Arequipa: Monasterio de Santa Catalina
The Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena is Arequipa's biggest and best-known religious landmark. It was founded in 1579, and most of its buildings date back to the late 16th and 17th centuries. At its peak, it occupied 20,000 square feet and housed 450 women. But only about a third of them were nuns, the others being slaves or servants. This monastery was open only for women from good, wealthy families of Spanish descent who were allowed to maintain a very comfortable life style here, certainly stretching the monastic precept of poverty.