Córdoba has many historical monuments preserved from Spanish colonial rule, especially buildings of the Roman Catholic Church. The most recognizable is perhaps the Jesuit Block (Spanish: Manzana Jesuítica), declared in 2000 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO which consists of a group of buildings dating from the 17th century, including the Colegio Nacional de Monserrat and the colonial university campus. The campus belongs today to the historical museum of the National University of Córdoba, which has been the second-largest university in the country since the early 20th century (after the University of Buenos Aires), in terms of the number of students, faculty, and academic programs. Córdoba is also known for its historical movements, such as Cordobazo and La Reforma del '18 (known as University Revolution in English).
In 1570, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo entrusted the Spanish settler Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, with the task of populating and founding a settlement in the Punilla Valley. Cabrera sent an expedition of 48 men to the territory of the Comechingones. He divided the principal column that entered through the north of the provincial territory at Villa María. The one hundred man expedition set foot on what today is Córdoba on 24 June 1573. Cabrera called the nearby river San Juan (today Suquía). The settlement was officially founded on 6 July of the same year and named Córdoba de la Nueva Andalucía, possibly in honour of ancestors of the founder's wife, originally from Córdoba, Spain. The foundation of the city took place on the left bank of the river on Francisco de Torres' advice.
The settlement was inhabited by aboriginal people called Comechingones, who lived in communities called Ayllus. After four years, having repelled attacks by the aborigines, the settlement's authorities moved it to the opposite bank of the Suquía River in 1577. The Lieutenant Governor at the time, Don Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa, planned the first layout of the city as a grid of seventy blocks. Once the city core had been moved to its current location, it acquired a stable population. Its economy blossomed due to trade with the cities in the north.
In 1599, the religious order of the Jesuits arrived in the settlement. They established a Novitiate in 1608 and, in 1610, the Colegio Maximo, which became the University of Córdoba in 1613 (today National University of Córdoba), the fourth-oldest in the Americas. The local Jesuit Church remains one of the oldest buildings in South America and contains the Monserrat Secondary School, a church, and residential buildings. To maintain such a project, the Jesuits operated five Reducciones in the surrounding fertile valleys, including Caroya, Jesús María, Santa Catalina, Alta Gracia and Candelaria.
The farm and the complex, started in 1615, had to be vacated by the Jesuits following the 1767 decree by King Charles III of Spain that expelled them from the continent. They were then run by the Franciscans until 1853, when the Jesuits returned to the Americas. Nevertheless, the university and the high-school were nationalized a year later. Each Estancia has its own church and set of buildings, around which towns grew, such as Alta Gracia, the closest to the Block.