Church of Santa Catalina in Cusco
The church of Santa Catalina is one of the churches of Cusco with more history since there, was the ‘Acllahuasi’ or ‘House of the chosen ones’. It is located just 100 meters from the city’s Main Square. Currently, in addition to being a church, it has a convent and museum where the relics and historical pieces of the monastic cloister are exhibited. The cost of the visit is 8 Peruvian soles per person (approximately 2.5 US dollars).
All about the Church of Santa Catalina in Cusco
The Church and Convent of Santa Catalina is a Catholic temple under the direction of the Dominican nuns. It is located just a few steps from the Main Square of Cusco. It is made mainly of adobe and stone, on the foundations of an Inca acllahuasi (cloister of Inca princesses who worshiped the sun). Its baroque architecture has a high vault supported by cross arches. The cloisters have fountains. Nowadays, it continues to be a convent of mojas. It also has a museum where paintings, furniture and relics from the colonial era are exhibited.
The church and convent of Santa Catalina is located 100 meters southeast of the Main Square of Cusco. Its exact address is ‘Calle Santa Catalina Angosta s / n’.
How to get?
The way more tourists get to the church and convent of Santa Catalina is on foot. To do this, you must walk about 4 minutes from the Main Square of the city. You just have to follow the street ‘Sta. Catalina Angosta ‘, in one of the corners of the square.
The church and convent of Santa Catalina in Cusco was built on an acllahuasi, or royal house of virgins dedicated to the sun. As well as this temple, the Spanish built their main churches on the Inca temples most adored by the population. The objective was to impose their religion on the Inca beliefs. For example, the church and convent of Santo Domingo is on the foundations of the Coricancha temple, the most important in the empire.
Map to get to the Church of Santa Catalina
During Inca times, the place occupied by the church and monastery of Santa Catalina was an acllahuasi (building also called the house of the chosen ones or simply virgins of the sun). This enclosure had a sacred character because the most beautiful women of the Inca aristocracy were cloistered there, who were destined to worship the sun. After the conquest, the Spanish divided up the properties, corresponding the acllahuasi area to Antonio de la Gama.
In 1601 the land was donated to the Dominican nuns who, under the charge of Dona Lucía Isabel Rivera de Padilla, founded the monastery of Santa Catalina. A few years later the church was also built. However, both structures were destroyed by the 1650 earthquake. The reconstruction work ended in 1669, characterized by its high vault, its high walls as well as its solidity.
Currently, a museum has been added to the church and convent that exhibits unique pieces of monastic life. The colonial canvases of artists such as Juan Espinoza de los Monteros, Lorenzo Sánchez Mefecit and other anonymous authors belonging to the so-called ‘Cusco school of painting’ stand out. Likewise, the place has altarpieces, choirs, embroidery, frescoes, an organ, carvings and gold and silver objects.
The architecture of the church and convent of Santa Catalina has characteristics of the Mudejar style (Cusco Baroque). The set is made of stone and adobe and presents a visual solidity. The main nave of the church has a raised vault supported by transverse arches adorned with murals. The convent has beautifully decorated cloisters as well as courtyards with fountains, vaults, arches and rooms where the monastic life of the place is exhibited.
The church and convent
The church has a baroque decoration full of murals, canvases, carvings and liturgical objects decorated in gold and silver. The chapel full of murals with Inca vegetation motifs stands out. The convent has museum objects where a trunk stands out that keeps a model of the life of Christ, which served to catholize the first Indians. In addition, the representations of monastic life in real size stand out.
The convent – museum has several rooms where paintings from the Cusco school of painting are exhibited. In one of them you can see a set of canvases about the Lord of the tremors, the sworn patron of Cusco. Among the artists from Cusco who participated are: Juan Espinoza de los Monteros, Lorenzo Sánchez Mefecit, Diego Quispe Tito, Francisco Padilla and more.
The entrance ticket to the Santa Catalina monastery and museum has a cost of 8 Peruvian soles (2.5 US dollars, approximately).
University students (with a card) pay 4 Peruvian soles (1.25 US dollars, approximately).
The Santa Catalina Monastery and Museum is open to visitors every day from 8.30 in the morning until 5.30 in the afternoon.
Photos of the church of Santa Catalina in Cusco
The acllahuasi were sacred precincts where the most beautiful women of the Inca aristocracy were cloistered. No person, with the exception of the royal priests and the Inca himself, could enter these precincts considered sacred.
Photographs are not allowed inside the church and convent of Santa Catalina. It is also not allowed to touch the canvases and relics inside. At the entrance gate, for additional money, you can hire the services of a tour guide.
The nuns of the Santa Catalina convent offer some cakes for visitors. Don’t miss the chance to try some of the delicious marzipan that the nuns offer in exchange for money that is used to support them.
Take advantage of your visit to the church and convent of Santa Catalina to see other religious temples in Cusco. Some of the most famous are: the church and convent of Santo Domingo, the church of the Company of Jesus, the church of San Blas, the church and convent of Santa Clara as well as the Cathedral of Cusco.