Argentina // Córdoba and the Central Sierras //

Santa Catalina

West of Jesús María, the RP-66 leads to Ascochinga, from where an easily passable trail heads north through thick forest to SANTA CATALINA 20km to the northwest. Almost completely hidden among the hills, Santa Catalina is the biggest, and undoubtedly the finest, Jesuit estancia in the region, an outstanding example of colonial architecture. A sprawling yet harmonious set of early eighteenth-century buildings, it is dominated by its church, whose elegant silhouette and symmetrical towers suddenly and unexpectedly appear as you emerge from the woods. Whitewashed to protect the porous stone from the elements, the brightness of the building almost dazzles you when you approach.

The church is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria, whose feast day is celebrated with pomp every November 25; the sternly imposing facade is reminiscent of the Baroque churches of southern Germany and Austria. Inside, the austere single nave, whitewashed like the exterior, is decorated with a gilded wooden retable that houses an image of St Catherine, and a fine carob-wood pulpit. On the right-hand flank of the church is an overgrown little cemetery, whose outer wall bears a plaque commemorating the Italian composer and organist Domenico Zípoli, who died here in 1726.

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