Katherine Mills – Connected Convents: Santa Clara and its network of sister convents (16th and 17th c.)

This multidisciplinary project considers the colonial convent as an inhabitable object of ritual, through examining the relationship between the architectural cloisters and art objects of the two large convents in Cusco, Peru: Santa Clara and Santa Catalina. Cusco, situated 3,400 meters above sea level, was not a forgotten Inca capital, but rather was the stage upon which both the fears of persistent idolatry and the triumphs of Catholic evangelism were continually enacted throughout the colonial period. Due to their vows of enclosure, convents have often been considered as urban islands, separated from the rest of society. According to an analysis of artistic contracts and memorials, the nuns considered their convent to be the ritual object, which could provide them with a sacred space in which they could perform their role in the maintenance of the Spiritual Economy. Therefore, despite being physically located at a specific site, both communities utilized local and global materials to design cloisters that fostered communal prayer and enabled each community to mitigate global problems.

Through an in-depth analysis of the construction, decoration, and use of these two colonial convents, I argue that the convent was an inhabitable object designed by the nuns for ritual practice. Accordingly, the convents were not isolated islands, but rather their construction and use transformed each into the center of an intricate web of local and global connections, as the nuns navigated their participation in the Spiritual Economy.

Katherine Mills is a PhD candidate in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She is currently writing her dissertation on Cusqueñan convents in Seville, Spain with the Harvard Doctoral Finishing Grant. The Thoma Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and the Porter Travel Award provided the financial support for her doctoral research.  In 2014, she received a master’s degree in the “Advanced Studies, the History of the Spanish Monarchy, 16th-18th c.” from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Her master’s thesis received the highest honors and has since been published in an article with her adviser María José del Río Barredo.  A native of California, Mills graduated in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard College in 2011 with high honors. In addition to her academic work, Mills co-hosts a podcast with José Araneda Riquelme, titled “Las cosas tienen vida” to bring objects, their entangled histories, and the historians who study them to a broad public.



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Academies Editorial Board (2024, 29. Februar). Katherine Mills – Connected Convents: Santa Clara and its network of sister convents (16th and 17th c.). TRANSREGIONAL ACADEMIES. Abgerufen am 15. Juni 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/vxlh

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