Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Walk Tour in Manila | 7 Churches of Intramuros

| “Maybe a revival of piety (using the term in its Latin sense) will in the future inspire the return to Intramuros of all its former churches, chapels, convents and beaterios. Only then will Intramuros be really “restored” - Nick Joaquin

The Old Manila that was Intramuros was not only the economic and military center of the Spanish Empire in the far east. It was also the bastion of its strong Christian Faith. There used to stand, within the walls of Intramuros, seven houses of God, all built with architectural magnificence. 

I've been always dreaming that one day, all the other 5 churches of Intramuros would rise again from the rubble. If you will visit the walled city right now, you'll notice that only 2 of the original 7 churches managed to endure the test of time. Ask me what happened to the other 5 and I will answer you with a deep regretful sigh. What happened after the war was that our government focused on building new establishments over the rubble of the past glorious city, a mistake that put Manila's former beauty into a chaotic bustling city. Forever I will be unhappy that our post-war government chose development rather than restoration.
| To repeat, Intramuros was the conjunto, of all its traditional temples; without its other colleagues, even the Cathedral and San Agustín are merely crown jewels without a crown. - Nick Joaquin
What remained from the Seven Churches of Intramuros are the San Agustin Church (the only building left standing after the Liberation of Manila in 1945; listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Manila Cathedral (rebuilt from 1953-1958). The other five no longer exist within the walls of Intramuros, the San Ignacio Church was left in ruins until now and the other 4 have new establishments built on their site.

1. Manila Cathedral

The ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. Catastrophic events such as fire, earthquake and war have caused this structure to be reconstructed eight times on the same site (the last was completed in 1958 after its total destruction by the Liberation of Manila in 1945). The cross on its central dome was the zero kilometer reference point for all locations in the Philippines during the Spanish era (the reference point is now located at the Independence flagpole in Rizal Park). On its crypt lies the remains of former Archbishops of Manila including Cardinal Santos and Cardinal Sin.

Pre-war photo of Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral

2. San Agustin Church

Built by the Augustinians from 1587 and completed in 1604, it is considered to be the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Nothing remained standing inside the walled city except the Church of San Agustin after the Liberation of Manila in 1945. The church was spared from the bombings because it's bell tower was marked with a Red Cross (in times of war, attacking any building/establishment/vehicle that carries an emblem of Red Cross is a great war crime). In 1994, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pre-war photo of San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church

3. San Ignacio Church

The church (Neo-classical in style with two towers) was built by the Jesuits in 1889. The famous Filipino sculptor Isabelo Tampingco and his students worked on the lavish woodwork on its interior. However, it was greatly destroyed during the war and was left in ruins to date. At one time it became the E.J. Neil warehouse. Currently, there is an archaeological excavation at the site of its ruins, it is said that San Ignacio Church will be the future site of Museo de Intramuros that will house the religious collection of Intramuros Admin.

Pre-war photo of San Ignacio Church
back of San Ignacio Church Ruins
Archaeological excavation site inside the walls of San Ignacio Church Ruin

4. Lourdes Church

House of the Franciscan Capuchin friars built in 1891. It houses the allegedly miraculous statue of the Our Lady of Lourdes, carved by Manuel Flores in 1892. The war also destroyed the church in 1945, forcing the Capuchins to move to its current location in Retiro, Quezon City. This site is now occupied by El Amanecer compound where the Ilustrado Restaurant and Silahis antique shop is located.

Pre-war photo of Lourdes Church
old site of Lourdes Church, now site of Silahis Souvenir Shop

5. Recoletos Church

The church that was famous for its four-story bell tower and its magnificent interior. Was built several times from 1619 (the last was built in 1782). It was in this church that Father Diego Cera, the man behind the construction of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ, started making organs made of bamboos. The Recollect friars moved to San Sebastian Church in Quiapo after the war severely destroyed their church in Intramuros. Manilla Bulletin now occupies the site. 

Pre-war photo of Recoletos Church
old site of Recoletos Church, now site of Manila Bulletin Building

6. San Francisco Church

The church of the Franciscan Order (second to arrive in the country) first built in 1578. It was burned down in 1583 so a new stone church was built in 1602. The earthquake of 1645 destroyed again the church. The third church was built in 1738. It then had a retablo-like facade decorated with collumns, statues and niches. It remained in ruins after its destruction during the war. Mapua Institute of Technology rose from its rubble.

