Colonia del Sacramento: a Portuguese Fortress on the River Plate (Río de la Plata)

Written by Marco Ramerini. Photos: by Pedro Gonçalves. English text revision by Dietrich Köster.

In 1680 the Portuguese founded along the northern bank of the River Plate (Río de la Plata/Rio da Prata) opposite Buenos Aires the fortress of Colónia do Sacramento (today Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay).

The city was of strategic importance in resisting to the Spanish. Spaniards conquered the Fortress already in the year of its foundation, but the following year they were forced to return it by the Provisional Treaty of Lisbon. The Portuguese ruled Colónia do Sacramento until 1705. During the War of Spanish Succession the city was taken by the Spaniards again.

In 1713, with the Treaty of Utrecht, Colónia returned to the Portuguese until 1762. During the Seven Years’ War it was occupied by the Spaniards through the First Cevallos expedition, but the following year with the Treaty of Paris (1763) the city was returned to the Portuguese.

Ruins of the monastery, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Author and Copyright Pedro Gonçalves

Ruins of the monastery, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Author and Copyright Pedro Gonçalves

In 1777, during the Spanish-Portuguese War, the Second Cevallos expedition reconquered the city, which remained in Spanish hands until 1811, when it joined the Liga Federal, a confederal state, considered to have been the predecessor of modern Uruguay. In 1817 the Portuguese took up the city for the last time and held it until the independence of Brazil in 1822. Colonia del Sacramento became a part of independent Uruguay in 1828.

The well-preserved urban landscape illustrates the successful fusion of the Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial styles. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1995.


– Anonymous “Historia Topographica E Bellica Da Nova Colonia De Sacramento Do Rio Da Prata” 2012, Ulan Press

– Assunção, Fernando O.; Cravotto, Antonio “Colonia del Sacramento, patrimonio mundial” 1996, Montevideo: UNESCO

– Rela, Walter “Colonia del Sacramento, 1678-1778: Historia política, militar y diplomática” 2011, Editorial Académica Española

About Marco Ramerini

I am passionate about history, especially the history of geographical explorations and colonialism.