Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue

The Society of Jesus established itself in the region known as the Guayrá in 1588, by permission of Philip II. One of its objectives became the protection of the Indians against the abuses of the colonial encomienda system of tribute or labour, which reduced them to a condition of virtual slavery; at the same time they would be brought into the Christian Church and educated into a sedentary form of life. Following the granting of the frontier zone of Paraguay to the Jesuits in 1609 by the Spanish Crown, they moved into the lands of the Guaraní people in the Rio de la Plata basin, where they created reducciones (settlements), each with its mission. There were 30 in all, 8 in latter-day Paraguay, 15 in Argentina, and 7 in Brazil.

La Santísima Trinidad, the most ambitious of these missions and the capital of the Guayrá, was built in 1706, the work of the noted Jesuit architect Juan Bautista Primoli. It was constructed in stone with a fine dome and elaborated decoration.

The reducción of Jesús de Tavarangue was founded in 1685, but moved some years later to its present site, when the mission was built.

Santos Cosme y Damián, founded in 1632 on Brazilian territory, moved to its present site in 1740.

La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná has the best preserved urban structure: Plaza Mayor, main church (crypt), small church, college and cloister, cemeteries, kitchen gardens, belfry, native houses and workshops.

The ruined church of Jesús de Tavarangue retains much of its imposing appearance, but only one room of the college survives. There are significant remains of the urban structure, including the Plaza Mayor, native houses and cemeteries.

The church of Santos Cosme y Damián was never finished. However, it has continued to serve as a place of worship. Other remains also survive, including one of the wings of the college, the cemetery, and contemporary Indian houses.

All three are in essence archaeological sites, consisting of ruined building and occupation layers, and so their authenticity is not in question. The church of Santos Cosme y Damián, being in current use, has some more recent features, but restoration interventions have respected the ancient fabric and materials.

La Santísima Trinidad, the best preserved of the three, is of great symbolic importance, because its decoration reflects the spirit of its conception, with its fusion of Christian and native artistic elements. Santos Cosme y Damiàn is important because, in addition to its historical significance, it has retained its role as a centre of worship for the village and district in which it is located.

Historical context

The Society of Jesus established itself in the region known as the Guayrá in 1588, by permission of Philip II. One of its objectives became the protection of the Indians against the abuses of the encomienda system, which reduced them to a condition of virtual slavery; at the same time they would be brought into the Christian Church and educated into a sedentary form of life. Following the granting of the frontier zone of Paraguay to the Jesuits in 1609 by the Spanish Crown, they moved into the lands of the Guaraní people in the Rio de la Plata basin, where they created reducciones (settlements), each with its mission. There were 30 in all, 8 in latter-day Paraguay, 15 in Argentina, and 7 in Brazil.

La Santísima Trinidad, the most ambitious of these missions and the capital of the Guayrá, was built in 1706, the work of the noted Jesuit architect Juan Bautista Primoli. It was constructed in stone with a fine dome and elaborate decoration.

The reducción of Jesús de Tavarangue was founded in 1685, but moved some years later to its present site, when the mission was built.

Santos Cosme y Damián, founded in 1632 on Brazilian territory, moved to its present site in 1740.

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