Manzana de las Luces: Monserrat, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Manzana de las Luces: Monserrat, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

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The "Block of Enlightenment," also known as Manzana de las Luces, houses the Saint Ignacio Church and adjacent College, which the Jesuits constructed during the late 17th century. Situated in the Monserrat neighborhood, this area boasts several significant historical and public buildings in Buenos Aires.

Manzana de las Luces

Manzana de las Luces ("The Illuminated Block" or "Block of Enlightenment") is a former Jesuit mission and historical landmark in the Monserrat neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In the late 17th century, the Jesuits built their residence, the Iglesia de San Ignacio and the adjoining Colegio de San Ignacio, now the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires.

Work began in 1686 on the Saint Ignacio Church, and the baroque structure was completed in 1722. The adjoining college was designed by local architect Juan Kraus and built between 1710 and 1729.

The mission was closed in 1767 due to Spain suppressing the Jesuits. Still, the school was converted into the Royal College of San Carlos; the church became a cathedral and the pharmacy into Argentina's first medical college.

Spanish Viceroy Juan José de Vértiz established the city's first printing press at the site in 1780 and an orphanage.

With more than 400 years of history, its architecture is a testimony to colonial Buenos Aires and the Jesuit influence. In September 1821, the newspaper El Argos named it "Manzana de las Luces" for the first time due to the academic institutions it housed.

The Illuminated Block housed the following:

  • the Board of Temporalities (1767)
  • the Tribunal del Protomedicato (1780)
  • the Foundling Children Press (1783)
  • the University of Buenos Aires (1821)
  • the Academy of Medicine (1822)
  • the Academy of Jurisprudence (1865)
  • the Department of Exact Sciences (1865), which gave rise to the current Faculties of Architecture, Engineering and Exact Sciences

The block was also home to the National Library, the first theater, the first museum and the first bank in the city.

A network of underground tunnels intersecting beneath the block is believed to have helped safeguard munitions during Argentina's War of Independence, fought from 1810 to 1818.

Monserrat, Buenos Aires

Monserrat is a neighborhood in the eastern part of the Buenos Aires Central Business District. Wedged between San Telmo and the Plaza de Mayo, the district is home to many of the city's oldest churches, modern government buildings and distinctive Beaux Arts buildings.

Avenida de Mayo runs through the Monserrat district, connecting Plaza de Mayo and the Plaza de los Dos Congresos (Congressional Plaza).

Monserrat features some of the most important public buildings in Buenos Aires, including the city hall, the city legislature, Casa Rosada, the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, and the Libertador Building (Ministry of Defense), among others.

A block or two south of Plaza de Mayo, the older section of Monserrat begins. This is Buenos Aires' oldest neighborhood. Even today, very little of the cityscape is less than a hundred years old (except along Belgrano Avenue), seamlessly transitioning to the likewise historic San Telmo district to the south.

Notable sites in the Monserrat district include:

  • City Hall
  • City Legislature
  • Buenos Aires Cabildo
  • Café Tortoni
  • Casa Rosada
  • Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires
  • Jesuit Temple of St. Ignatius and College (Manzana de las Luces)
  • Plaza de Mayo
  • Equestrian monument to General Manuel Belgrano
  • St. Andrew's Scotch Presbyterian Church (Iglesia Presbiteriana San Andrés del Centro)
  • Basílica de San Francisco
  • Palacio Barolo