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Visiting the Capilla Jackson, Montevideo: Gothic Lines, Shadows and Memories of a Prominent Uruguayan Extended Family

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Shades of history

One of many significant landmarks in Montevideo, Uruguay is the Capilla Jackson (or Capilla Sagrada Familia, as it is sometimes known (1). The Gothic lines of this chapel have imposed their profile on the Aires Puros suburb, as it now is, of Uruguay's capital since 1870, close to the Prado park; other prominent buildings at the Prado include the Suárez y Reyes Presidential residence and the Hotel del Prado.

Strongly Gothic features of the Capilla Jackson include pointed arching, pinnacles and flying buttresses.

The architect responsible for this building was Victor Rabú (1834-1907)(2), from France.

The building was declared a national monument in 1975.

When the chapel was built, it formed part of an estate situated beyond the outskirts of Montevideo; while today the locality is an integral part of the city. Named for the Jackson family, it recalls Juan Dámaso Jackson Errazquin (1833-1892), who was born and died in Montevideo, and is buried in the chapel. Juan D. Jackson was a landowner and philanthropist who was involved in commerce in England and the United States in his youth, and who returned to Uruguay in order to administer the family estates. He was greatly instrumental in the development of agriculture in Uruguay, and in the expansion of educational facilities in agronomy (3). At various times he was also closely identified with the Jesuit and Salesian orders.

Collateral descendants of Juan Jackson have included prominent personalities who have served in public life over the past few decades; these include: Alberto Héber Usher (President of Uruguay, 1966-67), Mario Héber Usher (Deputy and Senator in the 1960s and 70s), and Luis Alberto Héber Fontana (Government minister since 2020, and Deputy and Senator from the 1980s until 2020) (4).

The Capilla Jackson is situated close to the intersection of Av. Dr. Luis A. de Herrera (5) and Dr. Carlos Vaz Ferreira, Montevideo.

November 11, 2020


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(1) See also (in Spanish):

(2) Other works by Architect Rabú include a number of other church buildings in Uruguay; he also notably worked on the Teatro Solís, Montevideo. See also: César J. Loustau, Influencia de Francia en la arquitectura de Uruguay (in Spanish). Ediciones Trilce. pp. 40ff. ISBN 9974-32-116-6.

(3) Given the longstanding, preponderant importance of agriculture and livestock rearing in Uruguay, Juan D. Jackson's historical significance among Uruguayans is underlined. The neighbouring Prado park has indeed been associated with a very large cattle showground hosting annual competitions.

(4) A somewhat discordant note was sounded in 2008 by US Ambassador to Uruguay who, on being approached by the office of the President of Uruguay to ask the Embassy and CIA to open up documentation upon the apparent political murder in 1978 of Cecilia Fontana de Héber (sister-in-law, wife and mother respectively of these prominent Uruguayan personalities), 'pushed back' by making a linkage with the death of US advisor Dan Mitrione in 1970. Given that in Uruguay Mitrione is remembered as an advisor who taught 'enhanced interrogation' methods in his basement using hapless inmates of Uruguayan prisons as 'guinea pigs', the moral equivalence implied by the Ambassador's intervention would be suggestive of the Uruguayan Ambassador in Washington, DC, attempting to claim that innocent members of historically prominent American families were somehow supposedly morally equivalent to the henchmen of General Pinochet, known to have been active in the US in the 1970s.

(5) Formerly known as Avenida Larrañaga, named for Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga (1771-1848), a prominent, clerical figure who founded the National Library of Uruguay and the National University of Uruguay, of whom Juan T. Jackson was a great-nephew. It is clear how the built environment around the Capilla Jackson is highly significant in its associations with Uruguayan history.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Also worth seeing

Also along Avenida Dr. Luis A. de Herrera at 3760 is the house and museum of Dr. Luis Alberto de Herrera. Among the many other, noted sights of Montevideo, are the Salvo Palace on Independence Square, the Legislative Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Cerro Fortress, and many others.


How to get there: Latam flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

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

Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay :

Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay :

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