Jesuit Missions in Paraguay (World Heritage)

By | August 12, 2021

The former Jesuit reduction La Santisima Trinidad was founded in 1706 to proselytize the Indians. The settled Guaraní lived here until the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 in a protected area cared for by Christians. The reduction of Jesús de Tavarangue is about 10 km northwest of Trinidad. Both missions have churches and schools as well as accommodation and workshops.

Jesuit Missions in Paraguay: Facts

Official title: Jesuit missions La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesus de Tavarangue
Cultural monument: two of the originally 30 fortified mission settlements of the Jesuit order; each with a school and a church as well as workshops for the handicrafts of the Indians and their accommodations
Continent: America
Country: Paraguay
Location: La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue, northeast of Encarnación (Río Paraná) and southwest of Ciudad del Este
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: Example of the missionary work of the Jesuits in the area of ​​the Río de la Plata

Jesuit Missions in Paraguay: History

1609 first missionary work by Jesuits
1685 Foundation of Jesús de Tavarangue with an originally 60 m long mission church
1706 Establishment of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná
1738 Creation of a mission settlement with
1744/45 largest church building of all so-called reductions in Trinidad
1760 Completion of the complex of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná
1767 Expulsion of the Jesuits on the orders of Charles III.
1840 Dissolution of the reductions

Village communities in the name of Jesus

Power politicians or missionaries, exploiters or protectors? The Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order, operated in Paraguay and what is now the Argentine province of Misiones for nearly two centuries, and their work is still controversial today.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the first Jesuits came, who initially worked as traveling missionaries and, in the course of their conversion work, soon founded settlements, so-called »reductions«. Several hundred to several thousand Indians lived in these together with the priests. Indians and missionaries worked in the community fields most of the time, and all members had housing. Social institutions such as hospitals and pensions were also considered.

The first protective villages emerged, far from all Spanish settlements, in what is now the Brazilian state of Paraná. These were at risk from the start, as slave traders from São Paulo repeatedly carried out raids and abducted Indians. For this reason, the pious brothers and their wards moved to more remote areas such as the south of today’s Paraguay.

The history of the community of religious and Indians ended in the 18th century when the Spanish King Charles III. expelled the Jesuits from the colonies and had them brought to Europe in chains. The official reason for the king’s expulsion order was the charge that the Jesuits had tried to establish their own state. Spanish conquerors had spread this story, which included the rumor that the Jesuits had found gold in their territories that they wanted to withhold from the crown.

In these accusations it was completely overlooked that it was precisely the religious who pacified the region and secured Spanish rule by involving the sometimes warlike Indians. This can also be inferred from the following words of the German Jesuit father Florian Paucke: “The Nuze, which emerged from the mission, was a desired peace and security to be protected against other wild Indians.”

After the Jesuits were expelled, most of the settlements fell into disrepair within a generation. While 100,000 Indians lived in 30 settlements in 1767, 35 years later there were only a little more than 30,000. The reason for the decline that can be recorded is easy to find: the Fathers had always only viewed the Indians as guardians. Although they had perceived the language and culture of the Guaraní and written their language, they never encouraged them to manage their villages independently, so that they could not continue to run it without the fathers.

According to physicscat, the Trinidad and Jesús reductions in southern Paraguay originated in the 18th century. How many Indians placed themselves in the care of the Jesuits is clear from the fact that up to 3,000 Guaraní were involved in the construction of the church of Jesús de Tavarangue. This reduction lapsed before the church was completed.

In Trinidad, on the other hand, a real city was built. However, after the settlement was abandoned, the subtropical vegetation took possession of it again. Nevertheless, from the ruins of the central bell tower you can enjoy an imposing panoramic view of the entire complex and, since Trinidad is a little higher up, you can also look up to the ruins of the Jesús reduction in Jesús.

The church in Trinidad is the most beautiful building of the former Indian protection village and is an example of the prevailing so-called Guaraní Baroque: The baroque forms prescribed by the European builders were taken up by the skilled Indian stonemasons and changed in their own formal language – this becomes clear with the animals -, plants and people depicting genuinely Indian forms.

Jesuit Missions in Paraguay (World Heritage)