Exploring the archives of cloistered nuns in colonial Lima

Research project
Early Modern History
Manuscript page depicting Spanish American nun

First page of a manuscript volume which holds the records of the investigations conducted to document the life of Rosa de Lima (1586-1617). A Dominican tertiary, Rosa (Isabel Flores) was canonized in 1671 and became the first Spanish American saint.


This project seeks to explore the archives of three convents that housed cloistered nuns in the city of Lima under Spanish rule (17th to the early 19th centuries). These archives hold documents that inform about the spiritual and material lives of not only the elite women of Spanish descent that lived in these convents, but also of people from other social and ethnic backgrounds that took part of the life of these institutions. Since cloistered nuns maintain no ties with the external world and devote their lives entirely to prayer, the materials that document the history of the convents and their dwellers are too difficult or even impossible to access. Exceptionally, the heads of the convents have granted us permission to browse and digitise part or all their collections. Although these archives have not survived entirely, they hold materials that can help us learn about a significant but underrepresented group in Lima, one of the two most important Spanish American colonial cities.

Manuscript page
A page of the above-mentioned manuscript, with the depositions or two witnesses describing how they or their relatives were healed by Rosa’s intercession (Lima, 1618).
Book of vows

A page from the book of vows, monastery of Saint Rosa. Lima, 1708.