Arequipa, Peru, Point of Interest: The Monastery of Santa Catalina

For a unforgettable afternoon in a not-so-crowded part of Peru, travel to Arequipa. While there, be sure to visit the beautifully crafted Santa Catalina Monastery. This is still a functioning monastery, and was closed to the public for a long time, but has now opened its doors to the public. The main area inside the building is now an art and history museum, featuring wonderful works of past masters and the simple furnishings in the life of a cleric.

The monastery is much like a enclosed village, with several small distinct areas inside. There are several streets inside, plus cloister areas, squares, the laundry building, and the kitchen. Every one of these distinct areas is a memorable photograph waiting to be taken.

There are over 400 wonderful paintings inside the main building. They are mostly works of a religious nature from both Europe and Cuzqueno art schools. The style of art is primarily South American colonial, and provides an unusual contrast to other types of painting with its emphasis on expression.

The building itself is a work of art, with vaulted ceilings and stark white walls made of volcanic ash. It is a combination of colonial and mestizo styles. Tourists come not only see the hall, built in the shape of a cross, but also visit the cloister areas, walk the hallways, and enjoy the detailed architectural style of the late 1500s construction.

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