The Churches of Intramuros

I got these pictures from my old files and would like to share it with you. I actually got the inspiration from my Filipino class in highschool. My teacher asked us to draw a road map of Intramuros in line with the settings of Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. I got help from my Mom in finding an old Intramuros map which is dated in 19th century. Yes, this was the time, when Internet is still unavailable on this side of the planet. We found one and I was able to trace the route of Rizal’s characters. (Sadly, I do not have the copy, but I found an 1898 map of Intramuros in Wikipedia)

I was then fascinated by the churches and the 19th century setting itself. I have learned that the traditional Visita Iglesias during Maundy Thursday dates back during the Spanish period. During those days, the Visita Iglesias were confined within the walls of Intramuros. As fate would have it, me and my bestfriend during our “staycation” in 2008, we were able to track down eight of these churches. And she herself was amazed by my information. Almost all the churches were devasted most notably during the Second World War. Out of these eight churches, only 2 remained intact and functional— the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church. The San Ignacio Church of the Jesuits were in ruins and there are plans to rebuild the church and I hope that this plan will push through.

Manila Cathedral

This is the Basilica Minore de Imaculada Concepcion was built in 1571 made of nipa and bamboo, by Padre Juan de Vivero. It was made a Cathedral in 1581 by Padre Domingo de Salazar. It was destroyed by the earthquake and other man made calamity which ravaged Manila back in the days and was successfully reconstructed as time passess by. The Manila cathedral was the only church rebuilt after the war.

The seventh structure (the church as it is right now) is made entirely of Philippine adobe. It was designed by Fernando Ocampo and was inaugurated on December 8, 1958. The present church incorporates some of its remaining walls and the Romanesque structure follows the contour of the original building. It has an octagonal dome, a separate bell tower and a facade containing statues of saints done by Italian, German and Spanish artists. It has bronze doors and the stained glass windows were designed by Galo Ocampo, and the Archbishop’s throne is of Italian marble and the statute of the Immaculate Conception is made of bronze. The Church was declared as a Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II on April 27, 1981.

The Church marker states that the center of the cross on the dome is a reference point of astronomical longitudes of the archipelago. Amazing  indeed.

ps: You should visit the catacomb in the mosaic-decorated crypt on the side of the main altar and see the names of past archbishops of Manila. (It’s a bit creepy)

San Agustin Church

La Iglesia de San Agustin is the oldest stone church in the country. It is the mother church of the Augustinian Order. It is the only church which has survived the 1945 bombardment during the Battle of Manila. The Church was turned into a concentration camp during World War II and many artifacts were stolen during the war. The Church is an example of colonial semi classical styles and was built between 1587-1604. The church is said to be the almost the exact copy of Mexico’s Church Puebla de los Angeles. The fu dogs (granite lions) were given by Chinese converts.

In 1976, our government named the Church as a National Historical Landmark. Subsequently, in 1993, UNESCO named it as a World Heritage Site, under the classification “Baroque Churches of the Philippines. On September 4, 2000, Jaime Cardinal Sin canonically crowned its image of the Our Lady of Consolation. Its pipe organ was restored in 1998. Legaspi, Martin de Goiti, Juan Salcedo and some other governors and archbishops were buried in a communal vault to the left of the main altar.

The monastery now holds the San Agustin Museum, which holds valuable artifacts of the Catholic faith as well as works of art. There is a souvenir shop at the entrance where you can find religious articles as well as books about the Agustinian Order.

San Ignacio Church

The complex held the San Ignacio Church and the Mission of the Jesuit Order.  It was built from 1878 to 1889 under the direction of the Jesuit priest, Padre Francisco Riera. The Neo-Classical style was designed by the first Filipino Architect Felix Roxas, Sr. The church’s interior was famous for the woodwork of renowed Filipino sculptor Isabelo Tampingo and his students. It was destroyed in 1945 and was converted into an office and warehouse after World War II. The place is in decay right now and hopefully the plans to reconstruct it will push through.

You will hardly notice that the ruins used to be a church in the old days. Actually, me and my best friend happened to accidentally come across it and poke around the ruins when we saw the marker.  It is located near the Archbishop Office in Intramuros, in front of the Wow Philippines Auditorium. FIY: The old Ateneo School used to stand across the street.

Lourdes Church and Convent

This is the first permanent house of the Franciscan in Capuchin Friar in 1891. The church was designed by Federico Soler. The Church and convent was destroyed in 1945 and it was moved to Kanlaon cor Retiro Streets in Quezon City in 1951. You can visit the church and see the original statute carved by Filipino sculptor Manuel Flores in 1892.

This used to be the site of the Lourdes Church and Convent. It is now the site of Silahis Arts and Crafts and Illustrados.

San Nicolas Tolentino Church

This used to be the site of the San Nicolas Tolentino Church and the convent of the Agustinian Recollect Order. It used to be congregation’s main head quarters in Asia. It is known for its beautiful interior and its bellfry. It was badly damaged during the Battle of Manila in 1945 and was totally destroyed in 1959. It used to host the images of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (yes, the one in Quiapo church), Virgen dela Salud, San Jose and Sta. Lucia. The convent was home to Ezekiel Moreno, who later became a Saint, as well as to the 4 Japanese Martyrs, the Blessed Vicente Soler and the 4 Spanish Martyrs.

What a disappointment, it is filthy, it is vandalized and sad to say, it represents most Filipino’s attitude to our cultural heritage. I know it is not too late to recognize who we are. For respecting history is our way of learning from the past and learning about ourselves towards a better future.

Chapel of the Franciscan Venerable Third Order

It used to house the Third Order of St. Francis, established in 1611. The Chapel was built in 1618. This twin towered church was destroyed in 1945, during the Battle of Manila. Located at the now Mapua school grounds.

The chapel is now the Mapua Chapel.

San Francisco Church and Convent 

It was built by the Franciscans in 1578. The first church was dedicated to Our Lady of Angels. It was destroyed in 1583 and subsequently a church and a hospital was built in 1602. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1645 and remains in ruins until 1738, where a new church was built. It was again damaged by an earthquake in 1863. And finally in 1945 its ultimate demise.

Lately,  me and my best friend is planning another Intramuros visit. Hopefully it will be soon and we can match our schedule. I’ve been doing some research online and next time, we will be looking for the old Santo Domingo Church and the other convents like the Beaterio de la Compañia de Jesus and the Convento de Sta. Clara. I hope we can find the markers.  This will definitely complete my search for the old Intramuros Churches and convents.


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