Jesuit Missions of Trinidad and Jesus
The Jesuit Missions of La Santisima Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue are two examples of small colonies established by Jesuit missionaries in Paraguay throughout the 17th and 18th century. They were built as miniature city-states that integrated the indigenous Guarani populations with Christian faith.
The mission of Trinidad was originally constructed in 1706, the intended self-sufficient city came complete with a central meeting plaza, a large church meetinghouse, a school, several workshops, a museum and housing for the local Indian population. The nearby mission of Jesus de Tavarangue was created in 1685.
Before its inscription in 1993, ICOMOS advised the Paraguayan government to turn this tentative site into an extension to the already existing Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis
. The latter WHS was set up in 1984 by Argentina and Brazil. At that time Paraguay had not yet ratified the Convention and so wasn't eligible to submit site proposals. Paraguay and also the other countries involved appeared positive about a joint entry, but this wasn't followed through and so this became a separate WHS.
Furthermore, originally a third Paraguayan mission was proposed (Santos Cosme y Damian), but this one was withdrawn after the ICOMOS evaluation reported that it should be omitted.
Visit October 2008
I would probably never have gone to Paraguay if this site hadn't won a separate place on the World Heritage List. As stated above, it represents the same heritage as the missions just across the border in Argentina and Brazil. However, the Jesuit mission of Trinidad probably is the best of them all. There was one other visitor when I arrived at the complex. As a whole it looked well maintained.
The site is huge, with a cathedral-like church as the central point. There's another church on site - there were two cemeteries and two kinds of housing as well. Always one for the missionaries and one for the natives. Not really utopia after all, wasn't it?
The Trinidad church still has great sculptures. Despite its partly ruined state, one can easily imagine this to be a classical catholic church. Even the crypt and the baptismal font have survived. The site in general looks very peaceful. The grounds are covered with little white flowers, like snow flakes. Its setting reminded me a lot of another outpost WHS, the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur (Bangladesh).
About 11 km down the road lies Jesus de Tavarangue. This site looks if it has a different layout from the others, or it might be that much of the housing has gone. The only large monument still standing upright is the colossal church.
Entrance to the sites costs 5000 guaranis each. Small denominations of Argentinian pesos are accepted too, but you will get the change in guaranis. I visited both locations on a half day trip from the Argentinian border town of Posadas. A local taxi driver who I'd hired for the day drove me there. The border crossing in and out of Paraguay earned me four more impressive stamps in my passport, but was without any hassle.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Joseph Colletti (United States):|
I visited the Jesuit Missions of Trinidad in August 2004. The site is accessible from the nearby city of Encarnacion (about 45 minutes) by any number of busses (about 50 cents United States) traveling frequently on the paved highway to Ciudad del Este. From the highway it's about a 10 minute walk to the site on a well marked road. Food and drink are available from roadside stands. Entrance fee is less than 50 cents in United States currency and there were only three other visitors.
A hugh roofless baroque Jesuit church that would not be out of place in a major European city dominates the site which has been cleared of any remains of the jungle that once surrounded it. The carvings of the statues, the pulpit, the baptismal font and on the walls are stunning in their beauty and amazing in that they were done by the Indian craftsmen gathered into the mission by the Jesuits in the 17th century and have survived over three hundered years of exposure. The original decorated stone floor is still visible and there is a crypt under the church into which visitors can descend. There is also a watchtower which you can climb to get a beautiful view of the site and surroundings. Remains of workshops, housing and storerooms also remain. To contemplate the work, artistry and devotion that went into building this complex in the middle of a tropical jungle gives insight into the religious fervor that drove the original Spanish settlers and affected the native Indians in so many ways. There are no paths or explanatory markers, however, though guides (in Spanish)are available in the summer (Dec to March) months.
The nearby site of Jesus, about 10 km away on an unpaved dirt road off the highway is also worth a visit. Admission is about 50 cents. It is accessible by taxi from the town of Trinidad or a local bus (about 50 cents)that makes the bumpy, slow half hour trip through hilly farmland about every two hours. This site was never completed and has been partially restored and is equally beautiful in its workmanship and setting.
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