Arequipa, Peru, November 15, 2017
Francisco Pizarro founded Arequipa in 1540. It's surrounded by three volcanoes that regularly erupt and the last earthquake was in 2001-
Most of the architecture in town is baroque and the buildings are white because they're made out of volcanic Silas rock. The main square, Plaza Des Armas is lovely-
La Catedral stretches the length of the Plaza. Most of it has been rebuilt since the earthquake of 1868. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed in because I was wearing shorts-
Today 26 nuns live here. At it's peak, there were 200 and another 200 servants and students. Families had to pay 1200 silver coins to have, usually their second daughter, admitted. Between 1600 and 1800, all nuns lived in solitude.
Nuns could visit with their families in the speaking room through the large screen and pass small objects through the turnstile on the right. No touching was allowed-
Nuns may be black veiled, also called 'de coro' to remind them of sacrifice and penitence. The white veil means obedience, truth and purity-
The monstrance is used to carry a host in the hole in the center of the sun, in a procession. It's about 4 feet tall-
When the convent was founded, a potential nun had to be Spanish, provide a dowry and bring a trousseau. They could only receive holy communion 15 times/year and wash and cut their hair 7 times/year. A young woman entering the convent entered as a novice. Life as a novice lasted for one year but could be extended another 4. Vows taken then and now are for poverty, chastity and obedience.
The Prioress (head nun) is elected every 3 years. She should be over 35 and can be re-elected twice more. This is the only painting of one who was alive in the nunnery: Maria Josepha Cadena-
The ultimate goal of religious life is to achieve union of the soul with God. This is done through prayer and meditation, through tranquility and having the inner fortitude to overcome human weaknesses. Prolonged fasting, wearing harsh clothing, avoiding sleep, adopting uncomfortable postures and using barbed - wire underclothes gave the body the minimum necessities allowing the soul to triumph over the limitations of the flesh.
There are 3 stages in the mystic path: penitence, illumination which is entered on contemplative prayer and the unity of the soul with God. As spiritual perfection is achieved, it's possible to enter a state of ecstasy which is the suspension of the senses so visions and revelations can occur. However, it's only at death that the unity with God is consummated and spiritual perfection is attained.
The refectory was the nun's communal dining area-
The community dormitory, from 1871-1969 has been converted into an art gallery containing over 400 paintings-
The buildings in the monastery date from the 16th to 19th centuries. It was opened to the public in 1970, after 391 years of isolation. It's a conglomeration of archways, vaults, domes, buttresses, patios, gaudy rooms and arched cloisters-
The Iron Cross has an ornamental motif and a Greek amphora surrounded by 2 snakes with a triangle at the top, featuring a face with closed eyes-
The profundas parlour, or the wake room is where the corpse of the nun stayed for 24 hours after death-
Because of humility, the only time a nun could be painted was when she was dead. Artists had only 24 hours to paint a dead nun. There are 13 paintings, representing nuns who lived here between 1691 and 1884 and only one has her eyes open because that's how she died-
Nuns wore barbed wire undergarments to temper their spirit and as a means of penitence. They also used the scourge for self flagellation-
Laundry was done in these 20 pots. There was a canal system for water-
The Eucharist wafer was prepared using this sieve-
The Orange Tree Cloister was for nuns, not novices-
Each nun had her own room. The bed was under the arch to protect her during an earthquake-
The Estrado is an elevated floor where the rich nuns lived. There is a lot of Moorish influence in the decoration of this room-
They also each had their own kitchen-
The rich nuns had servants who did their cooking and cleaning. This huge kitchen would have belonged to a really rich nun-
The richer ones had an actual bathroom with a toilet. The poor ones used a chamber pot.
Confession occured here-
I found the monastery quite intriguing, wondering what the women would have been like who lived there, in silence, sent by their families, most without a choice. Girls who became nuns brought much honor to their families. Those who left the convent brought shame.
Tomorrow we have a 3:30 am departure for Colca Canyon to see the condors!
Bijan Assaee, 64, is Iranian but lives in Australia. He's now a mortgage broker and will soon retire. He's also a mechanical and electrical engineer but worked in IT for most of his life. He plays bridge and travels. He has two kids and just recently became a grandfather! He's on his first overland to see as many countries as possible in a short period of time and will decide where he wants to return based on what he likes. He's thinking of doing the Madventure Beijing to Istanbul trip as well as the Africa trip.