Visiting Villa Soriano, Uruguay and the Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano: strong historical vibrations
"Here the fatherland was born"
As the former holder of an Uruguayan ID, I was privileged to visit Villa Soriano (1), in Uruguay's Soriano department, known as the country's oldest European settlement. At various times in the village's history, it has been called both Villa Soriano, or simply Soriano, or Santo Domingo de Soriano.
The latter designation is of course tied with the chapel which is among the village's principal landmarks.
Adjoining the Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano is a public square in honour Uruguay's principal Independence era leader, General José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850). By designation of General Artigas, Santo Domingo de Soriano / Villa Soriano served as the capital of the Department of Soriano until 1857. The village has strong associations with the activities of General Artigas and his patriotic followers during the Independence era; a notable battle occurred in 1811 at Villa Soriano between troops of the Spanish Viceroy and patriotic forces.
So it would seem on the surface that the whole history of the settlement built up around the Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano revolves around significant historical events of Soriano department.
Except that this is not the case, with respect to the settlement's early history. The Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano found its origins in a settlement of the Franciscan Order dating from 1624 (thus older than Colonia, an Uruguayan town noted for its many old buildings). This settlement was actually situated — albeit not very far from its present site — on Vizcaíno Island (now in the Río Negro department) over the Río Negro from Villa Soriano. Originally the settlement was in character by the way of a mission sponsored by the Order among indigenous inhabitants of the territory, formerly known as the Banda Oriental.
Santo Domingo de Soriano is located near the confluence of the Negro and Uruguay rivers, and the present position of the village around the Chapel dates from 1708; neighbouring Argentina lies over the Uruguay river. In 1802, towards the end of the colonial era, the King of Spain designated the settlement 'Villa', which identified it as European, as opposed to indigenous, in character (2).
The design of the Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano is in typical Colonial style, with strong Classical elements, including a broken pediment and solid walls and tower.
The 20th and 21st centuries have seen a considerable decline in the number of the parishioners of the Chapel of Santo Domingo de Soriano, not merely because of secularizing influences which have affected Uruguay, but also because the population of Villa Soriano - at over 6000 at the beginning of the 20th century — has declined to about 1100 today.
The departmental flag of Soriano bears the Spanish motto: 'AQUI NACIO LA PATRIA' (Here the fatherland was born) and in no small measure Villa Soriano's historical associations have contributed to the significance of these words.
August 5, 2015
(1) See also the following site for tourist information (in Spanish) : http://www.turismoenuruguay.com.uy/informacion_turistica/informacion_turistica_masinfo.php?id=46&secc=informacion_turistica
(2) Few of the former Banda Oriental's indigenous inhabitants (these included the Charrúa, Chaná and Guaraní peoples) survived into Uruguay's post-Independence era. The former presence in Uruguay of indigenous people is still recalled in various ways, including in place-names and in the existence of rock art, the most striking example of which is a site at Chamangá, in Flores department.
Also worth seeing
In Villa Soriano itself, other noteworthy features include the Casa de los Marfetán, said to be the oldest existing building in the village, now a museum; and the quayside (Spanish: muelle) at the Negro river.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco ) Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Villa Soriano lies 45 kilometres from the departmental capital Mercedes, itself 278 kilometres from Montevideo. By road, the village lies on Ruta 96. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting Colonia, Uruguay: where the flow converges and reverberates
In the late 15th century, not long after Columbus's discovery of the Americas, Spain and Portugal, which for the next few centuries would be the principal colonial powers in much of South America, made a treaty called the Treaty of Tordesillas. This.
- Visiting the Artigas Mausoleum, Montevideo, Uruguay: complex remembrance of a once exiled leader
Flag of Uruguay FlagPictures.org Mausoleum of José Gervasio Artigas in Montevideo, Uruguay. 'Flickr';'Mausoleo Artigas';'Phillie Casablanca', 'User:Góngora', Cr.Commons A-SA2.0, wikimedia.org The widely acknowledged, leading Ind
- Visiting Montevideo, Uruguay and its Metropolitan Cathedral: Neo-Classical building commenced in 179
With its twin tower frontage, this is one of the most striking buildings in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo. Some history and features Work commenced on the church building in 1790, while what was then known as the Banda Oriental (East Bank)...
- Visiting San Carlos, Uruguay: distinguished ecclesiastical architecture and echoes of the Colonial e
The Colonial architecture and memories of Uruguay's Colonia del Sacramento are quite widely known, but San Carlos, a town in the south-east of the country, also deserves to be recognized for its visible, Colonial past. In particular, the church of...
- Visiting the Congress Palace of the Argentinian Nation, Buenos Aires, Argentina: sedateness amidst p
To many American visitors, the monumental Congress building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, will be a reminder of the US Capitol. Well, to many Argentinians, the US Capitol with remind them of their own. (Indeed, my memories of the Congress building in..
More by this Author
- 0Visiting an unusual church building on St. Clair Avenue, Toronto, Ontario: memorializing a business figure
Timothy Eaton Memorial Church stands monumentally in the Toronto suburb of Forest Hill, on St. Clair Avenue. Not dedicated to any religious figure, its name instead recalls a business personality.
25,000 people are said to have perished at this concentration camp on French soil, functioning between 1941 and 1944. 25,000 people. Albert Speer, later Hitler's production supremo, was linked with it
In the centre of the village, a stone monument bears a plaque inscribed: 'BERGHOLZ GERMAN LUTHERAN SETTLEMENT FOUNDED OCT. 12 1843'. And German Americans, mainly Lutheran, have been there ever since. The monument...
No comments yet.