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Jesús de Tavarangue and Santísima Trinidad

Trinidad, Itapua, Paraguay

About Jesús de Tavarangue and Santísima Trinidad

The remarkably well-preserved ruins of the Jesuit missions of Jesús de Tavarangue and La Santísima Trinidad del Paraná lie in the Itapúa Department of Paraguay, some 400km from the country’s capital, Asunción.

Founded by zealous Jesuit missionaries in the early 18th century, these large, ornately-decorated establishments were two amongst a series of reducciónes (settlements) built for the education, protection and evangelisation of native Guaraní people.

Begun in 1706, La Santísima Trinidad del Paraná was the work of a prominent Jesuit architect who used both Christian and native artistic elements in the decoration of facades, making many of the buildings unique in their appearance. Meanwhile, the church at Jesús de Tavarangue, begun in 1740, retains a commanding grandeur unrivalled in South America, despite being left unfinished when the Jesuits were expelled from the region in 1767.

At their height, both settlements would have accommodated around 2000-3000 native inhabitants, many of whom were taught to read and write. Some were trained in the arts, others were instructed in the principles of governing an ordered society, but all were introduced to the ways of Christian life.

While the complex of Jesús de Tavarangue never came to completion, that of Santísima Trinidad del Paraná went on to become one of the largest of its kind in South America.

Today, visitors can explore the college and cloister, cemeteries, belfry, native houses and workshops, as well as the lofty Plaza Mayor (main church), which dominates a tranquil setting of neatly trimmed lawns and swaying palms.

The missions were listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Contributed by Adam Woods