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Learn about Manila Cathedral's history and important events in the past.



Here's a complete run-through of events about Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, most commonly known as Manila Cathedral.
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The Church before it became a Cathedral: 1571


The Church of Manila was established by the secular Juan de Vivero who had the honor of baptizing Rajah Matanda. Vivero first arrived in these shores in 1566 as chaplain of the nao or galleon of San Geronimo which had come to support the Spanish colonization of the newly discovered islands.

He was given the special privilege and sole faculty by the Archbishop of Miexico to establish the spiritual administration of the new Philippine colony. Later, Vivero would become the first vicar-general and the first ecclesiastical judge of Manila.

The First Cathedral 1581 - 1583

As Spain firmly established herself in the new colony through the succeeding years, so did the Church which witnessed the creation of the Diocese of Manila. On February 6, 1579, Pope Gregory XIII issued in Rome the Papal Bull establishing the Bishopric or the Diocese of Manila, suffragan to the Archbishopric of Mexico. (A copy of this Bull is kept at the Archdiocesan Archives of Manila). The discrepancy as to the exact year of creation of the diocese – whether 1578, as indicated in the copy of the bull, or 1579 – arose because in he late 15 th century, the Julian system of reckoning days within the calendar was questioned until the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The church of Manila was raised to the rank of cathedral under the title of “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The cathedral was to be under a bishop who would look after the appropriate enlargement of its building and restoration into a cathedral church.


The Spanish monarchy was making preparations for the construction of the new cathedral in Manila. On May 13, 1579, a Royal Cedula from the Spanish king mandated the governor general of the Philippines to construct a moderately ample cathedral on a convenient site, the expenses of which were to be divided among the natives, Royal Treasury, and the encomenderos.

On May 22, 1579, part of the tithes belonging to the king during a period of ten years was given for the construction of the Manila Cathedral. With such amount and support, the construction of the cathedral began. This support from the monarchy continued until the 18 th century when the cathedral, a victim of natural disasters and time, underwent repairs and reconstructions.

On September 21, 1581, with full pontifical and royal authority, Bishop Salazar created the act to erect and found the new Cathedral of Manila under the advocation of the Immaculate Conception, the original titular patroness of the old parochial church. He then proceeded to build a cathedral to replace the old parish church.

The first Cathedral of Manila was constructed by Fray Bishop Domingo de Salazar out of wood, bamboo, and nipa – materials which were used in all houses and other basic community services in the city. It was on December 21, 1581 that the parish church of Manila was raised formally into a cathedral.

The Fire of 1583
The Cathedral church was destroyed in 1583 by a fire which razed the city. During the funeral mass for Governor General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa at San Agustin Church, a candle fell on the catafalque, burning it and the church. The flames spread all over Manila, destroying many houses and structures of the same simple materials. Along with the Cathedral of Manila, the Bishop’s palace was destroyed including all important church papers and records, and the proceedings of the first Synod held in the Philippines. The cathedral was rebuilt using the same materials of nipa, bamboo, and wood.

In the Junta Universal de Manila of 1586, the cathedral was severely criticized as too shoddy a structure for its stature. It was described to be “of wood and thatch, so poor, so disorganized and deprived, a dishonor and an impairment to our faith and Christian religion and to our Republic and to the leaders who govern it.”

On January 20, 1587, the Spanish monarch issued a royal decree ordering the Governor General Santiago de Vera to construct a new edifice for the cathedral. However, the simple structure then constructed lasted only until June 15, 1588 when a hurricane destroyed it with the majority of the houses in Manila.

On June 31, 1588, a letter from the city of Manila provided for 3,000 pesos, divided among the local residents, the natives and the Real Hacienda, to be spent for the wall foundations of the cathedral church which, by that time, were already 2 brazas in height. Although this sum was considered insufficient to bring the walls to the necessary height, it was a welcome support.


The Second Cathedral 1591 - 1600

In 1591, at the age of 76 years, Bishop Salazar sailed from Manila to Spain, accompanied by the Dominican Fray Miguel de Benavides, to work for the erection of Manila into an archdiocese. He left the cathedral building in a state of near completion, enough for mass to be celebrated in it. The first stone cathedral had a central nave and two collateral ones.

The succeeding years saw the continuous efforts made to complete the cathedral structure. A Royal Cedula, dated June 11, 1594, ordered Governor General Dasmariñas to allocate 12,000 ducats for the bells, the ornaments, retablos, organs, lamps, and other materials the cathedral would require.

The Elevation of Manila as Archdiocese: 1595
On August 14, 1595, Pope Clement VIII issued a brief erecting Manila into a Metropolitan Archdiocese and its three suffragan dioceses of Nueva Segovia (Vigan), Nueva Caceres (Naga), and Santisimo Nombre de Jesus ( Cebu ). Its new territory now extended “100 leagues north and south, the villages were distant from its capital, being 40 leagues to the north, and about 60 to the south. It is bounded on the north by the Diocese of Nueva Segovia and on the south by that of Cebu. Its western boundaries are maritime.”

Progress in Construction: 1597
In 1595, sacred relics were given by the Holy See and brought to Manila by the Jesuit Fray Alfonso Sanchez. The relics were from 155 martyrs, 20 popes, St. Polycarp, and St. Potenciana. A structure was built specifically to house the relics at the side of the cathedral. When the structure was completed, the relics were formally deposited there in 1597. Governor Juan Niño de Tabora and his wife Doña Magdalena Saldivar y Medoza built another collateral structure to shelter subsequent relics.

The First Archbishop: Fray Ignacio de Santibañez

The second bishop assigned to Manila to reign as the first archbishop of the newly erected archdiocese was Fray Ignacio de Santibañez of the Order of San Francisco.

Archbishop Santibañez gained fame as a very good preacher and speaker. However, his administration of the archdiocese was short-lived. He died on August 14, 1598 only two months and four days since he took over the Archdiocese of Manila.

The Earthquake of 1599 and 1600
In 1597, the Ecclesiastical Chapter or Cathedral Chapter wrote to the king that the buildings for the cathedral were not yet finished. There was still neither a chapter hall, baptistry, bell tower nor cloister. The principal altar, two auxiliary ones and the choir were built solely from alms. This cathedral suffered during an earthquake in 1599 and, still unfinished, experienced another strong earthquake the following year. At midnight of December 31, 1600, 29 years after Manila was established, a very strong earthquake hit the colonial capital, which almost completely destroyed the cathedral.

