South America

Monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena


A brief description.


After a request of Maria de Guzmán, O.P.  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 death on 10th January 1686 prioress.

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


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





The old monastery of Saint Catherine 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).
The cloister of the monastery in Arequipa.


Peru 2006, Mi 2044, Sc -- . 







Pope John Paul II visited  Peru (1985), and came to Arequipa to beatify sister Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo, O.P. on 2nd February. He met  there some Dominican nuns of the monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, where Angeles Monteagudo lived.

The Spanish sister, Mother Amada Romaro, O.P. (+ca 2003), prioress, offered the Pope a basket with a solideo (calotte), some stolae and an authentic relic of Ana de los Angeles.

The Spanish sister Mother Trinidad Avila, O.P., with spectacles, ever a member of the monastery of Arequipa, and now prioress of the only Dominican monastery in Venezuela, in Los Teques, explained the history of the gifts.

Source: With thanks to Sister Isabel Uchuquicaña, O.P. for the data, and to Baltasar Hendriks, O.P. for his mediation. (April 2008)


Peru 2006, Mi 2116, Sc - . 



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