The Santa Clara Monastery belongs to the Clarists, female branch of the Franciscan order, appeared in 1549 under the protection of the secular town hall of Cusco. At the beginning, it was a house for lay sisters that sheltered half breed orphan women and native girls descending from the Incas. It was situated in the square of Chaquilchaca. In 1556, it moved to the house of the conqueror Luis Geronimo de Cabrera, in the current square of the “Nazarenas”. It stayed there until 1622 when the current church built in the public walk was finished.
The work of the Santa Clara Church, performed between 1603 and 1622, was in charge of the religious Greek Manuel Pablo. The best prove of its solidness is the fact that it was not seriously damaged by the earthquake in 1650. For this reason, Santa Clara is one of the few buildings in Cusco where we find elements used before that date.
Similar to other churches of nuns, the Santa Clara Church has two doors in the lateral wall. Both are in Renacentist style. One is protected by bossed pilasters and the other by a couple of Corinthian columns. The unique tower was previously done and belongs to the baroque of Cusco. Their pearl colored floors, of only one nave, as well as the cross vaults covering it, are obvious signs of the time it was built. The coffered ceiling of the high chapel also proves that as it has golden big flowers. The walls of the Presbytery still keep the decorative mural paintings performed by Juan de Alba in 1646. Among adornments and modillions, we can admire the nobiliary coat of arms of the sponsors of this community.
Including the high altar, all the retablos are all covered by mirrors according to the style used in the city at the end of the XVII century. The original structures are probably under them, and they are of baroque style carved by Pedro de Oquendo and Juan Esteban Alvarez. In the main chapel, the most outstanding features are some images of good carving work representing the Franciscan saints.
Canvases of the life of the Virgin
The main decoration of the temple is based on a series of big canvases of the life of the virgin hanging on the lateral walls of the Presbytery. The paintings date from the time of Mollinedo and were worked by an important anonymous master in 1697. The same year that the jointer Pedro Fernandez de Oquendo carved amazing golden frames with Salomonic columns that definitely composed a harmonic group with the old retablos. An unusual detail is the choral grate of the nuns in the wall of feet that goes from the high to the low choirs. Its sharp metallic ends of protection make us remind the severe rules of the monastic confinement and its definitive separation form the external world.
/�w ���� renacentist facades and a bell gable as a sort of bell tower. All of this is in contrast to the rich inner decoration, distributed in its unique long nave of pearl-colored floor.
The visual history of Santa Catalina
Along its lateral walls, there is a wonderful series of canvas about the life of Santa Catalina de Siena, work of the half breed painter Juan Espinosa de los Monteros in 1669. Each of the scenes is surrounded by flowers, style that was then copied by some other painters of Cusco. At that time, we also find important canvas signed by Lorenzo Snachez de Medina representing the “Virgen del Rosario” (Virgin of the Rosary) with Dominic saints including Santa Rosa de Lima who was canonized in that time.
Most of the retablos are golden and are part of the best baroque of Cusco. The authors, Pedro de Oquendo and Pedro Galeano, followed the style of Martin de Torres. Its Corinthian columns have the typical decoration of fish scales or diamond extremities in the entire shaft. Among the lateral chapels, the altar of the Sacred Family and the “Virgen de los Remedios” (name of the temple) outstand due to their quality. The magnificent altar joint by Pedro Galeano in 1660 is a piece of work of transition, as it includes Salomonic columns in its second body. Galeano may have been the designer of the pulpit that is in perfect harmony with the retablos.
The choral grille
One of the most distinctive elements of the group is the monumental choral fence that is covering the whole upper part of the church, including the high and low choirs of the nuns. The turned banisters as well as the high tribune and the coronation, decorated with canvas of the Virgin with San Joaquin and Santa Ana, represent a real masterpiece of the joining art.
An art Museum
The interior of the monastery is spacious and has a diversity of rooms that were successively added making a peculiar display, though a little disordered, of the Peruvian monasteries. One important part of the old cloister has been open to the public and turned into a museum. Its room “De Profundis” shows murals recently restored and all the rooms exhibit part of the large Monastic pinacotheca in which the diverse painting of the “Señor de los Temblores ” (Lord of the Tremors) are outstanding due to the favourite devotion of the nuns after the tragic earthquake in 1650.