So the story goes, the monastery was founded in 1580 by a wealthy Spanish widow who chose her novices from the richest Spanish families. In those days you either got married or became a nun. These nuns apparently, after joining the monastery kept up their lavish life styles, until, the guide books say, ‘hedonistic goings on continued for three centuries,’ when a spoil-sport, strict Dominican nun arrived on the boat from Spain to whip them into shape. But, three centuries of fun is not bad.
The imposing citadel takes up an entire block and is a warren of rooms: some for cloistering, some quite lavish with English and French china and silver service. There is even a nursery, and a school room for those widow-nuns who had money and children.
Twisting streets and thick walls, hidden staircases to the roof and maybe elsewhere. The laundry tubs were made from huge pottery wine casks, cut in half, and placed on an incline with trough connecting them as the Incas had done. A sunken tub above them held water for washing the clothes and taking the requisite monthly bath. Being a somewhat hedonistic woman myself, I hope they drank the wine.
There were servants quarters, because remember, they were rich nuns, and a well appointed kitchen complete with a well made of volcanic rock which acts as a natural purifier. No one had go anywhere to fetch water.
It was only in 1970 that the place was open to the public. Today there are 140 nuns I think the guide said, living there. Also according to her, about 400 nuns were living harmoniously until the Vatican -or some controling bishop- insisted they follow strict guidelines set out by the Vatican. The numbers gradually dropped. Women just don’t like to be told what to do.