About San Ignacio Mini
San Ignacio Mini in Argentina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site of a former Jesuit reduction, the ruins are extremely well-preserved and a popular tourist attraction today.
History of San Ignacio Mini
Originally founded around 1610, San Ignacio Mini formed part of a series of Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis established by the Society of Jesus or ‘Jesuits’. Many similar Jesuit missions – around 30 in total – were scattered across Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with 11 of these located in the modern day province of Misiones.
It was moved to its present site in 1695, and developed quickly – the remains of a church, cemetery, central square, priest’s house and 200 further dwellings have been uncovered today, many of which were built in a unique style known as Guaraní baroque.
The missions were primarily to evangelize and ‘civilise’ the local populations – San Ignacio Mini was particularly successful. It was a stable community, with a self-sustaining agricultural economy, enough sanitary measures to avoid the worst bouts of disease and plague, and well defended. At its peak, it had around 5,000 inhabitants, predominantly made up of Guaraní people.
The Jesuits were expelled from this area in 1767, and left San Ignacio Mini the following year. What was left of the settlement was destroyed in 1817 by Luso-Brazilian forces – the ruins were ‘rediscovered’ in 1897. They were made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
San Ignacio Mini today
The ruins are arguably the best preserved of the Jesuits missions across South America, and they can be particularly magical if you manage to beat the crowds by arriving early or late. There’s a tangible sense of paradise lost here.
Whilst the ruins are all made of red-brown stone today, they would have originally been white. The church still remains the focal point of the site today. Free guided tours run in Spanish and English pretty regularly – the site is open every day, with slightly shorter hours in winter (April-October).
The site’s museum is well worth visited for an impartial description of Jesuit activities in South America, particularly in relation to the Guaraní people. There’s also a scale model of what the site would have looked like in its heyday.
During the summer there’s a nightly sound and light show which makes use of projections to tell the story of San Ignacio, which many visitors really enjoy.
Getting to San Ignacio Mini
The ruins are in the modern day town of San Ignacio, in the province of Misiones. The Argentina – Paraguay border is a few kilometres away. San Ignacio lies on Ruta 12: you can get here via bus from city of Posadas or Obera.