The Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba is an exceptional example of a vast religious, political, economic, legal, and cultural system. It also illustrates the fusion of European and Native American cultures, along with contributions from African slave laborers, during a seminal period in South America.
The 38-ha (94-acre) ensemble of the Jesuit Block and five of its estancias (rural farming and manufacturing establishments) in the province of Córdoba, near the geographical center of Argentina, contains 17th and 18th century religious and secular buildings that illustrate an unprecedented 150-year-long religious, social, and economic experiment. The Jesuit Block in the city of Córdoba contains the core buildings of the capital of the former Jesuit Province of Paraguay: the church, the Jesuit priests’ residence, the university, and the Colegio Convictorio de Montserrat.
The Block’s supporting estancias — comprised of Alta Gracia (located 36 km or 22 mi from the Block), Santa Catalina (70 km or 43 mi from the Block), Jesús María (48 km or 30 mi from the Block), La Candelaria (220 km or 137 mi from the Block), and Caroya (44 km or 27 mi from the Block) — each included a church or chapel, priests’ residence, ranches for slaves and indigenous peoples, work areas (camps, mills, beating mills, etc.), hydraulic systems (breakwaters, irrigation ditches, canals, etc.), farmhouses, and large extents of land for cattle breeding.
The Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba is an exceptional example of a vast religious, political, economic, legal, and cultural system. It is likewise an excellent illustration of the fusion of European and Native American cultures, with the added contributions of African slave laborers, during a seminal period in South America. The ensemble is a particular example of territorial organization, an economic complement between urban and rural settlements that allowed the Society of Jesus to pursue its educational and missionary goals.
The outstanding nature of this ensemble is illustrated by the convergence of two typologies: on the one hand, the European convent layout, with a main church, residence, and college in the city; and on the other, novel rural settlements, where the church, residence, and trading post merged in a productive and interrelated territory. This kind of articulation, where the various productive specializations in each estancia were supported by the construction of complex hydraulic systems, was unique in the American cultural context.
The outstanding achievements of the Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba include the development of technologies based on local resources, both material and human, and the use of the respective knowledge of the participants – the religious Order and the indigenous and African slave laborers – all of which resulted in a mixture of architectural, technological, and artistic expressions reflecting mannerist and baroque influences adapted to the locality.