Manila Cathedral: The storied rise and fall saga of the faithful

The famous Dome of the Manila Cathedral

In visiting the old Manila in Intramuros, the most prominent and majestic Church fronting that of Fort Santiago is the illustrious and grand Roman Catholic Cathedral of Manila. It is the epicentre of the faith and the faithful in Roman Catholicism in the Philippines and rightly so, until today, it the center of grand and lavish weddings, epic funerals and promising baptism, also, political upheavals and the plotting of a new political era during the time of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Gone were those days now, though what remains is the sole witness of them all, the Manila Cathedral.

Today, the significant highlight of the cathedral apart from religion is the role of the center of the cross atop the naranja cupola or half-orange dome is where the reference point of the astronomical longitudes of the entire archipelago, the Philippines. This is the only structure in all of the Philippines that serves its unique place in astronomy and science. The dome was first introduced in the Cathedral in 1750 by Fray Juan de Uguccioni. 

The front facade of the famous Manila Cathedral

Over the years, from 1581, the first cathedral was built but was damaged in a typhoon in 1582 and later on, damaged in the fire in 1583.  The second cathedral was built sometime in 1592 and it was made of stone but was damaged in an earthquake in the 1600. The third cathedral was built in 1614 and was later on damaged in an earthquake in 1645. The fourth cathedral was later on built in 1654-1671, a magnificent structure built by Archbishop Miguel Poble however it was destroyed again, in an earthquake in 1863. The fifth Cathedral was built in 1870-1879 which was later on solemnly blessed in December 1879, after it was finished. From these times, three prominent architects worked on the Cathedral, namely Luciano Oliver, Vicente Serrano Salaverria and Eduardo Lopez Navarro. This majestic cathedral was destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945 ergo the sixth cathedral was reconstructed in 1954-1958 under the direction of Archbishop Rufino J. Santos. Since then, this majestic and venerable cathedral stood the tests of times, earthquakes, typhoons, political upheavals and many interludes after.

The massive doors of the Manila Cathedral and its carved religious figures

The authoritative figure at the front lawn of the Manila Cathedral

The dramatis personae in this majestic structure are its archbishops. The Archbishop of Manila holds official reverence in church at this cathedral. All archbishops who passed away are buried in the crypt under the floors of the Manila Cathedral. When I went to see the structure, I was limited to only the exterior as the interiors were repaired and the cathedral was closed for maintenance. I knew it is grand and majestic inside but true to its rise majestically, even the exteriors of the cathedral boasts of impeccable architectural and aesthetic designs and its manicured park, perfect.

As I was walking around Intramuros, I chanced upon this majestic Cathedral and revisited it again, though now, very reflective and slow paced. I took photos of the main door carvings and how the exteriors were made; it is one that can only be found in Manila. A novice in this kind of jaunt, I appreciated how churches played the vital role in society and how society gets guidance and inspiration from the Church. It is where the Church and the faith have played a prominent role in Philippine society over the years, with Jaime Cardinal Sin as the most illustrious, influential and powerful. It is in this Cathedral that Cory Aquino and the opposition, together with the Cardinal prayed for the end of the tortures and abuses of the Marcos regime. A place of worship is where the Cathedral played in Philippine politics and true, it becomes the storied Cathedral for the rise and fall of its faithful.

The back of the Manila Cathedral

How to get here:

  • From Fort Santiago’s exit gate, go straight ahead towards the main road and just across it is the famed Manila Cathedral. It is distinct for its dome. Impressive.
  • Anywhere in Metro Manila, the Manila Cathedral can be reached by cab (taxi), public jeepney and Kalesa when you are getting one within the Intramuros district.


Categories: Intramuros, Manila | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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