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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

The Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis are the archeological remains of towns created by the Jesuit Order.

The towns existed between 1609 and 1818, and aimed to socially, culturally and religiously elevate the local Guarani Indians. They also provided protection and economic stability. Originally there were 30 missions, spread out over Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The two Jesuit missions in Paraguay are now a separate WHS.

This designated site consists of five different missions:

- São Miguel das Missões (Brazil)

- San Ignacio Mini (Argentina)

- Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana (Argentina)

- Nuestra Señora de Loreto (Argentina)

- Santa María la Mayor (Argentina)

Map of Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

Legend

  • Cultural

Visit October 2008

San Ignacio Mini is the most popular of these 'Missions' (the locals more aptly call them Las Ruinas). I went there by public bus from Posadas. This trip takes over an hour, passing fine scenery of endless green fields and forests. I was the only one to be dropped off at the church of San Ignacio, and was given directions by the bus boy to get to my destination. San Ignacio is a sleepy little town, where the selling of souvenirs seems to be the main trade. Before entering the San Ignacio Mini complex, you first have to brave 250 meters of souvenir stalls.

October 2008

Entrance was free today (normally it's 25 pesos for foreigners). I don't know why I didn't have to pay, it could have been a holiday / a protest / a malfunctioning computer / lack of change or whatever. I've been in Argentina now for less than a week, and I've seldom paid any entry fees (I rode for free in the Buenos Aires metro for 3 days). The same observation counts for the double pricing system: they do tend to differ prices between Argentinians, Other Latin Americans and Other foreigners, but aren't strict in following this through: they just assume everybody is Argentinian. Personally I can't believe the money they're throwing away (especially at the Buenos Aires metro, which could use some new paint).

October 2008

Back to San Ignacio Mini - what kind of site is this? It was a small town with a church (of course), a large central square, houses for the residents (the Guarani) and other communal buildings. Now it is almost completely in ruins. The new life that has entered the ruined buildings did fascinate me the most - pretty and big lizards lazing in the sun, lots of birds, trees and plants taking over from the stones again. The site management tries to keep all ruined buildings 'clean', but I like it when nature claims it back. It's a very pleasant place to wander around for an hour or two, but I wouldn't be sad when it would disappear and become part of the jungle again.

October 2008

Community Reviews


Jay T USA 12.02.17

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis by Jay T

One year ago on a snowy night I watched the 1986 movie "The Mission", which covers historical events that affected the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís in much warmer South America. The film highlights the love of music the Jesuits and Guaraní shared; at many of the missions the Jesuits taught the Guaraní people European choral music, as well as how to make instruments. The film also highlights the fallout from the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, in which the Jesuit missions faced the ceding of territory from the Spanish empire, which ostensibly outlawed slavery of the Guaraní, to the Portuguese empire, which allowed it. It was with this context in mind that I visited the San Ignacio Miní mission near Posadas, Argentina, in March 2016. The Baroque ruins are in spectacular shape, and show how impressive the main church must have been when fully intact. Around the periphery of the site were the remains of long barrack-style buildings, storehouses, and workshops. The Guaraní here were not directly affected by the Treaty of Madrid, since they were in Argentine territory, but I feel for the Guaraní who had to fight for their security at the missions in Brazil.

Logistics: The Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís can be reached by bus or private transportation in Argentina or Brazil. I took a day tour with a company from Puerto Iguazú to visit San Ignacio Miní.


João Aender Campos Cremasco Brazil 04.02.13

Last weekend I visited the Brazilian part of this WHS, that is São Miguel das Missões. I had previously visited the Argentinian ruins of San Ignacio Miní, and these two sites are probably the best preserved of all inscribed Jesuit Missions of the Guarani ruins (the Paraguayan ones are a separate WHS).

The former São Miguel das Missões church has a remarkable façade and also a very interesting museum of guarani christian art, including a bell used when the mission was active.

There are some other ruins nearby, worth visiting, but only the São Miguel ruins were declared WHS in Brazil.


Birgit, Germany 15.04.11

I've been in San Igancio Mini in 1995. At this time it was very amazing... and I would recommend this place for everbody who is interested in American History...


Sandra Neubauer, Germany 25.02.10

As far as the sound and light show is concerned I very much disagree with Davis C. Bales opinion. I saw the show in February 2010 and found it truly amazing! Excellent lighting, great effects and a good mixture between entertainment and information. I am a media engineer and have seen many multimedia shows before. And even with that background this show really stood out. So it looks like you have to go and see for yourself wether you like it or not. :-) The only thing that wasn't so great was that the mp3 player you get for other language versions didn't work properly. But still I loved the show!

How we got there: We took a bus from Iguazu to San Igancio. What you read in various forums is true: It is really no trouble at all to simply walk into the bus station and buy a ticket to go to San Igancio. Buses leave every hour or sometimes even more often. They drop you off right in front of the tourist info which comes in handy aswell. There we booked our next busride to Salta with Flecha Bus.

Oh, one more thing: If you use long distance buses, always put your luggage in a waterproof bag or something. Water from the aircondition flows on the luggage. One of your bags was soaking (with all clothes inside dripping wet). It also helps to ask the guy who loads your luggage into the bus to put it somewhere dry while you give him an extra tip.


Robert Jackson, United States 27.06.05

I visited some 20 Jesuit mission sites in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, including San Ignacio, Loreto, Santa Ana, and Sta Maria la Mayor. There are other mission sites in the region that need protection and the support that inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites lists confer. At the top of the list I would include several mission sites in Brazil, particularly San Lorenzo Martir, and San Cosme in Paraguay. Other sites, such as Corpus Christi and Martires, need protection and rehabilitation.


Davis C. Bales, Brazil resident; U.S. citizen

San Ignacio Mini is well worth the visit for anyone at nearby Iguassu Falls, whether on the Argentine or Brazilian side. Though there are guided tours available from Iguassu, driving on your own is quite easy. It is possible to drive to San Ignacio and back in the same day though spending the night adds to the experience. However, the town offers few accomodations, the best of which are hard-pressed to earn a 1-star rating. From Buenos Aires it is not so easy to reach Argentina's State of Misiones.

On certain nights there is a sound and light show. The slightest hint of rain and the show will be cancelled; the equipment is simple and not water resistent. So, as can be expected, the show is rather primitive and its simplicity could hardly be expressed as charming. Boring may be a better descriptive. The lighting is uneventful and the sound is a recorded narration (in Spanish) of the mission's history with some music of the jesuit-educated natives as a background mixed with some booms and crashes to depict the battles with they fought with the Brazilian slave traders. Not emotionally stirring!

In the summer it is barely dark when the light show begins, reducing even more the already limited effect. Needless to say, it was a disappointment and one should spend the night to experience the simplicity of the village and not for the light show. But catch it if you are already there and reach your own conclusions.

All that said, I would recommend making the effort to visit San Ignacio Mini to anyone with an interest in South American history or who enjoyed the 1986 Academy Award winning film "The Mission" starring Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson. Walking tyhrough the mission's grounds is walking through history. In the past 2 years I have made the trek twice by motorcycle from Rio de Janeiro and have a feeling I will return.


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Site Info

Full name: Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Senora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes (Brazil)

Unesco ID: 275

Inscribed: 1983

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 1984 - Name change From The ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes
  • 1984 - Extended To include multiple locations
  • 1983 - Inscribed 

Locations

The site has 5 locations.

  • Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: Nuestra Señora de Loreto
  • Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana
  • Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini
  • Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: Santa María la Mayor
  • Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: São Miguel das Missões