Jesuit Estancias - Province of Córdoba (photo: Jorge González)
The Jesuit estancias were devoted to agricultural and livestock activities. They had camp tender stations, pens and pasturelands for cattle, sheep, mules and horses, as well as orchards, fields to grow wheat and corn, ponds and irrigation ditches to water the crops and operate the mills.
As pertinacious workers, they were also devoted to carpentry, blacksmith’s trade, tannery and weaving, soap making and bakery. They had lime and brick kilns. Likewise, in addition to the staff barracks, the residential house of the priests and brothers and, of course, the chapel, were raised inside the estancia venues.
The presence of the Jesuits in America left an indelible trace in Córdoba, where the legacy of this religious order was immortalized in the great deal of estancias built and occupied by its members. These estancias enclose centuries of colonial Argentinian history and most of them are open to visitors today.
Erected between 1616 and 1725 by the Jesuits, the purpose of these venues was to provide economic grounds for the evangelizing works carried out in the region. The Company of Jesus had settled down in the area today known as Manzana Jesuítica (the Jesuit Block) in the City of Córdoba.
The Company's Church, the Maximum College and the Convictorio (a kind of dormitory), a building housing the National University of Córdoba and Monserrat National College today, were raised in that area. For over 400 years, the classrooms and cloisters have lodged students coming from all corners of the country in search of knowledge, which may be breathed inside its walls and throughout its architecture.
However, in order to carry out the evangelizing and educational mission designed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, it was necessary to generate their own resources. Therefore, between the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, this order acquired or built six estancias in the mountain range area in order to manage the maintenance of the Manzana Jesuítica. These venues were: Caroya (1616), Jesús María (1618), Santa Catalina (1622), Alta Gracia (1643), La Candelaria (1683) and San Ignacio (1725). The latter, which used to be located in the zone of Calamuchita, has already disappeared.
All this gives evidence of the will of the Jesuit missions, which survived the expulsion of the order signed by the king of Spain, Charles III, in 1767. Late in 2000, UNESCO declared the Jesuit Block and the Estancias Road World Heritage.
"For God's greater glory", as the Jesuits' standard read when they landed on these promising lands.