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Visiting the Cerrito, Montevideo: architectural heritage and historical symbolism

Updated on December 27, 2013
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
National Sanctuary of the Cerrito, Montevideo
National Sanctuary of the Cerrito, Montevideo | Source
Battle of Cerrito, 1812
Battle of Cerrito, 1812 | Source
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay | Source

The work of Architect Ernesto Vespignani, and others, built mainly between 1926 and 1938

This hill in Montevideo, Uruguay knows as the Cerrito ('little hill' in Spanish), sometimes known as the Cerrito of the Victory (Spanish: el Cerrito de la Victoria ) is thus differentiated from the more famous Cerro ('hill' in Spanish), located near the port, which originally prompted the 'Monte-' part of the city's name in the 18th century.

The Cerrito rises to a height of 72 metres and it is the site for a prime piece of ecclesiastical real estate, known as the National Sanctuary (Spanish: Santuario Nacional ). One of its influences was the Byzantine style of St Sophia, Constantinople. The building follows the design of Architect Ernesto Vespignani, with later work by architects Elzeario Boix and Horacio Terra Arocena, and was built mainly between 1926 and 1938, with the first stone having been laid in 1919.

The building is noted for its prominent dome and a series of cupolas, and for its red brick execution, which, together with its hilltop location, often catches the sun very noticeably, causing the building to glow in a most impressive way. This, in fact, is one of my abiding memories of the Cerrito.

The Cerrito, then, is not unlike Montmartre, Paris, in that they are both hill with prominent church building overlooking the capitals of their respective countries.

Like Montmartre, Paris, also, the Cerrito is also prominent in other aspects of the country's history. Interestingly, the Cerrito was also the seat of an alternative, Uruguayan government in the mid-19th century, during a period of the intermittent Civil War which plagued the country for several decades.

The Cerrito was also the scene of a noted battle in Uruguayan history in 1812 between forces of the United River Plate Provinces (Spanish: Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata ) and Spanish Royalist troops, which resulted in a victory for the United Provinces.

June 28, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Montevideo itself, visitor attractions include: Independence Square (Spanish: Plaza Independencia ), with its Artigas Mausoleum, Independence Building (the former Estévez Palace); the Ciudalela entrance, and the Palacio Salvo ; the Legislative Palace (Spanish: Palacio Legislativo); the Cerro Fortress; and many others.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . The Uruguayan airline PLUNA, which codeshares with VARIG, flies to a number of Latin American regional destinations. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing visa requirements which may apply to the holders of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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