The Third Cathedral 1614 - 1645

Archbishop Benavides initiated the rebuilding of the Manila Cathedral in stone but he never lived long enough to see the cathedral finished. He passed away on July 26, 1605, two years after his ascension to the archbishopric. The cathedral project was left in the hands of his successor, Diego Vasquez de Mercado, who became archbishop on June 1, 1610.

By 1607, the Manila Cathedral was in such a miserable condition that it became necessary to abandon it and transfer cathedral services to the Chapel of San Andres of the Colegio de Santa Potenciana. This condition continued for the next seven years until a new one of stone was built.

Archbishop Mercado continued the late prelate’s project. He expanded, beautified, and completed the cathedral building. In 1614, a new Manila Cathedral of three naves, seven chapels, and ten altars arose. It was built largely from funds donated by the licentiate Don Francisco Gomez de Arellano, fourth dean of the cathedral, from the alms solicited by the good archbishop from residents of Manila,and from the Royal Treasury.

The Earthquakes of 1621 and 1645
It was not long after when an earthquake on August 1, 1621,caused serious damages on the cathedral’s walls, columns, and roofs. The cathedral became so structurally weak and unsafe such that it posed danger to anyone who desired to go inside the building. It was imperative to rebuild it since repairs would not improve its miserable condition. At this period, the cathedral did not even have a main retablo but only a canopy with an image of Christ. Men were even employed just to guard and keep watch over the ornaments and other precious objects within the cathedral.

Between July 1, 1641,the date of Archbishop Hernando Guerrero’s death, and July 1645, the date when Archbishop Fernando Montero took possession of the archdiocese, the cathedral underwent reconstruction. However, the cathedral fell victim again to nature’s devastation when an earthquake destroyed it on November 30, 1645, feastday of St. Andrew.

The cathedral easily fell in ruins, its bell tower crumbled to the ground, and its walls reduced to their foundations. Only the capilla mayor and a wall remained. The archives inside the chapter hall were irretrievably buried. Books and papers regarding the early history of the colony were lost forever.

The Manila Cathedral was so devastated that a camarin made of wood with bamboo and nipa for a roof was built to temporarily house the flock in the plaza facing the Governor General’s Palace. The cathedral was reduced to a memory together with all the structures in the city. The earthquake impoverished the cathedral so much with its sources of income lost.

In 1645, after the earthquake, a generous donor, Doña Luisa de Cosar, widow of the former Governor of Formosa, Sergeant Major Francisco Suarez de Figueroa, offered to establish an endowment to have the Sagrario de los Curas, or Priests’ Sanctuary, and chapel for the Most Blessed Sacrament rebuilt. This was her way of thanksgiving for being spared from the earthquakes of November 30 and December 4, 1645 and a means to express her love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Cathedral Chapter accepted the endowment with all its stipulations for the reconstruction, upkeep, and maintenance of the Cathedral’s Sanctuary Chapel.

The Fourth Cathedral 1681 - 1751

The process of reconstruction of the whole cathedral was to start only after some years upon the arrival of Miguel de Poblete in 1653. On July 24, 1653, the new archbishop Miguel de Poblete entered the city of Manila after arriving in the port of Cavite from Acapulco and sadly viewed the ruins of the old cathedral and the temporary camarin which served as the cathedral in the middle of the plaza. He had the ugly camarin removed and cathedral services temporarily installed in the Church of the Confraternity of La Santa Mesa de Misericordia. For the next six years, the Misericordia Church would function as the interim cathedral. Immediately, the new archbishop planned to reconstruct the stone cathedral.

On April 20, 1654, the cornerstone of the new cathedral was laid by Archbishop Poblete with the governor general, the Royal Audencia, the Cabildos, and the religious communities inattendance. Archbishop Poblete personally went on foot around Manila, soliciting donations for the cathedral project.

From 1658 to 1659, work on the cathedral was hastened. At this stage, contributions began pouring in. The Spanish monarch donated 22,000 pesos from the Royal Treasury of Mexico. Supporting the completion of the project were the products of the vacancies of the archbishopric. When all the donations were spent, the Archbishop sold his silverware, his pectoral cross and ring just to keep the construction going.

By 1659, the cathedral’s naves were already enclosed and the Sagrario de los Curas, the choir and the Chapter hall were finished. At this time, Archbishop Poblete decided to hold Holy Mass in it. The Church of Misericordia, which had served as interim cathedral, was asked to transfer all the cathedral ornaments to the new structure’s sacristy for this event. On December 5, 1659, the archbishop consecrated the big bell and blessed the belfry of the new Manila Cathedral.

On December 7, 1659, eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Archbishop celebrated low Mass in the Sanctuary of the new cathedral. The following day, the feast itself, a Pontifical Sung Mass was celebrated in the cathedral with the governor general, the Royal Audencia, the religious, and other dignitaries in attendance. From then on, the divine functions were performed by the archbishop in the cathedral.

Repairs under Archbishop Rodriguez
Fray Juan Angel Rodriguez ascended to the archbishopric of Manila in 1736 and initiated repairs and renovations on the cathedral. In 1737, the media naranja of the bell tower was demolished and rebuilt in brick with a cupola much prettier than its antecedent. The cathedral church itself was in a ruinous condition. Its hardwood flooring was deplorable, the wooden arched ceiling so damaged, and the roof, especially the areas over the collateral naves, had fallen down. The retablos, which were poorly treated, suffered from the effects of water the continuously leaked from the ceiling and ran over it. The choir area was intolerably humid and filthy, a condition brought about by bats which inhabited the space. Totally, the cathedral was very unserviceable except for its walls.

The Cathedral by Archbishop Poblete and His Successors until 1751
Prior to the cathedral’s reconstruction by Uguccioni, the structure was a simple and long quadrilateral church annexed with auxiliary services and spaces to complement and support the main congregation or worship area. To its left side, near the main portal, was the Cathedral Chapter hall and an octagonal bell tower. The cathedral was divided into three naves – a principal nave and two collateral ones – separated by colonnades. Seven chapels founded by the generous faithful flanked the side naves. At the back of the main altar were the sacristy, a small parlor and the stairs leading to the private room above.

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The Fifth Cathedral 1760 - 1852

Archbishop Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad Martinez de Arisala became Manila’s vicar in 1747. He saw the dilapidated state of the cathedral and decided to have it reconstructed by a fine architect to avoid any future defects in the edifice every time natural disasters struck the city. The archbishop requested Nueva España to send a good maestro who could handle the work and in 1748 informed the Spanish monarch that a new cathedral should replace the present one.

Before the Royal Cedula could reach Manila, a Florentine architect and engineer, in the person of Juan de Uguccioni, passed by Manila during the latter end of the year 1750. A missionary of the Sagrada Congregacion de Propaganda Fide, Fray Uguccioni was on his way to Goa, India, after serving the English in a technical capacity in the Malvar coast.

