The Santa Catalina Convent in Cusco, Perú is a fascinating church and convent with more than four centuries of history. Much of the convent is open to the public and allows visitors to learn about the lives of the nuns who live here and learn about the convent’s valuable collection of religious art.
The Santa Catalina Convent in Cusco, Perú is built on the ruins of Acllawasi, an Inca institution where virtuous members of the nobility lived and worshiped the sun god. Women attended ceremonies, weaving, and preparing sacred bread and beer. The Santa Catalina Convent was founded here in the early 17th century and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1650. Reconstruction began the following year and continues to this day.
Admire the architecture of the convent, a well-preserved example of Mudejar (Spanish Moorish) design. See the beautiful painted arches and the magnificent chapter house decorated with murals. Inside the chapel you will see Baroque frescoes that represent Inca vegetation.
Take a look at the curious trunk of the convent that contains a small scale model of the life of Jesus. This trunk used to be transported by representatives of the Catholic Church, who traveled to remote regions of Peru to try to convert the locals to Christianity.
Since 1975 the convent houses one of the best collections of Amerindian art in the region, a particular combination of local and Spanish styles. In the first room you can see a series of four anonymous paintings that portray the Lord of the Earthquakes.
You will also find works by Marcos Ribera, Francisco Padilla, Diego Quispe Tito and other important local artists. Admire the collection of paintings depicting the life and miracles of Santa Rosa de Lima, and the collection of nine chasubles embroidered with precious metal. Do not stay without buying homemade marzipan prepared by the nuns of the convent.
The Santa Catalina Convent in Cusco, Perú is open every day, with reduced hours on Sundays. The entrance is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket and you can also find guided tours. The convent is located a few blocks from the main square of the city.
The Santa Catalina Convent in Cusco, Perú is located in Santa Catalina Angosta s / n, approximately 100 m from the Cathedral of Cusco
Founded in 1605, the church and the monastery had to be rebuilt after the 1650 earthquake. The church has beautiful Baroque altars and a superb pulpit. The altars were the work of the masters Pedro de Oquendo and Diego Martínez de Oviedo (both from the 17th century). Their oil paintings are signed by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros and Lorenzo Sánchez de Medina in the second third of the 17th century.
Church built on one of the most important enclosures in the time of the Incas the Aqllawasi or House of the Chosen or Virgins of the Sun; place where were the most beautiful women, of great virtues and lineage of the entire Tawantinsuyo, dedicated to the cult of the Sun, preparation of their ceremonies, they made the weaving and clothing for the Inca, they were in charge of preparing the Sanchu (ceremonial bread ) and the Aqcha (sacred chicha), these women were kept virgins and also had to keep the fire of the Inti Raymi lit all year long.
There were two categories, the daughters of Incas noble blood considered wives of the Sun and had a higher category than the descendants of privileged nobles who considered themselves wives of the Inca, all were in charge of the Mamakunas who were women experts in domestic and ceremonial chores, no male could see them, not even the Inca himself, that right was reserved only for the Qoya (the Inca’s main wife) and their daughters. According to Inca Law that man who had relations with a chosen one, then he and all his family and his people were eliminated, in their lands salt was sown for having raised a bad son.
Today this Inca building was replaced by the church and monastery of the Dominican nuns of Santa Catalina. In 1601, Doña Lucía Isabel Rivera de Padilla founded the Santa Catalina Monastery in Cusco, after the Waynaputina volcano destroyed the monastery she had founded in Arequipa in 1559.
Later in 1650 the earthquake destroyed the original church and monastery, a year later the construction of the current structure began, a work that was completed after 4 years.
In the second half of the seventeenth century, various local artisans carved the Cloister of Santa Catalina diverse altarpieces that are currently in the church and monastery. The works made by anonymous artists of the Cusqueña school also stand out. Of all the works, the collection made by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros stands out, where the life of Santa Catalina and the Virgen de los Remedios are represented; Another Cusco author, Lorenzo Sánchez Mefecit, made a huge painting of the Assumption of the Virgin and another representing the glorification of Santa Catalina.
At present the church and convent of Santa Catalina is a museum of colonial art considered perhaps the most complete in the city, in the first room there are paintings that represent the Lord of the Earthquakes, a collection representing the life and miracles of Santa Rosa de Lima, the low choir has paintings on the life of Santo Domingo de Guzmán by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros.
Another interesting place to visit is the Chapter House, it contains murals by Tadeo Escalante (Acomayo), a work that represents religious life in the upper part Frescoes from the Santa Catalina Museum and virtuous and courtly life in the lower part The upper choir has a rustic organ made in Cusco and canvases of the life of Santa Catalina.
As for the church we can say that it is also beautiful, it has a main altar made of cedar wood and gilded with gold leaf, it is of a mixed style, it has the image in bulk of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the central portion of the altar in the upper part, and below are Santa Catalina and Santo Domingo. It also has a pulpit, and four other small altarpieces all made of cedar and gilt.
It has a main altar of golden cedar with mixed style, in the central portion and upwards is the image in bulk of the «Sacred Heart of Jesus» and below Santa Catalina and Santo Domingo; It has a pulpit carved in cedar and four other minor altarpieces, all gilded.
It has a magnificent museum and, in addition, the nuns are known for making exquisite marzipan and almond sweets.
Visits during mass hours.
Useful information about the churches of Cusco
To visit the main churches of Cusco, a good option is to purchase the ticket to the ‘Cusco religious circuit’, which includes tickets to the Museum of Religious Art, the Church of San Blas, the Church of San Cristóbal and the Cathedral.
To visit most of the churches in the city of Cusco, you can enter at mass time, which, in most cases, is 7 am. at 9 am. On Sundays.
The ‘Andean Baroque Circuit’ tour is a good option to visit the southern towns of Cusco as well as its churches. This tour includes: the Temple of the Company of Jesus, the Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, the Temple of San Juan Bautista de Huaro and the Chapel of the Purified Virgin of Canincunca.
A rule written on the signs of the churches of Cusco is that it is forbidden to take photos inside most of the churches of Cusco.
Visiting Cusco is a real adventure whose protagonist will be yourself, instead of a memorable experience, that is why Cusco is definitely one of the most incredible cities with a great variety of archaeological centers and tours such as Sacred Valley, Camino Inca or Machu Picchu. To enjoy an unforgettable experience, contact Inka Trail Backpacker, a company that will better assist you during your visit, of course it is always with the necessary advice for you and yours as well as the guarantee, responsibility and security that characterizes us. If you visit the city of Cusco another impressive destinations that you can visit are the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.