South America
Monastery of Saint Catharine of Siena


A brief description.


After a request of Maria de Guzmán the Dominicans Pedro de Santo Domingo, Diego de San Juan, Antonio Martinez and Mr Hernando Almonte laboured for the foundation of a monastery for Dominican nuns in Arequipa, Peru.

The erection began on 10th September 1579 and  with the prioress Maria de Guzmán, three sisters and a lay-sister.


During his visit to Arequipa, Viceroy Francisco Toledo was informed by the Town Corporation about their wish, from years back, to found a monastery of nuns. He gave the necessary licenses to found the private monastery of nuns of the Order of Saint Catherine of Siena. Several years later, Doña María de Guzmán, the widow of Diego Hernández de Mendoza, a beautiful young lady who had no children, decided to retire into the yet unfinished monastery, giving to it all her fortune. On the 10th. of September 1579, the Memorial and Capitulation of the foundation of the Monastery was signed by the Town Corporation, the Judiciary, the Regiment of the City and the Bishopric of Cusco. The Town Corporation delivered the four plots owned by the city for its functioning and appointed Doña María de Guzmán as "the first to live within and be prioress of said Monastery". On Sunday 2nd. of October 1580 a high mass was celebrated in the city and Doña María was acknowledged as the founder and took the habits formally. The ladies who entered as nuns were Creole, half-bred and even daughters of curacas (Indian chieftains).


The monastery was a fact by papal bull of Pope Urban VII of 3rd December 1592. History tells of the intake of poor nuns and from ladies of the city, who without embracing the religious life entered into the Monastery to exert their virtues.


The city and monastery were built with a unique construction material: sillar, a porous stone from volcanic lava with our own architectural designs, with spaces and proportions of great esthetic value, and also to have carvings on imposing fronts with fine decorative details, making of Arequipa a colonial center of marked identity, within the main urban centers of the continent.


The recurrent earthquakes affecting Arequipa since 1582 destroyed the older constructions and also the properties of the relatives of the nuns of Santa Catalina over whom the income that guaranteed the future economy and life of the Monastery was dependent.

In spite of that, the retirement was kept. Then, a period of suffering started during which the nuns themselves repaired their rooms.  The relatives of the nuns decided to built private cells for them, because the common dormitory was damaged and was also too small for the increasing number of nuns. For almost two centuries during the viceroyalty, the cloisters and cells of Santa Catalina have underwent modifications, additions and new constructions. All of these have made of it a sample of the colonial architecture of Arequipa.


In this monastery Ana de los Ángeles Monteagudo  (26.07.1604-10.01.1686) was a member and since 1645 till her dead on 10th January 1686 prioress.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Peru, Arequipa, on 2nd February 1985.


presumed following some deductions and testimonies that she was born on the 26th of July 1604. As her christening certificate was lost in the fire of the Main Church of Arequipa in 1620, before the first cathedral was built, we cannot know the exact date. Ana was the fourth of eight children, born from Sebastián de Monteagudo and Francisca de León. They were: Francisco, Mariana, Catalina, (Ana), Juana, Inés, Andrea and Sebastián. It is known that Francisco became a priest, Mariana married Gabriel López de Pastrana, Catalina married Gonzalo Tamayo and Inés married Bernardino de Meneses. Of the others, nothing is known, but it is possible they died from one of the plagues, which struck Arequipa in those days.

Sor Ana was delivered to the Catalina nuns when she was three years old, to be educated and instructed; in those days mainly moral and religious teaching. It is believed that her parents took her from the monastery when she was ten or eleven with the intention to marry her when she reached at least fourteen, because in those days the parents made betrothals of their children, even below the fourteen years of age the minimum age for a valid marriage. While she was at home, she had a vision of Santa Catalina of Siena, showing her the habit of the Domenican nuns. Then she decided to return to the Monastery, being led by a small boy called Domingo. When her parents learned the fact, they tried to dissuade her by offering her jewels, but she kept firm in her decision. At least her father accepted her decision and supported her but her mother could not accept it, telling her never to come back home. The dowry she was to pay on entering the Monastery was paid by her brother Francisco.

Her Mother, even though she was able to cover it, definitely refused to pay it. Ana took her vows, taking the name of "de los Angeles". From the beginning she practiced what she had vowed, always seeking perfection. Once, she was elected Mother Prioress of the Monastery for a three-year period, a most important post that she tried to decline, thinking she was not capacitated for the position. Some of the nuns backed her and promised to help her, but others were against her, saying how someone who could not read or write would become a Prioress. That position caused her many problems with other nuns, who even in three opportunities tried to poison her. They were against the rules of austerity imposed by Sor Ana during her charge, obliging the nuns to wear the habits without gold ornaments.

The old monastery, represented on the stamp, is now a museum with annexed a new priory for the sisters.




The old monastery of Saint Catharine of Siena of the Dominican sisters in Arequipa, Peru, was founded 10th September 1579 and officialy erected
by papal bull on 3rd December 1592.


Peru 1999, Mi 1704, Sc 1234.



320th Anniversary of Ana de los Ángeles Monteagundo's death (16.07.1602-10.01.1686).

Peru 2006, Mi 2044, Sc -- .  On order.





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