viceroyalty of peru


The monastery of Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru: The cells.

As was customary in sixteen century nunneries throughout the Viceroyalty of Peru, the monastery of Santa Catalina in the city of Arequipa is arranged in what can be called an urban pattern. In this particular arrangement, the nuns´ cells are located along narrow streets and small plazuelas, unlike its masculine counterparts where the cells are placed surrounding the cloister. 

These cells are in reality small houses, with several rooms and even small private patios where the kitchen is located. Each cell belonged to a nun who owned it until her death, being able to sell or transfer it to another nun  as it was her private property. The cells in Santa Catalina are built in sillar, the soft, white volcanic stone characteristic of arequipeño architecture. Several roofing systems are used, from wooden pitched roofs covered tin ceramic tiles to stone vaults built with sillar.

Being an enclosed monastery, these cells were hidden from the eyes of the world fot nearly three centuries, until Santa Catalina was opened for public in the 1970´s. 

All photos by Juan Pablo El Sous (2014)