The Fifth Cathedral 1760 - 1852

The 1751 Reconstruction by Fray Juan de Uguccioni
The Manila Cathedral underwent a major transformation under the hands of the Italian architect Juan de Uguccioni and the obrero mayor Don Estevan Roxas y Melo. Don Estevan was a native of Lima, Peru, and was secretary to Archbishop Rodriguez since 1736. After the death of the archbishop, Roxas opted to stay permanently in this colony and was appointed eventually as medio racionero and later as canonigo de gracia in the Cathedral. Because of his talent in the sciences and mathematics, as well as for efficiency in his duties, he was appointed by Archbishop Trinidad as the obrero major of the cathedral reconstruction.

The Cathedral Chapter sought the permission of the governor general to start demolition work in the cathedral so that reconstruction could commence immediately, and for choir and other divine services to be held temporarily in the Church of San Andres of the College of Santa Potenciana. When cathedral services were installed in Santa Potenciana in January of 1751, demolition work on the cathedral immediately began.

The cathedral in 1792, by Fernando Brambila

The Earthquake of 1852
On the night of September 16, 1852, an earthquake shook, damaged, and destroyed churches and other edifices in Manila, leaving the main façade and other areas of the cathedral in very severe condition. Upon the request of the Cathedral Chapter, the Arquitecto de Hacienda, Juan Mendoza y Grajales, conducted an inspection of the cathedral. In his report of October 6, 1852, Architect Mendoza cited that the cathedral definitely suffered major damage.

The Sixth Cathedral 1858 - 1863

A year after Grajales’ report, Governor General Antonio de Urbiztondo ordered the Cuerpo de Yngenieros or Corps of Engineers led by its commandant and chief Don Nicolas Valdes and commandant Fernando Fernandez de Cordoba to conduct another inspection of the cathedral since Urbiztondo had lost confidence in Grajales. Grajales had made assurances earlier during a meeting with the Cathedral Chapter that no contingencies were needed since the cathedral (after the 1852 earthquake) did not pose any threat to lives and property. In spite of such assurances, on March 6, 1853, a cornice from the media naranja or dome of the cathedral fell down, destroying a part of the cathedral roof.


By October 1854, bids for the project were submitted. Contractors who joined the bidding for the cathedral renovation and reworks were Don Manuel Asuncion, Don Luciano Oliver who was a renowned architect, Don Antonio Fua, Don Sixto Ejada Obispo, Don Esteban Transfiguracion, and Don Antonio Canals y Llinas, who was the director and owner of the Establecimiento Artistico in Arroceros. Don Sixto Ejada Obispo, who was then the Gobernadorcillo de Mestizos of Binondo and a practicing contractor, won the bidding with the lowest bid price of 45,300 pesos.

The project pushed through with the churches of the Archdiocese of Manila contributing half of their collected sanctorum for the work. Funds were also subsidized by the Obras Pias and the Real Hacienda.

The New Cathedral by Nicolas Valdes

Upon completion, the cathedral was opened to the public on March 31, 1858. The restored cathedral possessed an entirely new façade. Removed were the pediments and columns framing the side portals and the baroque mouldings framing the high windows over these doorways. Left was a clearer visual space interrupted only by the coupled pilasters that marked each vertical bay. Introduced was a Neoclassic façade, with its architrave and triangular pediment over the main portal. Sculptured figures topped both ends of the main façade’s first level and graced the semi-circular pediment of the upper story. As a whole, the baroque façade of Uguccioni’s cathedral was replaced with a Neoclassic motif.

The Tragic Earthquake of 1863
On the night of June 3, 1863, at about half past seven, tragedy struck Manila when a strong earthquake shook its buildings and residents. Many indios and Chinese also died especially those who were in the night market that hour. Many were injured and buried in the tragic ruins that became of the Manila Cathedral and the hospitals of Manila.

The Manila Cathedral became a massive heap of rubble burying members of the Cathedral Chapter and choir boys who were chanting vespers during solemn rites for the celebration of Corpus Christi, as well as an undetermined number of the faithful who attended the rites. It took three days for workers to retrieve the bodies of victims beneath the cathedral ruins.



The Seventh Cathedral 1879 - 1945

On April 13, 1870, Governor Carlos Maria de la Torre issued a directive giving the necessary authorization to begin the leveling of the cathedral ruins and empowering the eccelesiastical governor, Mateo Yague y Mateos, in the absence of Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez who was attending the Concilia Vaticano in Rome, to designate the Arquitecto de la Administracion Local, Don Luciano Oliver, to be the dor director of works for the cathedral reconstruction. Yague was also authorized to arbitrate for the necessary funds for the project, to send out circulars calling on those who would want to donate and to open a subscription from persons willing to support the monthly salaries of workers to be hired in the cleaning and clearing of the ruins and in the reconstruction phase.

The Seventh Cathedral 1879 - 1945

On April 18, 1870, during solemn rites in the Church of Santo Domingo, an eloquent discourse on the cathedral brought out the desired reaction from the faithful who pledged to pay for the daily wages of the laborers employed in the reconstruction. In the morning of the following day, April 19, work on the leveling of the ruined cathedral commenced. Present to witness the first phase of the cathedral project were Governor de la Torre, Yague y Mateos, cathedral canons, the parish priest of San Pedro ( Makati ), Luciano Oliver, government officials, and other guests.

On June 15, 1870, Governor de la Torre issued an ordinance creating the Junta Consultativa para los Restauraciones de las Yglesias or Consultative Committee for the Restoration of Churches. Formed specifically to restore Intramuros churches, the committee would assist in the restoration of the Manila Cathedral. The Junta had the governor general for its president, the dean of the cathedral for vice president, and the penitenciario, magistral, doctoral, a racionero, and a secretary as members.

On July 29, 1871, Governor General Rafael Izquierdo ordered for a reassessment of the works executed in the cathedral and to determine which could be completed, so that in a span of two months, the cathedral could be protected from the coming rainy season, until such time the formal project proposal could be approved and reconstruction work could commence again. However, Don Luciano Oliver could not continue to work on the project, and on October 3, 1871, he renounced his position as director.

Restoration under Archbishop Meliton Martinez
With the arrival from Rome of Archbishop Meliton Martinez, membership of the Junta or the cathedral restoration committee was modified by the Superior Decree of September 12, 1871. The new members would be composed of the entire Cabildo under the presidency of the archbishop.

