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Monday, May 02, 2011

Baroque Churches in the Philippines(World Heritage Site)


These four churches, the first of which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, are located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao. Their unique architectural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen.

The Baroque Churches of the Phillipines represent a fusion of European church design (baroque) and local construction techniques and decorations. Their specific characteristics include a separate bell-tower and strong buttresses to withstand the powers of earthquakes common in the region.

Four churches were selected to make up this WHS(World Heritage Site), as samples of the development of this Phillipine-Hispanic style over a period of more than 150 years (16th-18th century). These four are:
- San Agustin (Manila)
- La Asuncion (Santa Maria)
- San Agustin (Paoay)
- Santo Tomas (Miag-ao)
 
The Church of San Agustín at Paoay is the most outstanding example in the Philippines of 'Earthquake Baroque'. Fourteen buttresses are ranged along the lines of a giant volute supporting a smaller one and surmounted by pyramidal finials. A pair of buttresses at the midpoint of each nave wall have stairways for access to the roof. The lower part of the apse and most of the walls are constructed of coral stone blocks, the upper levels being finished in brick, but this order is reversed on the facade. The massive coral stone bell tower, which was added half a century after the church was completed, stands at some distance from the church, again as a protection against damage during earthquakes.

The Paoay Church in particular is famous for its distinctive Gothic, Baroque and Oriental architecture. Its facade reveals Gothic affinity, its gables show Chinese elements, while the niches topping the walls suggest Javanese influence (reminiscent of the famous Boroboudur Temple).
Construction of Paoay Church was started by Augustinian friars in 1694. It was completed in 1704 and re-dedicated in 1894.

Its thick walls were built of coral stones and bricks and sealed by hard lime mortar, which according to historians, was made by "mixing sand and lime with molasses boiled with mango leaves, leather and rice straw for two nights."


The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva stands on the highest point of Miag-ao, its towers serving as lookouts against Muslim raids. It is the finest surviving example of 'Fortress Baroque'. The sumptuous facade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of St Christopher on the pediment dressed in native clothes, carrying the Christ Child on his back, and holding on to a coconut palm for support. The entire riotously decorated facade is flanked by massive tapering bell towers of unequal heights.

Constructed more than two hundred years ago in the year 1797, the Miagao Church stands as a living legacy of the culture and way of life of the people of Miagao centuries ago, anchored in a strong foundation of Christian faith. As most travelers would agree, the Miagao Church is one of the country’s architectural gems because of its unique and imposing designs, ornaments and motifs.


San Agustin Church originally known as "inglesia de San Pablo", founded in 1571 is the oldest stone church (built in 1589) in the Philippines. It is a administered by the Order of Saint Agustine (Augustinian Friars). Since the time of its foundation, the devotion to Nuestra Senora dela Consolacion y Cirrea is celebrated every Saturday.In this Church - tomb of "El Adelentado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi" Founder of the City of Manila is located in the eastermost chapel of the transept. Terms for the American occupation of Manila was signed in the sacristy and First Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1953 was held in the Choirloft.

 Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in the town of Santa Maria lies on a narrow, flat plain between the sea and the central mountain range of Ilocos Sur province on the island of Luzon. In the 16th century, when Spanish Augustianians first settled in the area, Santa Maria was a mere visita, or mission outpost. By the mid-18th century, Santa Maria had become one of the most successful of the Augustinian missions in the Philippines, and construction of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción began in 1765.

A stairway of 85 steps leads up a hill from the edge of town to the church, which is perched like a citadel and fortified by a retaining wall of stone. Its elevated setting is unusual for Spanish colonial churches of the period, which were usually sited in plazas. Flanked by two cylindrical columns, the church’s exposed brick façade once covered in limestone opens into a nave flooded by natural light. A massive octagonal bell tower, added in 1810, stands nearby.
Serious structural damage to the retaining walls has led to partial collapse, and portends further crises. Preservation efforts hope to address the issues of the church structure, and equally importantly wish to engage the local community in the stewardship of this important religious and historic heritage site. 

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