San Ignacio de Loyola

Since the second founding of Buenos Aires by Juan de Garay, in 1580, the current Argentine territory belonged to the Viceroyalty of Peru and the River Plate government was headed by Hernandarias de Saavedra.In 1608, the first Jesuits arrived in these lands. Their first church and school were built in the current Plaza de Mayo, on the “land of the advance”, a plot of land donated to them by the Cabildo, in the Northeast quarter. This first construction, inspired by the German baroque, was made of adobe with reed roofs, a construction method used in primitive Buenos Aires as there was neither wood nor stone in the area, until the appearance of the first brick ovens. The Jesuit church was born under the dedication of Our Lady of Loreto but later, when Ignatius of Loyola was beatified, it took the name of Saint Ignatius in 1610.


They remained there for just over fifty years. In 1661, for reasons of security and defense of the Fort of Buenos Aires, since the land they occupied was exposed in the primitive layout, the Jesuits had to abandon the construction of Plaza de Mayo. It was then that Doña Isabel Carvajal, widow of Gonzalo Martel de Guzmán and without children, donated to the Company of Jesus the land delimited by the current streets Perú, Bolívar, Alsina and Moreno.


A second church was built in this place, also made of adobe, completed in 1675, a date that can be read on the piece of marble found in renovations in the 19th century and which was placed in the cloister of the old San Ignacio School, annexed to the church.


In 1686, with the production of the first brick kilns in Buenos Aires, the south tower and the front walls of the current church began to be built.


In recent years it underwent several repairs that included scaffolding supporting its front. Once its restoration was completed, today it can be seen as it looked in the 18th century.


Since 1710, according to plans by the Jesuit architect Juan Krauss, construction of the current temple began. The project included reformulating the front according to the late German baroque style, with two towers, of which the south tower (the one closest to the school) would be completed first. That is the oldest preserved structure in the city. To complete the work, the first brick ovens used in Buenos Aires were installed.


Krauss would not see the end of his work, since he died in 1714, and several Jesuit architects succeeded him to finish it: Juan Wolff, Juan Bautista Prímoli, Andrés Blanqui and Pedro Weger. These architects carried out the work between 1712 and 1722. The temple was designed with a central nave with a transept of large dimensions for the time. The side naves are actually interconnected chapels, with altars for celebrating masses.


The upper gallery, above the side chapels, is called "matroneras", and they are a very rare typology in churches. They were to be able to circulate without interrupting those attending the masses. It is said that they were mainly frequented by midwives who breastfed the babies of the attending families, a custom widely used at the time. Hence the term “midwives.”


The façade has a triple arch with a portico between two columns and large inverted corbels, topped by a belfry. Since the church lacked an atrium, it is likely that Krauss sought a certain distortion in the perspective of elements of the façade to allow them to be better appreciated. The north tower with the clock was completed in the mid-19th century. The clock belonged to the Town Hall tower.


The Church of San Ignacio derives from the model of the church of the Gesu in Rome, Italy. The baroque façade does not match the serious and austere interior. The Latin cross plan, with five chapels on each side, showed in its colonial altarpieces, made by master craftsmen, all the majesty that was necessary for worship. The walls were whitewashed.


The church still has its original bricks, longer than the current ones that were well preserved, so the strengthening work was almost always concentrated on the mortar.


Between 1767 and 1791 San Ignacio functioned as a provisional cathedral for the repair works needed by the current Cathedral of Buenos Aires, which is the main church.


The building underwent modifications over the years. Towards the end of the 19th century, it was Europeanized with the fashion of the Belle Époque, so present in Buenos Aires at that time, which left us with the old center full of baroque and Spanish churches on the inside, and classical and Italian churches on the outside.


On December 31, 1806, a mass of thanksgiving was celebrated in the church for the reconquest of Buenos Aires. Once the Defense was over, solemn funerals were held there for those killed in these episodes. In 1811, he will witness the resistance of the mutineers against Manuel Belgrano, in Regiment No. 1 of Patricios: from his tower, the Las Braids mutiny will be thwarted.


In 1821 the inauguration of the University of Buenos Aires was held in the temple and in 1823, that of the Benevolent Society. Until 1830, the Virtue Awards were given here, awarded by the latter. And the Public Literary Events of the schools that succeeded the Royal College of San Carlos were also held there, where advanced students of different careers publicly offered exams and efficiency tests.


In 1823 the Church of San Ignacio became a Provisional Cathedral again and from 1830 it began to function as a parish.


In 1836, during the second government of Juan Manuel de Rosas, the Jesuits returned to Buenos Aires, but were expelled again in 1843, by Rosas himself. During that period they occupied the church again, sharing the rooms with the bishop and the Ecclesiastical Curia who were there due to the poor condition of the Cathedral building.


About twenty years later, the engineer Felipe Senillosa added the north tower, which until then did not exist. However, there are indications that the access to this tower would be as old as the temple. The identification of micaceous schist rocks in the foundations of the old atrium added to two construction elements located in the access opening to the tower - a lintel and a doorway - that were carved with the same type of rock found in the foundations and walls of the temple, They would indicate that these construction components were placed when the works began at the end of the 17th century. The micaceous schist blocks would have been brought from the mountains of Córdoba, since this type of rock is associated with the gold mines that the Jesuit order exploited until the mid-18th century.


In 1942 it was declared a National Historical Monument. In 1955 it suffered a fire that mainly affected its interior, within the framework of the serious political events of that year. In 1980 the tunnels of the block of lights were discovered randomly through excavations, it is believed that they may have been built by the Jesuits. Despite doubts regarding their use, it is assumed that they were built for the defense of the city, although they are also linked to smuggling, defense or escape from pirates and Indians, prisons or torture sites, weapons depots during the time of Rosas, confinement and trafficking of blacks and slaves.


In 1993 the National Directorate of Architecture organized a party to celebrate the end of the restoration of the church of San Ignacio in Buenos Aires. The recovery of the south tower was an important aspect, since in colonial times it was the tallest in the city and functioned as a strategic defense point. It is believed that it was used as a surveillance point and the Río de la Plata was controlled when Buenos Aires lived with the tension of being invaded due to the weakness of the Spanish crown at the time.


In July 2012, the recovery works on the temple that began in 2009 were completed. The restoration work was carried out respecting the original style.


On July 31, 2001, a small museum and art center began operating.


In one of the side altars rest the remains of Juan José Castelli, first cousin of Manuel Belgrano, called the Orator of the May Revolution and member of the First Government Junta, who died in 1812.


To tour the church and the tunnels, guided tours are offered, highly recommended for the historical value and the captivating testimonies of the guides that take us into the incredible history of this National Historical Monument, which is a faithful witness to the history of Buenos Aires.


For more information about guided tours, go to: