Little Bits of History

January 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 19, 2017

1607: San Agustin Church or Immaculate Conception Parish Church of San Agustin is declared officially complete. The Roman Catholic church was built by the men of The Order of St. Augustine inside the historic walled city of Intramuros – the oldest walled portion of present day Manila in the Philippines. The building standing on the UNESCO site today is actually the third Augustinian church built there. The first church was built of bamboo and nipa leaves and was completed in 1571. It was destroyed by fire in December 1574 when the island was invaded. A second church was built, this time made of wood and it, too, was destroyed by fire. This time the blaze was caused when drapery caught fire during the funeral of the Spanish Governor-General.

After the second fire, it was decided to rebuild using stones. Rather than just build a church, the monks opted to also build a monastery with construction starting in 1586. The design was by Juan Macias who chose to build with adobe stones quarried from some distance away. Work was slow due to the lack of funds, materials, and competent stone artisans. The monastery was operational in 1604 and the church itself was finally declared complete on this day. Macias died prior to the church’s completion. The new church was named St. Paul of Manila with the Augustinians giving Macias official recognition as the builder of the edifice.

During the Seven Years’ War, the British forces occupied Manila and while there, looted the church. In 1854, the church was renovated under the watchful eye of Laciano Oliver. On June 3, 1863, the strongest earthquake to hit Manila (at that time) destroyed much of the city. The church was the only public building left undamaged. More earthquakes hit in 1880 and they along with the aftershocks left a crack in the left bell tower which was eventually repaired. Since then, the tower has been permanently removed for safety reasons. The Church was the site for the official surrender of the Philippines to the US at the end of the Spanish-American War. It was used by the Japanese as a concentration camp during World War II.

Today, known as Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción de María de San Agustín, the church is the oldest still standing church in the Philippines. It was one of four churches built during the Spanish colonial period and designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1993. It had already been named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976.  Built in the Baroque style, the church remains in use. It boasts a grand pipe organ, beautiful painting and woodwork, and 16 huge chandeliers.

I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. – Khalil Gibran

I have devoted my energies to the study of the scriptures, observing monastic discipline, and singing the daily services in church; study, teaching, and writing have always been my delight. – Venerable Bede

The way to preserve the peace of the church is to preserve its purity. – Matthew Henry

When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but in Milan I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal. – Saint Ambrose


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