The "City of God": Churches, Convents
In the Philippines, the baroque churches of the Spanish colonial period
constitute the most emblematic element of the country's architectural
heritage.The religious orders played a decisive role when the
Spaniards reached the Philippines; they filled Intramuros with churches,
monasteries, and convents, scattering the city with religious buildings,
which also performed social and welfare functions, it was the "City of
Sixteenth-century Manila was ravaged by fire time and time again.
Homes and churches were devoured by flames. Sedeña, a Jesuit, taught the
Philippine people how to work and lay stone, and Manila bloomed once more
with new churches built "in the European style", but their sheer
weight and rigidity made them fragile in the face of earth tremors. In 1645, the
city was destroyed by an earthquake. Almost everything crumbled, except
the church of San Agustín.
New churches were built; these had more robust
proportions and were not so high, and followed the style adopted in seismic
zones in America; a new mestizo architecture had emerged and this was to
be called "earthquake baroque". Later on, in 1863 and 1880, earthquakes
were to devastate Manila once more. Almost everything crumbled, except, again, the
church of San Agustín.
San Agustín (1604), a permanent miracle in
stone, a church built in the "severe baroque" style with Spanish and
Italian influences imported from the "Virreinato" of Mexico.
|The Binondo church after the 1863 earthquake. Álbum
de fotografías de vistas y tipos de Filipinas. End of the 19th century.
BN Its façade was characteristic of those to be seen in Manila, as was
that of the monastery church of San Francisco which no longer exists.
Typical elements are lateral towers, trapezium-shaped gable ends topped
with a vaulted niche, small octagonal-shaped windows and twin columns.
||Binondo church. 19th century. AGI The church
built in this Chinese quarter, founded in 1596, was the work of the
architect Domingo de la Cruz González, and is one of the architectural
heritages of Manila.|
|Santa Rosa de Lima Monastery. AGI This plan dated
1788 belongs to a project drawn up by Captain Domingo de la Cruz, which
was never carried out. The façade of the church comprises a gigantic row
of dressed pilasters, similar to those used in the construction of some of
the buildings in Antigua Guatemala.
||Ground plan of the San Clemente seminary. 1706.
AGI This was the work of the priest Juan Bautista Sidoti. The
arrangement of its main floor follows the Renaissance style urban palace
model, with an interior patio and an enormous flight of stairs, this model
being commonly adopted in many Spanish
|Façade of the monastery of San Juan de Dios. José
Nadrada. BN The merging of West with East is obvious in this façade:
the front of the building is in the El Escorial or Carmelite style, and is
flanked by Chinese-style towers.
||Santo Domingo church. Álbum fotográfico... End of the
19th century. BN This was the fifth church to be built by the
Dominican friars. It was inaugurated in 1868. It is the work of the first
"qualified" Philippine architect Félix Rojas, and was constructed in the
neogothic style. Its façade is a literal imitation of the façade of York
Cathedral in England (13th and 14th
|Santo Domingo church in Manila. 1861. SHM This
fourth Dominican church was destroyed in the 1863 earthquake. Constructed
with three naves and a "very Philippine" façade with twin pillars, it has
baroque elements with "Gesú style" eaves and a split pediment.
||The Jesuit church. 1884. SHM This was the fourth
church to be built by the Jesuits in Manila, and construction work began
in 1878 in accordance with the plans drawn up by Félix Rojas, the first
Philippine architect. There is a remarkable amount of metal structural
elements which gives it an air of modernity, although the general design
continued to follow the classical
|Jesuit church. Manuel Herbella. 1869. SHM The
third Jesuit church was built by Friar Campion around the year 1625, and
was destroyed in the 1863 earthquake. In 1867, the military engineer
Herbella drew up a plan of the condition of the building for the purpose
of drawing up a budget for its demolition.
||Monastery of San Juan de Dios. Mapas de América y
Filipinas en los libros españoles de los siglos XVI y XVIII by Francisco
Vindel. BN In 1656, the medical friars of San Juan de Dios took charge
of the hospital of the Brotherhood of Mercy. In 1850, the hospital of San
Juan de Dios was sited next to the Parian
|Photograph of the tower of San Agustín after the
earthquake. Francisco van Camp. 1880. SHM This church, whose
construction was completed in 1604, has been described as a permanent
miracle in stone, since it withstood the strong earth tremors that shook
Manila after it was built. This church follows the severe baroque style,
but incorporates Herrera and Vignolesque influences, which reached the
archipelago from the Viceroyalty of Mexico. It is included in the World
Heritage List of buildings.
||The church of San Sebastián under construction.
Revista de Obras Públicas. 1897 Not only the main structure of this
building, but also its walls and even the intersecting vaulting, were of
metal construction. This was the fruit of neogothic tendencies and the
|San Sebastián church in Quiapo. Revista de Obras
Públicas. 1897 This was a pioneer in the field of prefabricated
construction. It incorporates metal constructions made in Belgium in
accordance with the design drawn up by the engineer Genaro Palacios y
||Parish church. 1849. SHM Architecture began to
adapt to earthquake conditions; the dimensions of constructions were made
lower and wider, walls were made thicker and buttresses were made stouter,
while upper structures were made
|Manila parish church. SHM Parish churches were
constructed in accordance with projects reflecting designs similar to
those of churches built in Spain and America, although local techniques
||Tower of the Quiapo church. 1850-1898. AHN The
towers of Philippine churches are a combination of Renaissance bell towers
and pagodas. Their presence is the architectural symbol par excellence of
the Christian faith, which was carried to the Philippines by Spanish
|Tower of the Santa Cruz church. 1850-1898. AHN
Many of the towers of Philippine churches comprise a series of sections
whose girth decreases as they climb upwards. Their shape and dimensions
are reminiscent of the composition of other Asiatic styles of
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Discovering Philippines Copyright ©
2004 Robert S. Gardner