Estancia Jesuítica de Santa Catalina
Estancia Jesuítica de Santa Catalina Review
Twenty kilometers (13 mi) northwest of Jesús María is the Estancia Jesuítica de Santa Catalina, once the Jesuits' largest estate. When the Jesuits acquired it in 1622, the first thing they did was construct an extensive underground irrigation system to water the dry lands. The area remains a massive agricultural center. The jewel in the estancia's crown is the Iglesia de Santa Catalina (Saint Catherine's Church), whose twin belfries tower over the estate. It took the Jesuits almost 100 years and more than three architects to complete the structure, which was finally consecrated in 1726. The stone they used—the local piedra de sapo (literally, toad stone)—is porous, and the church's baroque facade is regularly whitewashed to protect it from the elements: you may find it dazzling white or beautifully weather-stained, depending on when it was last painted. Inside, a spartan nave leads up to the building's only decoration, a gleaming gilded retable with a portrait of Saint Catherine. The estancia's arched galleries stretch off on either side of the church, giving way to several shady courtyards with fountains.