Uruguay has a new UNESCO World Heritage Site

This modest church built entirely of brick has been called "a marvel of modern architecture"—and received the world’s greatest cultural recognition.
By Karen A Higgs
Cristo Obrero Church by Eladio Dieste
Last updated on July 28, 2021
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Uruguay has a new UNESCO World Heritage site: the Cristo Obrero Church in Atlántida designed by engineer Eladio Dieste, also known as ‘the master of brick’.

Built between 1958 and 1960 the church is a dramatic example of the work of Eladio Dieste (1917-2000). It is built entirely of brick and does not have a single supporting pillar. Instead the weight is distributed by curved vaults and arches which seem to defy gravity.

The church was awarded heritage status due to its technical innovation and its modern reinterpretation of a type of traditional building.

The Getty calls the church “a marvel of modern architecture. Inside, light enters the space only through skylights, onyx on the doors, and the coloured fixtures placed along the lateral walls.” Have a look at how stunning the church interior is.

Cristo Obrero Church by Eladio Dieste
Nicolas Barriola, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Uruguay and Dieste at the vanguard of world’s architecture

Uruguay has always been a country at the vanguard of architecture. Particularly in the 1920s and 30s. Modern architecture which had begun in Europe and which ground to a halt during the Second World War continued developing in Uruguay unhampered. Dieste who was born in Artigas in the north of Uruguay became a worldwide icon of architecture design and construction.

In Uruguay, his company was responsible for building more than 150 buildings, most of them utilitarian (warehouses, transit terminals). He designed on the basis of economy and beauty, what he called “the strength of shapes, not the redundant accumulation of material”.

Cristo Obrero Church by Eladio Dieste
Nicolas Barriola, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cristo Obrero church is located several kilometres north of the seaside town of Atlántida.

Other Dieste buildings to put on your visiting list include:

Dieste was also responsible for the design of over 220 rural schools throughout Uruguay. Find out more about Dieste and how to spot the rural schools as you drive around Uruguay.

Uruguay now has three UNESCO World Heritage sites

  • Old town Colonia del Sacramento (designated 1995)
  • The Anglo in Fray Bentos—a former meatpacking plant—an eerily untouched example of the world’s industrial heritage (2015) and now
  • Cristo Obrero Church in Atlantida (2021).

Find out more about these sites in The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay.

How to get to Cristo Obrero Church

Ruta 11 km 164, Estación Atlántida, Canelones Department.

Opening times

You can visit the church without a guide service Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Guided tours Thursdays at 3:15pm, 4:15pm, 5:15pm and 6pm and Saturdays at 3:15pm, 4:15pm, 5:15pm and 6:30pm.

Cover picture: Nicolas Barriola, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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