behind two levels of wooden lattice work - designed such that they were invisible to their visitors. Each nun would have a "listener" sitting beside her to minimize inappropriate or complaining conversations.
The novice quarters where they remained until they took their vows after a period of several years. The quarters here were pretty cramped but with much contemplative art and a wonderfully tranquil setting.
Color entered their lives after their vows. We are actually not sure if the colors are all representative of the 16th century but since the convent has been continuously in operation for the past 450 years (there are still 25-30 nuns in residence) we are comfortable with their depiction of the tradition.
Bedding was humble - a single bed in a built in alcove.
But the sitting room was less so. Most certainly furnishings brought from their home life.
Some of the city streets - all narrow but quite charming.
And, of course the chores. The cooking area is shown below. Many of the community members brought their servants - from 1-3 servants per person - so cooking was not necessarily the chore of the community member.
The water purifier was a porous stone that, over a period of a few hours, purified the water to a potable level for personal consumption:
The laundry was a charming set up with split pots used for washing and rinsing. Water was pumped down a central channel that could be diverted to each individual washing area.
This convent truly is a gem within the city and I highly recommend it for folks planning to visit the Arequipa area.