Location: Perú, Alsina, Bolivar and Moreno. Monserrat.
The “Block of Lights” takes its name from being the cradle of intellectuality and sits in the Monserrat neighbourhood bordering Alsina, Peru, Bolivar and Moreno Streets. It has been named that way for the newspaper The Argos the September 1, 1821, due to intellectual institutions that were installed there.
Its history dates back to 1661 when the Jesuits took possession and constructed buildings considered to be the oldest of this historical ground plot.
Once The Company of Jesus is settled, building begins of the San Ignatius of Loyola Church. It is an example of Jesuit Baroque architecture and was finished in 1722 being the oldest in the City of Buenos Aires. The architects, all from different European countries of origin, were the Jesuits Krauss, Wolf, Bianchi, Pffmoli and Webber. The labour employed was at least partially provided by Guarani natives. The interior presenting arches of salient angels continuous and continues curves is repeated in the other Jesuit buildings of the block. Splendid golden altar ornaments leaf-like images “for dressing” from the 18th Century, old paintings and aged forged iron railings transport us back to the epoch when churches were part of the social life of Colonial Buenos Aires.
On the right hand side there still stands part of the old St. Ignatius Maximum School. This was an educational centre of great importance for the City but ceased activities when The Company of Jesus was expelled in 1767. During the Viceroyship it was called The San Carlos Real Collage sheltering illustrious students like M. Belgrano, C. Saavedra, J.J. Paso, Las Heras, M. Borrego,and B. Rivadavia amongst others. After their expulsion the University of Buenos Aires and the National Congress started working here.
At the corner of Peru and Alsina Streets is the entrance to the Proctorship of the Missions. This building, with enormous brick arches dating back to 1730 was the seat of the General Attorney of the Jesuits. He was some kind of administration controller supervising the movement of goods and managing the produce arriving here from the various Jesuit estates in the interior of the country. A great part of the Maintenance of Missions and Colleges of the religious order came from the sale of merchandise which took place within this building.
Under the patio, some segments of colonial tunnels can be visited today, which were recovered in the 80s and date back to the 18th Century. They are believed to have been designed by the Jesuits. There are doubts about their actual use; they are supposed to have been built for the defense of the city though they might also have been used for smuggling. The tunnels linked the Cabildo (old City Hall), the port, the river and important buildings in the city.
On 272 Peru St. there is access to one of the viceroys hip houses built in 1783 on grounds that were formerly gardens in Jesuit times. Two of them still remain with entrance at 272 and 294 Peru St.
The Maza Room was originally a kitchen. At the start of the 19th Century it became the official bureau of the Legislature Presidency. Manuel Vicente Maza was assassinated here whilst writing his resignation.
Currently, the Block of the Lights is one of the main historical museums of downtownof Buenos Aires. Here are located the National College of Buenos Aires, the Church of San Ignacio, the old building of the University of Buenos Aires, other historical buildings and in the area of Homes Redituantes there are artistic exhibitions. In the corner of the Proctorship of Mission runs a craft market.
An empty lot that serves as outdoor parking marks the spot where the Faculty of Engineering was. This field is projected in 2011 the new headquarters of the National Commission for Museums, Monuments and Sites (CNM) and the National Heritage Centre (NPC) with various smaller organizations dedicated to this area.