The Junta met to elect and assign a new architect for the project. On October 23, 1871, Don Vicente Serrano y Salaverri was named officially as the new director of the project. On April 20, 1872, Serrano presented the memoria y planos, proposal and plans, of the reconstruction project. In the said proposal, modifications were made in the buttresses and framework of the roof. The same, with some modification by the Junta Consultativa de Obras Publicas, was approved by virtue of the Royal Order of August 6, 1872.

Construction under Archbishop Payo
Archbishop Pedro Payo worked with so much zeal and tireless activity for the cathedral so that he was able to obtain easily the necessary funds required to complete the structure. He even donated part of his own wealth to several works in the Manila Cathedral among which were the construction of the main altar, the image of the Immaculate Conception, the organ, and the reboque and painting of the bell tower.

Failing health forced Serrano to resign from his job as director of the cathedral reconstruction, so that he was replaced on October 31, 1873 by Eduardo Lopez Navarro, who was chief engineer of roads, canals, and ports in the colony. Serrano died a short while after Navarro replaced him. Engineer Navarro continued to direct the work until April 10, 1878 when he had to leave for Spain to recover his health.

The new Manila Cathedral was inaugurated during a two-day festivity with solemn rites. On December 7, 1879, the Manila Cathedral was blessed and consecrated by Archbishop Payo. He blessed the exterior and interior of the cathedral. Afterwards, the relics of two martyrs, San Victor and San Lorenzo, were brought to be kept in the cathedral’s Chapel of St. Peter.

Serrano’s Legacy – The 1879 Manila Cathedral
The cathedral rose once again to become the city’s premier temple. The Revival Styles, which swept the circles of art and architecture in Europe, made its impact in the Manila Cathedral when Architect Serrano employed a style dentro del mismo estilo romano bizantino pero con mas gusto Oriental como satisfaccion a las exigencias de lugar -after the Romanesque-Byzantine style but with more oriental flavor satisfying the exigencies of the site. What evolved was an eclecticism combining and reviving the two styles, with much influence too from the Renaissance.

The Secularization Issue and the Execution of Gomburza

The Manila Cathedral was witness to the movement to Filipinize parishes and to the tragic aftermath of its persecution. The issue of secularization in the Philippines had long been a source of conflict among the religious regulars and church seculars. Among those who advocated strongly for the rights of the secular clergy were Fathers Pedro Pelaez of the Manila Cathedral and Mariano Gomez of Cavite.

The GomBurZa

A few years later, on January 20, 1872, a mutiny broke out at the Cavite Arsenal over the unreasonable deductions in the salaries of the arsenal workers due to Gov. Gen. Izquierdo’s new tax imposition. Sympathizers for the workers mutineed that night causing the death of Sgt. La Madrid, the mutiny leader, and the fort commander whose wife was also injured.

The Spanish authorities used this incident as an excuse to implicate those who were advocating religious reforms by connecting them to a separatist conspiracy.

Thus, the government arrested Fr. Gomez, along with the outspoken advocate of secularization, Fr. Jose Burgos, a young doctor of canon law, and Fr. Jacinto Zamora. They were healed to a one-sided trial and publicly executed by mechanical strangulation at Bagumbayan on February 17, 1872.



The Earthquake of 1880
In 1880, the cathedral fell victim again to another earthquake. Its bell tower which survived the 1863 earthquake crumbled to the ground and a makeshift one of wood replaced it. The dome underwent repairs after this incident.

The collapsed belfry after the 1880 earthquake

However, the cathedral would remain without a bell tower for many eyras, in spite of plans and proposals to have it restored, until its merciless destruction by war in the middle of the twentieth century.

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The Late 19th Century

The closing of the nineteenth century were turbulent ones, not only for the Church but also for the entire colony. The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and the Filipino-American War, 1898-1902, saw the transition of colonial power from Spain to the United States. During these periods, Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda opened the cathedral doors to the Spanish soldiers who sought refuge from the enemy and to the invading American troops who converted it in 1898 into a hospital for wounded American soldiers.

The cathedral in 1899

The Catholic Church would experience trials again with the shift in colonial power. The Cathedral of Manila witnessed the transfer of leadership of the archdiocese to the American secular clergy. Despite the strong foothold that Protestantism and the Aglipayan Church gained during the early years of the twentieth century, the Catholic Church would remain steadfast and strong as the Archdiocese of Manila had been.

The First Half of the 20th Century

As the twentieth century unfolded, a whole new ear dawned for the Archdiocese and Cathedral of Manila. The few years of this century saw the last Spanish prelate of Manila Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda holding on to the reins of the Catholic hierarchy. Associated with the told and detested system of frailocracy in Spanish colonial Philippines, Nozaleda easily earned the reputation as one of the most unpopular archbishops in the history of the colony. The Philippine Revolution marked the reversal of fortune for Spain and the religious who were portrayed and considered by not only a few as the villain in the colony’s history of servitude, abuse, and oppression.

The Manila Cathedral underwent minor repairs and alterations during the first decades of the twentieth century prior to its cruel destruction during the Battle of Liberation in 1945. Although in 1915, Archbishop Jeremias Harty made slight repairs to bring back the cathedral to its former glory before the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War, Serrano’s design was not changed. Thus, the 1879 cathedral survived until the Second World War, with its basic forms and features preserved and only slightly altered.

In the Manila Cathedral were held important religious ceremonies to celebrate the coronation of the Popes and their demise. In 1907, a significant celebration was held to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, an important event for the cathedral under whose titular patronage it was. Special rites were also performed in the cathedral to observe the First national Eucharistic congress held on December 11-15, 1929 and the 33 rd International Eucharistic Congress held on February 3-7, 1937. The cathedral also witnessed the Te Deum for the safe arrival of Calvo and Arnaiz, the first Spanish aviators who flew from Spain to Manila. A solemn Te Deum and a special mass to mark the occasion of the inauguration of the Philippine Commonweath in 1935 were held in the Manila Cathedral.

Manila Cathedral Prior to World War II

During the period before World War II, the Cathedral was described to be a lovely church replete with ornaments, furniture, statues, and images of remarkable antiquity and beauty. It had several chapels dedicated to St. Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Peter, Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mercy, St. John Nepomuceno, and Our Lady of Guidance. This latter chapel was also known as the Parroquia del Sagrario, the chapel which served as the parish church of Intramuros and home of the image of Nuestra Señora de Guia before her transfer to Ermita Church. The Cathedral also sheltered the Virgin of Antipolo in 1647, for a period of time, some years after the church was sacked and burned down during the Chinese revolt in 1639, until her eventual installation again in Antipolo Church. It was in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows that the offices for the dead were sometimes performed and where, in a niche, the remains of Msgr. Giovanni Battista Guidi, apostolic delegate during the American Occupation, were interred.



