About São Miguel das Missões
São Miguel das Missões was a reduction (village) founded in the 18th century by the Jesuits or the ‘Society of Jesus’ and was intended as a place for the indigenous Guarani Indian population to live once they had converted to Christianity.
History of São Miguel das Missões
The Jesuits first arrived in modern day Brazil in 1549, on the orders of King João III: whilst they were there to convert and evangelize, it was also expected that the Jesuits would help subdue the local population. The Jesuits began to evangelize indigenous people along the Bacio do Rio Prata in the 1620s, in order to aid safe passage for the Portuguese along the river.
They founded 18 reductions in total at this point, many of which were destroyed. Returning to the Rio Grande do Sul, the Jesuits founded a further seven reductions, including São Miguel das Missões, which was built between 1735 and 1745.
In 1750, the Treaty of Madrid was signed between Portugal and Spain, which redivided sovereignty of certain parts of Brazil. The Guaraní converts refused to move village, which led to them being attacked by joint Portuguese and Spanish forces: the mission of São Miguel das Missões was destroyed in the process. The expulsion of the Jesuits from Brazil in 1759, further cemented the fate of the mission.
São Miguel das Missões today
Today, all that remains of the mission are its beautiful architectural ruins , including the Italian designed church. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. There’s now also a small museum with 18th century artefacts found nearby displayed, which was established in the late 1930s.
It remains an atmospheric site, and one of the best preserved missions in Brazil. Go with a full camera battery to make the most of the spectacular scenery.
Getting to São Miguel das Missões
São Miguel das Missões is relatively remote: located on RS-536. You can drive, or take a bus from the Santo Ângelo Bus Station to São Miguel das Missões. The nearest airports are São Miguel das Missões and Porto Alegre, depending on where you’re coming from.