Santa Catalina Convent

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Originally founded in 1580 by a rich widow, the convent only accepted women from high class Spanish families.  This convent is  nothing like you would expect.      Each woman came to the convent to dedicate her life to prayer.  Novices would be accompanied by between 1 and 4 servants and a dowry would be paid  by her family.  The size of the dowry dictated the status of the nun within the convent and this was reflected in the nuns uniform (a black veil indicated the highest level of status would in todays terms be around $50,000).  In addition to the dowry, the entry requirements also included a list of 25  specified items, which included a painting, a statue, clothes etc.    As a result of these entry conditions the ,convent contained a large number of valuable works of art, including paintings by grand-masters from Italy and Spain.  Silk cutains and rugs and fine English china were quite commonplace in the nuns living quarters. 

The convent covers an area of 5 acres and is more like a city within a city, with the nuns living in houses along nice avenues/lanes.   At its peak the convent was home to 450 women , a third were nuns, the rest were the servants - so much for the vows of poverty!  Today only about 30 nuns remain living here and are cloistered away in a tiny portion of the original convent.   The streets, cloisters and housing of the convent were opened to visitors in 1970 and are amazingly well preserved after 400 years.    

The design and quality of the buildings and furnishing are something quite special, even by todays standards. Well worth a few hours of anyones time
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