The town of Yaguaron lies approximately 50 km from Asuncion. It is located along the main road to the south from Asuncion, Ruta 1. As such is easily accessed from the capital.

The town was founded by the Franciscan friars Luis Boloano and Alfonso de San Buenaventura in 1586. It was to serve as a center for the missionary work of the Franciscans.

However they were not moving into entirely empty countryside. A settlement had previously been placed there by the conquistador Domingo Martinez de Irala as far back as 1536.

Once founded by the Franciscans Yaguaron soon became the center for their missionary activities amongst the indigenous peoples of Paraguay. Further to the south and in much greater numbers the Jesuits were also planting their missions.

The church in Yaguaron is nationally important for many reasons. One of these is that it is the only mission church to have survived complete in its original form from colonial times. The Jesuit missions were larger but now only stand as ruins.

Building of the church began in 1755 and took until 1772 to complete. It was named after San Buenaventura who became the patron saint of Yaguaron.

It is a very large building dominating its surroundings. Externally the design is very simple and clean. A single pitched roof and white washed walls.

The surrounding church yard is kept spotlessly clean with a neat lawn and a few carefully placed trees. Although the grounds extend right up to the main road the clear church yard gives the area and atmosphere of peace and silence.

The church bell tower is not built into the roof so as not to spoil its lines. Instead a free standing wooden bell tower stands next to the church.

The plain functional exterior gives no indication of the riot of colour concealed within. Upon entering it is impossible not to notice how almost every corner is decorated.

The style of decoration is known as Hispano-Guarani Baroque. This reflects the baroque art bought from Europe and the local flavor the indigenous craftsmen were able add. Many of the paints obtained their colours from local plants and high up the carvings on the capitals have Guarani faces.

Above those the ceiling is painted with a bright geometric pattern as it travels down the nave towards the altar piece.

This altar piece is the focus of the church. It stretches from floor to ceiling and is one of the most decorative in the Americas.

It is a masterpiece of wood carving. In amongst its many images are to be seen saints, angles and biblical scenes. Sufficient to impress even the most reluctant visitors.

For the Franciscans having such a fine work of art in their central church must have aided them in their missionary work.

The figures and the altar piece itself are all brightly coloured drawing the eye directly towards them. Not all is paint however. Many surfaces shine gold. This represents the large quantity of gold leaf that was applied to the carvings.

Restoration work was done at the end of the 19th century and there is ongoing cleaning and maintenance, but on the whole the church appears as it did when newly built.

These days as well as still functioning as the town church the church of San Buenaventua is open to visitors and tourists.

Being such a short distance from Asuncion it should be on the itinerary of anyone with an interest in church architecture who visits Paraguay. Or in fact on the itinerary of anyone with an interest in art.

Now set up to receive tourists there are a number of information plaques set up in the church yard. These though are only in Spanish, but a guidebook would give much of the details in English.

There are set hours for touristic visits. These are 7.30 until 11.00 in the morning and from 1.30 until 5.00 in the afternoon.

As there are no fund received from the government for the upkeep of the church all money for maintenance must be raised locally.

The majority comes from the local population. Visitors are expected to leave a small donation towards church funds. To encourage that to happen the caretaker requires a tip to turn the lights on.

That though is money well spend to bring the carvings out of the gloom and to reveal their glories.

Nature as well as man has found sanctuary here. A large number of swifts have taken up residence below the eaves and circle the church constantly in search of flying insects. All undisturbed by the main road running across the bottom of the church yard.

For anyone who has the opportunity San Buenaventura in Yaguaron is well worth a visit.

No one will leave disappointed after viewing its rich carvings.