Barrio Histórico: Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay)

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Barrio Histórico: Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay)

Sun, 10/21/2018 - 17:20
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Colonia del Sacramento is located at the tip of a short peninsula with a strategic position on the north shore of Uruguay's Río de la Plata. The Historic Quarter is a fusion of Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial styles. The buildings date from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and the capital of the Colonia Department. The modern city is a textile producer with a free trade zone and polytechnic center. The town is located at the tip of a short peninsula, strategically on the north shore of Uruguay's Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires.

The "Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento" is a World Heritage Site. It is a well-preserved urban landscape, illustrating the successful fusion of Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial styles. The buildings date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, Colonia del Sacramento was strategically important in resisting the Spanish. After being disputed for a century, it was finally lost by its founders.

The 16-ha (40-acre) "Old City" was enclosed by a fortification wall across the peninsula in present-day Calle Ituzaingó. Most of the fortification wall was removed in 1777. The remaining parts were removed in 1859.

The Portuguese part of the city has an irregular street network. Outside the wall, the historical part of the city was planned in Spanish colonial style and the characteristic checkerboard layout.

Throughout its territory's successive destruction and occupations, the Historic Quarter has acquired the urban and architectural heterogeneity that characterizes it. The contributions of the Portuguese and Spanish were added to those of the artisans who emigrated there during the second half of the 19th century.

Its modest buildings, in terms of their dimensions and appearance, are a fascinating testimony to the singular fusion of Portuguese and Spanish traditions, evident in the construction methods used.

The civil and religious buildings, with long stone walls, wooden trellis and tiled roofs, reveal an excellent knowledge of traditional construction systems and contribute to the architectural unity specific to the Historic Quarter.

Among the notable buildings around the tree-lined "Plaza Mayor" (main square) are:

  • Portón de Campo: the City Gate and wooden drawbridge

  • Lighthouse and convent ruins of the 17th-century Convent of San Francisco

  • Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento: the Basilica of the Holy Sacrament, built of stone by the Portuguese in 1808

  • Portuguese Museum: constructed in the 18th century, it exhibits Portuguese furnishings, jewelry, uniforms and old maps of Portuguese naval expeditions

  • Casa de Nacarello: an 18th-century Portuguese house

  • Municipal Museum: rebuilt by the Spanish in 1835 as the Casa del Almirante Brown, it exhibits artifacts and documents of the city's different periods and cultures

  • Viceroy's House: the Casa del Virrey, reconstructed from the original ruins

  • Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos: a bull ring included in an old tourist complex, now abandoned

The unique nature of Colonia del Sacramento is also evident in its urban landscape, a mixture of large arteries and large squares, with narrow cobbled streets and more private spaces.

In the region, Barrio Histórico is the only example of an urban plan that does not conform to the rigid checkerboard grid imposed by Spain under the "Laws of the Indies." Instead, Colonia del Sacramento has a free plan adapted to the topographical features of the site, although strongly influenced by its military function.

The predominance of single-story houses marks the scale of the Historic Quarter, those of two stories being rare. Only the outlines of the lighthouse and church towers stand out from the bay. Surrounded by water on three sides, the city's relationship to the river is one of the natural aspects that additionally characterize it.

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