The Eight Cathedral 1958 - Present

The present Manila Cathedral rose phoenix-like from the desolate ruins of the old cathedral, which was bombed mercilessly along with the rest of the Walled City during the Battle of Liberation in 1945. Asserting back its distinction and dignity as Manila’s premier temple and metropolitan seat of the Archdiocese, the present structure emerged in the midst of the pathetic remnants of Intramuros, its open spaces colonized by squatters and its ancient ruins converted into cargo warehouses.

Cathedral ruins after destruction

For many years after the war, the shell of the Manila Cathedral stood before the gaze of the statue of Carlos IV in Plaza Roma. The ruins of its famous façade remained. There was the rose window without the colored glass and the three portals with their receding arches and the cathedral’s historical marker.

In fact, Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty and Archbishop Gabriel Reyes pondered on the idea of transferring it to Mandaluyong. It was only through the efforts of Archbishop Rufino Santos that the cathedral was able to reign again in its rightful seat. Fortunately, the cathedral ruins were left to stand in place, still untouched by the bulldozers that leveled off most of the ruins of Intramuros.

The Manila Cathedral covers an area of almost 3,000 square meters. The present structure has a Latin-cross plan which closely follows the distribution of spaces of the previous cathedral-aisles are separated from the nave by arcaded colonnades, and several chapels flank the nave.

The beauty and wonder of marble as a building material stand out in the Manila Cathedral. The chapels are paved by highly polished Carrara marble prefabricated in Italy. The main altar, which has a two-meter high statue of the Immaculae Conception, is featured with lovely columns built out of green Carrara marble. Paving the rest of the cathedral floor are cream slabs of marble. Marble also found its way in the altars of the side chapels where reliefs and mosaic panels add further decorative accents. Likewise, the pulpit and the Episcopal throne are made out of Italian marble.

The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral was solemnly consecrated on December 7, 1958 before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a tribute to Our Lady under whose guidance and patronage the Cathedral of Manila was able to reign as queen of the Walled City, refuge of Manila’s denizens, and symbolic seat of the Catholic Church in Manila.

Pope Paul VI’s Visit to the Philippines

In the 1970s, the most memorable event that brought thousands upon thousands to the mother church of the country was perhaps the visit to the Philippines of Pope Paul VI in November 1970. A marker at the base of the main altar commemorates his pastoral visit in the presence of the ancient venerated image of Nuestra Señora de Guia.

Euphoric Reception to Jaime Cardinal Sin, 30th Archbishop of Manila

The next Archbishop of Manila came from Aklan-the energetic and witty Jaime Sin of New Washington-a nephew of the late Archbishop Gabriel Reyes. At the steps of the cathedral, where Manila’s clergy gathered to make their first encounter with their new pastor, Archbishop Sin declared: “Today Sin is Glorified.”

Three years later, the entire Philippines rose as one to welcome the third Filipino Prince of the Church. Archbishop Sin was the youngest Cardinal in the world, and the cathedral was again host to his reception. His youth and energy were called upon to rehabilitate the St. Paul’s Hospital and the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital, which then boasted of expert medical staff and hospital equipment second to none. The St. Joseph the Worker Foundation, Radio Veritas, and various charitable institutions were also to receive much-needed shots in the arm.

Pope John Paul II’s Visit; Beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant religious events in the Philippine ecclesiastical history was the beatification of the first Filipino martyr Lorenzo Ruiz on the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines in February 1981. The much-loved Pope came amidst cheers of Totus Tuus from the crowd to celebrate his first Mass on Philippine soil at the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral. Shortly thereafter, he told Cardinal Sin that he wanted the cathedral to be a Basilica.

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Renovations

Further to the major structural repairs and renovations of Manila Cathedral, which were blessed in a proper ceremonial rite during its 44th anniversary in December 2002, more construction projects have been undertaken.

These are efforts of the Rector in connection with a continuing “facelift program” for the Cathedral until it becomes fully furbished by the time it celebrates its Golden Anniversary in 2008.

2012 renovation and 2014 reopening

Reliquary-calendar with fragment bone of St. Caesarius of Terracina, deacon and martyr, Manila Cathedral. In photo, cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle next the new icon of Saint Caesarius.
The cathedral underwent repairs for earthquake retrofitting and subsidence prevention in 2012.

During this time, the San Fernando de Dilao Church was designated as the temporary official church (pro-cathedral) of the Archdiocese of Manila. However, Msgr. Nestor Cerbo stated that the cathedral would finish its renovations on March 25, 2014.

Panorama of the cathedral interior

Some added features and changes include the installation of CCTV cameras, large flat screen television screens (similar to those found in Baclaran Church), improved audio-video systems, and improved interior and exterior LED lightings. The cathedral completed its restoration on the said date and was reopened to the general public on April 9, 2014 after two years of renovation.

The visit of Pope Francis

On January 16, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated his first Papal Mass in the country at the cathedral as part of his apostolic visit to the Philippines. The mass was celebrated for the bishops, priests, and the clergy in three languages: Latin, English, and Filipino.

Front view of The Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila as of April 2015

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MANILA CATHEDRAL: History and Records of Past Events Since 1500's

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Learn about Manila Cathedral's history and important events in the past.



Here's a complete run-through of events about Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, most commonly known as Manila Cathedral.
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The Church before it became a Cathedral: 1571


The Church of Manila was established by the secular Juan de Vivero who had the honor of baptizing Rajah Matanda. Vivero first arrived in these shores in 1566 as chaplain of the nao or galleon of San Geronimo which had come to support the Spanish colonization of the newly discovered islands.

He was given the special privilege and sole faculty by the Archbishop of Miexico to establish the spiritual administration of the new Philippine colony. Later, Vivero would become the first vicar-general and the first ecclesiastical judge of Manila.

The First Cathedral 1581 - 1583

As Spain firmly established herself in the new colony through the succeeding years, so did the Church which witnessed the creation of the Diocese of Manila. On February 6, 1579, Pope Gregory XIII issued in Rome the Papal Bull establishing the Bishopric or the Diocese of Manila, suffragan to the Archbishopric of Mexico. (A copy of this Bull is kept at the Archdiocesan Archives of Manila). The discrepancy as to the exact year of creation of the diocese – whether 1578, as indicated in the copy of the bull, or 1579 – arose because in he late 15 th century, the Julian system of reckoning days within the calendar was questioned until the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The church of Manila was raised to the rank of cathedral under the title of “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The cathedral was to be under a bishop who would look after the appropriate enlargement of its building and restoration into a cathedral church.


