A predominantly Catholic nation with a population of 93.5% Roman Catholics, Philippines boasts of many outstanding Baroque-style Catholic churches that are spread across its metropolis. Given that Philippines was colonized by the Spanish for over three centuries, there is a strong distinct European influence in much of its architecture. Home to an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site, Manila, the capital city of the country, is filled with magnificent churches, fascinating museums, beautiful parks, as well as inspiring historic monuments making Manila a great destination to visit.
Baroque Churches of the Philippines – A favourite wedding place for many couples in Philippines, the Baroque Churches of Philippines is a collection of four 16th century Spanish-era churches located all across Philippines. The four famous churches inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List are: the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín (Manila), the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion (Santa Maria), the Church of San Agustín (Paoay), and the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva (Miag-ao). It is widely acknowledged that the most remarkable and amazing aspect of these four churches is the design – the brilliant use of European Baroque architectural style with local Chinese decorative motifs. These churches are especially significant as a cultural site because their architectural designs influenced the subsequent style church architecture in Philippines.
Located inside the Intramuros district of Manila, the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín is only a 20-minute drive from our serviced apartment, Fraser Place Manila. The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín was the first Catholic Church on the island of Luzon in 1571, right after Philippines was conquered by the Spanish. The church was under the administration of the Spanish Augustinians who were the first evangelists in Philippines. Considered as the oldest stone church in Philippines, it is also the only building that remained standing after the Liberation of Manila in 1945 when Instramuros was reduced to rubble during the World War 2. Having survived two fires and several strong earthquakes, the current church structure is actually the third Augustinian Church erected on the site. The first building was constructed using bamboo and nipa but was destroyed by a big fire in 1574 when the Limahong (Chinese pirate/warlord) forces invaded Manila. The second church, which was built with wood, was unfortunately burnt down in 1583. After the fire, the ruins were rebuilt into a church and a monastery using adobe stone by the Augustinians. The entire monastery however was destroyed, and later reconstructed into the San Agustin Museum in the 1970s. The museum currently has on display many outstanding statues, paintings, and church artefacts. The San Agustin Museum is open from Sunday to Monday from 9:00 am – 12:00 nn and 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm with admission fee of P100 for adults and P40 for children.
The church design is believed to have been adapted from other churches built by the Augustinians in Mexico. Although the church facade is designed in a simple way, the ornately carved wooden doors depict floras and the statues of St. Agustin, Sta. Monica, and the Augustinian symbols. In addition the church courtyard is home to several granite lion sculptures which were given as gifts by Chinese coverts. Originally made up of two bell towers, the facade’s left tower was demolished permanently after a major earthquake in 1863. The elaborate interior church designs should not be missed as well. The exquisite trompe l’oeil murals on the ceilings and walls of the church leaves visitors in awe. The church also houses the tombs of the Spanish conquistadors Miguel López de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo and Martín de Goiti, as well as several early Spanish Governors-General and archbishops.
The other three churches are located in other parts of Philippines. The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion (Santa Maria) is mounted on a hill surrounded by a defensive wall. Its elevated setting is unusual for churches during the Spanish colonial period. The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, situated on the highest elevation of Maigo, is known to be one of the best examples of ‘Fortress Baroque’ style in Philippines. The two massive bell towers and the angled buttresses gave a stronger fortress image for the church. The Church of San Agustín (Paoay) is considered the most remarkable example in the Philippines of ‘Earthquake Baroque’ because it is designed in a way to withstand major earthquakes.
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