The Ateneo de Montevideo was born on August 10, 1906 as a result of the merger of two important institutions: the University Society and the Ateneo del Uruguay. The historical roots of our institution go back to the origins of other institutions that, in a fermented period of the cultural life of our country, in successive mergers, united by common philosophical principles, were joining forces.
In his long life, our institution has fulfilled various roles within our society and has fundamentally fulfilled the mission that Prudencio Vázquez y Vega had to fulfill: “I have always believed that the cultural and literary centers of a town are like the foci from which they emanate. the principles that should govern them, based on three great ideas: freedom, civilization, and progress “.
At the dawn of its trajectory, the Ateneo fulfilled its cultural and educational role as Free University, with its preparatory studies courses and a Faculty of Right. Free of the official system of the State, free of the political changes and religious dogmatism that prevailed in our society.
Prominent men of letters, scientists, ambassadors, and politicians, including several presidents of the Republic, were partners and directors of the Ateneo, practicing in their sphere of public and private activity the moral and philosophical principles of which the institution has been diffuser.
Among the most illustrious political figures who have been directors of the Ateneo are: Mr. José Batlle y Ordóñez (twice President of the Republic), the Ministers Juan Campisteguy and Martín C. Martínez and the Ambassadors: Luis Melián Lafinur, Eduardo Acevedo Díaz, Daniel Muñoz, Rufino T. Domínguez, and Juan Pedro Castro, among others.
In educational matters, Ateneo, together with the Association of Friends of Popular Education, fostered the educational reform of schools harshly fought by the Catholic Church. The most distinguished educators and promoters of school reform were members of the Athenaeum: José Pedro Varela, Francisco Berra, and many others.
It is the physical headquarters of the institution a beautiful three-story building with 1200 square meters of construction, located opposite the Plaza de Cagancha, in the heart of the city of Montevideo. The work was inaugurated in the year 3400 and has been declared by its characteristics and architectural design as “National Historic Monument”.
The building has an auditorium and conference room on the upper floor with a capacity for 780 people and on the same floor, there are workshops and classrooms given by the Institution. On the main floor, there are, among others, two important conference and concert halls, where different courses are given every week and free cultural activities are developed.
The main floor also has a large meeting room where the Board of Directors of the Institution meets, with a library with several thousand volumes and an important reading room.
The religious and cultural tolerance that is basic of the philosophical thought of the Athenaeum, has determined that different religious and philosophical movements use our conference rooms to direct their messages.
Even in distant times when there were tremendous differences between the Catholic Church (from the Catholic CLub) and the Freemasonry and Protestant sectors (from the Ateneo), the rooms of our Institution were always open to receive those who were its most tremendous adversaries.
Today, more than 130 years of the life of the Athenaeum, the liberal principles that cradled him are still alive. Men and women of different generations have held up the torch of freedom and project themselves towards the future, strengthening ties with other human beings and other institutions from different cultural worlds, so that together they can walk in harmony.