Santa Catalina, a top tourist destination in Arequipa, was a monastery built in the 16th century and operated well into the 19th century. It takes up two square blocks of downtown Arequipa. Inside is a small town closed off to the outside world. It’s a concrete maze of hallways leading to living quarters, dining rooms, kitchens, and gardens.
The convent’s stated mission was to liberate souls stranded in purgatory, where nuns pledged to a life of simplicity in hopes to reach the highest spiritual level. However, Santa Catalina became quite a party house. Women had servants, drank wine, were entertained with music, and rumors allege that male studs were occasionally brought in. In the eighteenth century its reputation got so bad the Pope ordered a house cleaning at Santa Catalina.
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