Heading northeast from Posadas along the RN-12, the first mission site you come to is Santa Ana. A signposted, unsealed road just south of Santa Ana village leads to the mission entrance and a small visitors’ centre. Originally founded in the Tapé region in 1633, Santa Ana was refounded, with a population of two thousand Guaraní, on its present site after the bandeirante attacks of 1660.

Like all the reducciones, Santa Ana is centred on a large square, to the south of which stand the crumbling walls of what was once one of the finest of all Jesuit churches, built by the Italian architect Brazanelli, whose body was buried underneath the high altar. A lot of work has been carried out on the site, yet the roots and branches of trees are still entangled in the reddish sandstone of the buildings around the plaza, offering a glimpse of the way the ruins must have appeared when they were rediscovered in the late nineteenth century. North of the church, on the site of the original orchard, you can still make out the channels from the reducción’s sophisticated irrigation system.

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