The citadel was located in the south of Peru in the city of Arequipa, founded on September 10, 1579 and located in an area that stands out for its natural beauty, welcoming climate and that has a great material with which it is built and followed. making the architecture of this city, the ashlar. In the monastery there are two types, the white ashlar, which comes from the Chachani volcano, and the pink one from the Misti, the latter emblem of the city.
The citadel occupies an area of 20,000 square meters and is completely isolated from the city, despite being located in the heart of it. A great and solid wall of 4 meters of height isolated the life of the women who inhabited the monastery.
Viceroy Francisco de Toledo grants the necessary license for the foundation of the much-desired monastery that applied for citizenship. Doña María de Guzmán, widow of Diego Hernández de Mendoza, decides to seclude herself in the monastery under construction, giving up all her assets. On September 10, 1579, the memory of the foundation of the monastery was made, signed by the Cabildo, the city regiment and the bishopric of Cusco, naming María de Guzmán as the "First settler and prioress of said Monastery". On October 2, 1580, a high mass is held in the city so that from that day the habits will be taken.
The women who entered the monastery as nuns were Creoles, mestizas belonging to wealthy families. The story tells of the income of the so-called "poor nuns" who, without having money to pay a dowry, entered to exercise their virtues. It is known that, in the middle of the 18th century, the citadel had more than 300 women in habit and servant maids.
On June 13, 1747, a group of four nuns from the Santa Catalina Monastery moved to the recently built Santa Rosa Monastery, located on the corner of San Pedro and Santa Rosa streets, to found a new religious community, which continues there until now.
The Santa Catalina Convent was wrapped in a veil of mystery and silence until 1970, when a large part of the convent opened its doors to the public. The nuns allowed a private company to manage it. Nuns still live in the northern area of the complex.
Access to the Patio del Silencio.
The charm of this citadel lies in the solidity and plasticity of its volumes, and the beauty that master builders and master builders achieved in the architecture of these enclosures through solutions such as flying buttresses or the construction of strong arches based on pillars.
In the interiors, domes and vaulted ceilings considerably expand the space and increase the feeling of strength of the buildings. Likewise, especially in the area of the alleys, the intervention of bricklayers who, lacking a proper architectural design, were raising walls, roofs, cells, patios and portals of a simple approach is perceived.
The current building houses splendid pieces of art, such as a baroque altar of carved and gilded wood, with one body and three lanes, which adorns the chapel, and several paintings from the Cusco school.
Due to the constant earthquakes that affected the monastery, the families of the nuns chose to build unique and private cells for each one of them. What caused there to be ordered sectors and in the absence of a plan others with a notorious disorder. For almost two centuries during the viceroyalty, the cloisters and cells of the monastery have undergone various modifications, additions and new constructions that have made Santa Catalina a counter on a human scale of Arequipa's colonial architecture.