The Spanish monarchy was making preparations for the construction of the new cathedral in Manila. On May 13, 1579, a Royal Cedula from the Spanish king mandated the governor general of the Philippines to construct a moderately ample cathedral on a convenient site, the expenses of which were to be divided among the natives, Royal Treasury, and the encomenderos.

On May 22, 1579, part of the tithes belonging to the king during a period of ten years was given for the construction of the Manila Cathedral. With such amount and support, the construction of the cathedral began. This support from the monarchy continued until the 18 th century when the cathedral, a victim of natural disasters and time, underwent repairs and reconstructions.

On September 21, 1581, with full pontifical and royal authority, Bishop Salazar created the act to erect and found the new Cathedral of Manila under the advocation of the Immaculate Conception, the original titular patroness of the old parochial church. He then proceeded to build a cathedral to replace the old parish church.

The first Cathedral of Manila was constructed by Fray Bishop Domingo de Salazar out of wood, bamboo, and nipa – materials which were used in all houses and other basic community services in the city. It was on December 21, 1581 that the parish church of Manila was raised formally into a cathedral.

The Fire of 1583
The Cathedral church was destroyed in 1583 by a fire which razed the city. During the funeral mass for Governor General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa at San Agustin Church, a candle fell on the catafalque, burning it and the church. The flames spread all over Manila, destroying many houses and structures of the same simple materials. Along with the Cathedral of Manila, the Bishop’s palace was destroyed including all important church papers and records, and the proceedings of the first Synod held in the Philippines. The cathedral was rebuilt using the same materials of nipa, bamboo, and wood.

In the Junta Universal de Manila of 1586, the cathedral was severely criticized as too shoddy a structure for its stature. It was described to be “of wood and thatch, so poor, so disorganized and deprived, a dishonor and an impairment to our faith and Christian religion and to our Republic and to the leaders who govern it.”

On January 20, 1587, the Spanish monarch issued a royal decree ordering the Governor General Santiago de Vera to construct a new edifice for the cathedral. However, the simple structure then constructed lasted only until June 15, 1588 when a hurricane destroyed it with the majority of the houses in Manila.

On June 31, 1588, a letter from the city of Manila provided for 3,000 pesos, divided among the local residents, the natives and the Real Hacienda, to be spent for the wall foundations of the cathedral church which, by that time, were already 2 brazas in height. Although this sum was considered insufficient to bring the walls to the necessary height, it was a welcome support.


The Second Cathedral 1591 - 1600

In 1591, at the age of 76 years, Bishop Salazar sailed from Manila to Spain, accompanied by the Dominican Fray Miguel de Benavides, to work for the erection of Manila into an archdiocese. He left the cathedral building in a state of near completion, enough for mass to be celebrated in it. The first stone cathedral had a central nave and two collateral ones.

The succeeding years saw the continuous efforts made to complete the cathedral structure. A Royal Cedula, dated June 11, 1594, ordered Governor General Dasmariñas to allocate 12,000 ducats for the bells, the ornaments, retablos, organs, lamps, and other materials the cathedral would require.

The Elevation of Manila as Archdiocese: 1595
On August 14, 1595, Pope Clement VIII issued a brief erecting Manila into a Metropolitan Archdiocese and its three suffragan dioceses of Nueva Segovia (Vigan), Nueva Caceres (Naga), and Santisimo Nombre de Jesus ( Cebu ). Its new territory now extended “100 leagues north and south, the villages were distant from its capital, being 40 leagues to the north, and about 60 to the south. It is bounded on the north by the Diocese of Nueva Segovia and on the south by that of Cebu. Its western boundaries are maritime.”

Progress in Construction: 1597
In 1595, sacred relics were given by the Holy See and brought to Manila by the Jesuit Fray Alfonso Sanchez. The relics were from 155 martyrs, 20 popes, St. Polycarp, and St. Potenciana. A structure was built specifically to house the relics at the side of the cathedral. When the structure was completed, the relics were formally deposited there in 1597. Governor Juan Niño de Tabora and his wife Doña Magdalena Saldivar y Medoza built another collateral structure to shelter subsequent relics.

The First Archbishop: Fray Ignacio de Santibañez

The second bishop assigned to Manila to reign as the first archbishop of the newly erected archdiocese was Fray Ignacio de Santibañez of the Order of San Francisco.

Archbishop Santibañez gained fame as a very good preacher and speaker. However, his administration of the archdiocese was short-lived. He died on August 14, 1598 only two months and four days since he took over the Archdiocese of Manila.

The Earthquake of 1599 and 1600
In 1597, the Ecclesiastical Chapter or Cathedral Chapter wrote to the king that the buildings for the cathedral were not yet finished. There was still neither a chapter hall, baptistry, bell tower nor cloister. The principal altar, two auxiliary ones and the choir were built solely from alms. This cathedral suffered during an earthquake in 1599 and, still unfinished, experienced another strong earthquake the following year. At midnight of December 31, 1600, 29 years after Manila was established, a very strong earthquake hit the colonial capital, which almost completely destroyed the cathedral.

The Third Cathedral 1614 - 1645

Archbishop Benavides initiated the rebuilding of the Manila Cathedral in stone but he never lived long enough to see the cathedral finished. He passed away on July 26, 1605, two years after his ascension to the archbishopric. The cathedral project was left in the hands of his successor, Diego Vasquez de Mercado, who became archbishop on June 1, 1610.

By 1607, the Manila Cathedral was in such a miserable condition that it became necessary to abandon it and transfer cathedral services to the Chapel of San Andres of the Colegio de Santa Potenciana. This condition continued for the next seven years until a new one of stone was built.

Archbishop Mercado continued the late prelate’s project. He expanded, beautified, and completed the cathedral building. In 1614, a new Manila Cathedral of three naves, seven chapels, and ten altars arose. It was built largely from funds donated by the licentiate Don Francisco Gomez de Arellano, fourth dean of the cathedral, from the alms solicited by the good archbishop from residents of Manila,and from the Royal Treasury.

The Earthquakes of 1621 and 1645
It was not long after when an earthquake on August 1, 1621,caused serious damages on the cathedral’s walls, columns, and roofs. The cathedral became so structurally weak and unsafe such that it posed danger to anyone who desired to go inside the building. It was imperative to rebuild it since repairs would not improve its miserable condition. At this period, the cathedral did not even have a main retablo but only a canopy with an image of Christ. Men were even employed just to guard and keep watch over the ornaments and other precious objects within the cathedral.