Pre-war photo of San Francisco Church
old site of San Francisco Church, now site of Mapua Institute of technology

7. Santo Domingo Church
The Dominicans built five churches on the same site, the last (built in 1868) was designed by Felix Roxas Sr. in Neo-Gothic style. The church was famous for its ivory image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario) also known as the Virgin of La Naval. It is believed that the Virgin Mary brought victory to Spanish fleet over the invading Dutch, hence the feast of La Naval is celebrated annually every 7th of October. When the Japs burned down the church in 1941, the Dominicans moved to its current site in Quezon City. The site is now occupied by the Bank of the Philippines Islands.

pre-war photo of Sto. Domingo Church
old site of Sto. Domingo Church, now site of BPI building



  1. I will start a signature campaign para gibain ang mga existing establishments to reconstruct the old churches! hahaha extremist ba??? pero yeah ang ganda siguro nung intramuros kung buo pa sila lahat.... parang vatican siguro ang intramuros kung nagkataon... hehehee

  2. @Ian, sa totoo lang ganyan din ang gusto kong gawin.. ipabomba ang mga etsablishment na umeepal sa old site ng mga church :)joke lang :)

  3. nasisira ang ganda ng mga churches sa sandamukal na establishments na walang kwenta.

  4. Ganda ng mga old churches natin. Bakit naman kasi di naaappreciate ng local government, puro earnings ang nakikita! Kakaasar!

    1. Kaya nga. Sayang nasira ng mga gungong na mga Hapon.

  5. ganda ng mga simbahan diyan. exterior i like manila cathedral and interior i go for san agustin.

  6. Wow, astig! You have the pre war photos as well.. It's great that you were able to trace the beginnings of the now estblished places that were churches.. Sad nga na wala na sila. Kabibisita ko lang din sa Manila Cathedral.. :) Here..
    I like your post.

  7. i've been there and the churches are really beautiful.. pang world site talaga.. :P

  8. Sayang ang mga old churches natin. Thanks for this compilation, Ivan!

  9. Ian, bravo! I really appreciate how you do your research and share history with us , your readers. Wag ka magsawa. This is your niche. I always look forward to your blogs, to enjoy reading it as well as learn from it. I will post this link on my page to share with my friends. Oh, btw, maski hindi na ibalik/ipabomba, ok na rin. I just want the Intramuros Administration to finish their job (San Ignacio, cleaning up, more directional signs, etc). Maski yun lang. One "perfect tourist site" for visitors. And then all Pinoys shd be educated via school, via TV, via newspapers, via text messages, via FB etc so each Pinoy knows how to show tourists around! Hindi malls and beaches lang.

  10. Sayang yung San Francisco Church :(

  11. Gosh Ivan, kudos to your well researched post! Idol na kitaaa!

  12. Thanks for the virtual tour and informative info (again) Ivan, nice work!

  13. Japs during the war were called hapoy,not hapon.hapoy when scrambled reads ha_op.if you watch the movie 'anak dalita' produced in 1956,you would know that the film was done at the recoletos was in pieces.only monsters could do this

  14. Napaka-informative. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  15. sir great work!! High School ko lang nagustuhan ang History, pero I must say nakakabilib ka!!

  16. i totally agree. old churches in intramuros should be fully restored. it is only then that the old walled city will be back on its feet in all its glory. btw, the BPI building is such an ugly replacement for such a grand church.

  17. I never knew there used to be seven churches in Intramuros. Thank you for this, Sir Ivan. It breaks my heart to see them in pictures only. If these churches have been restored, Intramuros will be welling up with tourists like in Europe, where Old Towns especially the castles and churches are major tourist attractions.

  18. i knew that They Had a Seven Churches Inside the Intramuros But i Did`nt Know Where Their Are place...
    And Now i Know ..!!

    1. you can go around intramuros by kalesa funny coz you'll see kaputinero guarding the place

  19. nakakabigla na simbahan pala dati yung mapua

  20. this blog really helps me for my report about san agustin church :D thank you by the way i love history i love everything about your blogs :D kahit na wala na yung mga church atlis may mga pictures pa ding naiwan hehe nakakahinayang pero nangyare na hehe .. thank you

  21. san ipa demolish ang mga yan at ibalik yung dati nakatyo na simbahan

  22. Thanks for providing this list of beautiful churches in Manila. I would like to share these churches in manila for wedding, some of the churches on your list are here too!

  23. Sayang nga naman oh. Kung buo pa sana sila sobrang ganda at mukhang makasaysayang sana ang Intramuros. Sana maibalik silang lahat yung simbahan at mga paaralan doon.sana magkaroon ng signature campaign ukol dito

  24. Nanghihinayang ako sobra.. Ang ganda ng manila before the war.



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