Sepp, Anton (1655–1733)

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Sepp, Anton (1655–1733)

Anton Sepp (b. 21 November 1655; d. 13 January 1733), Tyrolean-born Jesuit active in the missions of Paraguay. Of noble birth, Sepp dedicated himself early to various scholarly pursuits. For a time, he taught rhetoric at Augsburg. Then, in 1674, he entered the Society of Jesus, hoping to be sent to missionary fields in South America. Being a non-Spaniard, however, Sepp encountered many obstacles in securing permission to travel in the New World. Only in 1690 was permission finally granted.

A cloud of unwarranted suspicion followed Sepp throughout his labors. He spent forty-one years in the Jesuit reducciones of Paraguay, yet he never held high office, nor was his ordination as priest ever confirmed. Still, he had a claim on being the most important cleric in the lives of thousands of Guaraní Indians. His talent and energy seemed boundless. He founded one major mission, San Juan Bautista, in 1698. He designed buildings for several more missions, and organized workshops for the manufacture of musical instruments. He wrote poetry, sermons, and musical compositions that became well known in the region. The schools that he operated at Yapeyú gave the Indians access to many aspects of Western culture. The Indians, in turn, made the Jesuit missions so prosperous and so famous that Voltaire later described them as a sort of Utopia in his classic, Candide.

Sepp's own role in giving life to this image was revealed in a series of copious letters he wrote to European relatives. These were published in two volumes between 1696 and 1709, and still constitute a key source for historians studying the Jesuit missions. Sepp died at San José, in what later became the Argentine Misiones.

See alsoMissions: Jesuit Missions (Reducciones) .


Efraím Cardozo, Historiografía paraguaya (1959), pp. 263-270.

Philip Caraman, The Lost Paradise (1976), pp. 120-122, 134-136, 140-143, 150-155, and passim.

Additional Bibliography

Abou, Sélim. The Jesuit "Republic" of the Guaranís (1609–1768) and Its Heritage. New York: Crossroad Pub. Co., 1997.

Reiter, Frederick J. They Built Utopia: The Jesuit Missions in Paraguay, 1610–1768. Potomac: Scripta Humanistica, 1995.

Techo, Nicholás del, Manuel Serrano y Sanz, and Bartomeu Meliá. Historia de la provincia del Paraguay de la compañía de Jesús. Asunción: Centro de Estudos Paraguayas Antonio Guasch: FONDEC, 2005.

                                    Thomas L. Whigham