Between July 1, 1641,the date of Archbishop Hernando Guerrero’s death, and July 1645, the date when Archbishop Fernando Montero took possession of the archdiocese, the cathedral underwent reconstruction. However, the cathedral fell victim again to nature’s devastation when an earthquake destroyed it on November 30, 1645, feastday of St. Andrew.

The cathedral easily fell in ruins, its bell tower crumbled to the ground, and its walls reduced to their foundations. Only the capilla mayor and a wall remained. The archives inside the chapter hall were irretrievably buried. Books and papers regarding the early history of the colony were lost forever.

The Manila Cathedral was so devastated that a camarin made of wood with bamboo and nipa for a roof was built to temporarily house the flock in the plaza facing the Governor General’s Palace. The cathedral was reduced to a memory together with all the structures in the city. The earthquake impoverished the cathedral so much with its sources of income lost.

In 1645, after the earthquake, a generous donor, Doña Luisa de Cosar, widow of the former Governor of Formosa, Sergeant Major Francisco Suarez de Figueroa, offered to establish an endowment to have the Sagrario de los Curas, or Priests’ Sanctuary, and chapel for the Most Blessed Sacrament rebuilt. This was her way of thanksgiving for being spared from the earthquakes of November 30 and December 4, 1645 and a means to express her love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Cathedral Chapter accepted the endowment with all its stipulations for the reconstruction, upkeep, and maintenance of the Cathedral’s Sanctuary Chapel.

The Fourth Cathedral 1681 - 1751

The process of reconstruction of the whole cathedral was to start only after some years upon the arrival of Miguel de Poblete in 1653. On July 24, 1653, the new archbishop Miguel de Poblete entered the city of Manila after arriving in the port of Cavite from Acapulco and sadly viewed the ruins of the old cathedral and the temporary camarin which served as the cathedral in the middle of the plaza. He had the ugly camarin removed and cathedral services temporarily installed in the Church of the Confraternity of La Santa Mesa de Misericordia. For the next six years, the Misericordia Church would function as the interim cathedral. Immediately, the new archbishop planned to reconstruct the stone cathedral.

On April 20, 1654, the cornerstone of the new cathedral was laid by Archbishop Poblete with the governor general, the Royal Audencia, the Cabildos, and the religious communities inattendance. Archbishop Poblete personally went on foot around Manila, soliciting donations for the cathedral project.

From 1658 to 1659, work on the cathedral was hastened. At this stage, contributions began pouring in. The Spanish monarch donated 22,000 pesos from the Royal Treasury of Mexico. Supporting the completion of the project were the products of the vacancies of the archbishopric. When all the donations were spent, the Archbishop sold his silverware, his pectoral cross and ring just to keep the construction going.

By 1659, the cathedral’s naves were already enclosed and the Sagrario de los Curas, the choir and the Chapter hall were finished. At this time, Archbishop Poblete decided to hold Holy Mass in it. The Church of Misericordia, which had served as interim cathedral, was asked to transfer all the cathedral ornaments to the new structure’s sacristy for this event. On December 5, 1659, the archbishop consecrated the big bell and blessed the belfry of the new Manila Cathedral.

On December 7, 1659, eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Archbishop celebrated low Mass in the Sanctuary of the new cathedral. The following day, the feast itself, a Pontifical Sung Mass was celebrated in the cathedral with the governor general, the Royal Audencia, the religious, and other dignitaries in attendance. From then on, the divine functions were performed by the archbishop in the cathedral.

Repairs under Archbishop Rodriguez
Fray Juan Angel Rodriguez ascended to the archbishopric of Manila in 1736 and initiated repairs and renovations on the cathedral. In 1737, the media naranja of the bell tower was demolished and rebuilt in brick with a cupola much prettier than its antecedent. The cathedral church itself was in a ruinous condition. Its hardwood flooring was deplorable, the wooden arched ceiling so damaged, and the roof, especially the areas over the collateral naves, had fallen down. The retablos, which were poorly treated, suffered from the effects of water the continuously leaked from the ceiling and ran over it. The choir area was intolerably humid and filthy, a condition brought about by bats which inhabited the space. Totally, the cathedral was very unserviceable except for its walls.

The Cathedral by Archbishop Poblete and His Successors until 1751
Prior to the cathedral’s reconstruction by Uguccioni, the structure was a simple and long quadrilateral church annexed with auxiliary services and spaces to complement and support the main congregation or worship area. To its left side, near the main portal, was the Cathedral Chapter hall and an octagonal bell tower. The cathedral was divided into three naves – a principal nave and two collateral ones – separated by colonnades. Seven chapels founded by the generous faithful flanked the side naves. At the back of the main altar were the sacristy, a small parlor and the stairs leading to the private room above.

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The Fifth Cathedral 1760 - 1852

Archbishop Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad Martinez de Arisala became Manila’s vicar in 1747. He saw the dilapidated state of the cathedral and decided to have it reconstructed by a fine architect to avoid any future defects in the edifice every time natural disasters struck the city. The archbishop requested Nueva España to send a good maestro who could handle the work and in 1748 informed the Spanish monarch that a new cathedral should replace the present one.

Before the Royal Cedula could reach Manila, a Florentine architect and engineer, in the person of Juan de Uguccioni, passed by Manila during the latter end of the year 1750. A missionary of the Sagrada Congregacion de Propaganda Fide, Fray Uguccioni was on his way to Goa, India, after serving the English in a technical capacity in the Malvar coast.

The Fifth Cathedral 1760 - 1852

The 1751 Reconstruction by Fray Juan de Uguccioni
The Manila Cathedral underwent a major transformation under the hands of the Italian architect Juan de Uguccioni and the obrero mayor Don Estevan Roxas y Melo. Don Estevan was a native of Lima, Peru, and was secretary to Archbishop Rodriguez since 1736. After the death of the archbishop, Roxas opted to stay permanently in this colony and was appointed eventually as medio racionero and later as canonigo de gracia in the Cathedral. Because of his talent in the sciences and mathematics, as well as for efficiency in his duties, he was appointed by Archbishop Trinidad as the obrero major of the cathedral reconstruction.

The Cathedral Chapter sought the permission of the governor general to start demolition work in the cathedral so that reconstruction could commence immediately, and for choir and other divine services to be held temporarily in the Church of San Andres of the College of Santa Potenciana. When cathedral services were installed in Santa Potenciana in January of 1751, demolition work on the cathedral immediately began.

The cathedral in 1792, by Fernando Brambila

The Earthquake of 1852
On the night of September 16, 1852, an earthquake shook, damaged, and destroyed churches and other edifices in Manila, leaving the main façade and other areas of the cathedral in very severe condition. Upon the request of the Cathedral Chapter, the Arquitecto de Hacienda, Juan Mendoza y Grajales, conducted an inspection of the cathedral. In his report of October 6, 1852, Architect Mendoza cited that the cathedral definitely suffered major damage.

The Sixth Cathedral 1858 - 1863

A year after Grajales’ report, Governor General Antonio de Urbiztondo ordered the Cuerpo de Yngenieros or Corps of Engineers led by its commandant and chief Don Nicolas Valdes and commandant Fernando Fernandez de Cordoba to conduct another inspection of the cathedral since Urbiztondo had lost confidence in Grajales. Grajales had made assurances earlier during a meeting with the Cathedral Chapter that no contingencies were needed since the cathedral (after the 1852 earthquake) did not pose any threat to lives and property. In spite of such assurances, on March 6, 1853, a cornice from the media naranja or dome of the cathedral fell down, destroying a part of the cathedral roof.


By October 1854, bids for the project were submitted. Contractors who joined the bidding for the cathedral renovation and reworks were Don Manuel Asuncion, Don Luciano Oliver who was a renowned architect, Don Antonio Fua, Don Sixto Ejada Obispo, Don Esteban Transfiguracion, and Don Antonio Canals y Llinas, who was the director and owner of the Establecimiento Artistico in Arroceros. Don Sixto Ejada Obispo, who was then the Gobernadorcillo de Mestizos of Binondo and a practicing contractor, won the bidding with the lowest bid price of 45,300 pesos.

The project pushed through with the churches of the Archdiocese of Manila contributing half of their collected sanctorum for the work. Funds were also subsidized by the Obras Pias and the Real Hacienda.

The New Cathedral by Nicolas Valdes

Upon completion, the cathedral was opened to the public on March 31, 1858. The restored cathedral possessed an entirely new façade. Removed were the pediments and columns framing the side portals and the baroque mouldings framing the high windows over these doorways. Left was a clearer visual space interrupted only by the coupled pilasters that marked each vertical bay. Introduced was a Neoclassic façade, with its architrave and triangular pediment over the main portal. Sculptured figures topped both ends of the main façade’s first level and graced the semi-circular pediment of the upper story. As a whole, the baroque façade of Uguccioni’s cathedral was replaced with a Neoclassic motif.

The Tragic Earthquake of 1863
On the night of June 3, 1863, at about half past seven, tragedy struck Manila when a strong earthquake shook its buildings and residents. Many indios and Chinese also died especially those who were in the night market that hour. Many were injured and buried in the tragic ruins that became of the Manila Cathedral and the hospitals of Manila.

The Manila Cathedral became a massive heap of rubble burying members of the Cathedral Chapter and choir boys who were chanting vespers during solemn rites for the celebration of Corpus Christi, as well as an undetermined number of the faithful who attended the rites. It took three days for workers to retrieve the bodies of victims beneath the cathedral ruins.



The Seventh Cathedral 1879 - 1945

On April 13, 1870, Governor Carlos Maria de la Torre issued a directive giving the necessary authorization to begin the leveling of the cathedral ruins and empowering the eccelesiastical governor, Mateo Yague y Mateos, in the absence of Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez who was attending the Concilia Vaticano in Rome, to designate the Arquitecto de la Administracion Local, Don Luciano Oliver, to be the dor director of works for the cathedral reconstruction. Yague was also authorized to arbitrate for the necessary funds for the project, to send out circulars calling on those who would want to donate and to open a subscription from persons willing to support the monthly salaries of workers to be hired in the cleaning and clearing of the ruins and in the reconstruction phase.

The Seventh Cathedral 1879 - 1945

On April 18, 1870, during solemn rites in the Church of Santo Domingo, an eloquent discourse on the cathedral brought out the desired reaction from the faithful who pledged to pay for the daily wages of the laborers employed in the reconstruction. In the morning of the following day, April 19, work on the leveling of the ruined cathedral commenced. Present to witness the first phase of the cathedral project were Governor de la Torre, Yague y Mateos, cathedral canons, the parish priest of San Pedro ( Makati ), Luciano Oliver, government officials, and other guests.

On June 15, 1870, Governor de la Torre issued an ordinance creating the Junta Consultativa para los Restauraciones de las Yglesias or Consultative Committee for the Restoration of Churches. Formed specifically to restore Intramuros churches, the committee would assist in the restoration of the Manila Cathedral. The Junta had the governor general for its president, the dean of the cathedral for vice president, and the penitenciario, magistral, doctoral, a racionero, and a secretary as members.

On July 29, 1871, Governor General Rafael Izquierdo ordered for a reassessment of the works executed in the cathedral and to determine which could be completed, so that in a span of two months, the cathedral could be protected from the coming rainy season, until such time the formal project proposal could be approved and reconstruction work could commence again. However, Don Luciano Oliver could not continue to work on the project, and on October 3, 1871, he renounced his position as director.

Restoration under Archbishop Meliton Martinez
With the arrival from Rome of Archbishop Meliton Martinez, membership of the Junta or the cathedral restoration committee was modified by the Superior Decree of September 12, 1871. The new members would be composed of the entire Cabildo under the presidency of the archbishop.

The Junta met to elect and assign a new architect for the project. On October 23, 1871, Don Vicente Serrano y Salaverri was named officially as the new director of the project. On April 20, 1872, Serrano presented the memoria y planos, proposal and plans, of the reconstruction project. In the said proposal, modifications were made in the buttresses and framework of the roof. The same, with some modification by the Junta Consultativa de Obras Publicas, was approved by virtue of the Royal Order of August 6, 1872.

Construction under Archbishop Payo
Archbishop Pedro Payo worked with so much zeal and tireless activity for the cathedral so that he was able to obtain easily the necessary funds required to complete the structure. He even donated part of his own wealth to several works in the Manila Cathedral among which were the construction of the main altar, the image of the Immaculate Conception, the organ, and the reboque and painting of the bell tower.

Failing health forced Serrano to resign from his job as director of the cathedral reconstruction, so that he was replaced on October 31, 1873 by Eduardo Lopez Navarro, who was chief engineer of roads, canals, and ports in the colony. Serrano died a short while after Navarro replaced him. Engineer Navarro continued to direct the work until April 10, 1878 when he had to leave for Spain to recover his health.

The new Manila Cathedral was inaugurated during a two-day festivity with solemn rites. On December 7, 1879, the Manila Cathedral was blessed and consecrated by Archbishop Payo. He blessed the exterior and interior of the cathedral. Afterwards, the relics of two martyrs, San Victor and San Lorenzo, were brought to be kept in the cathedral’s Chapel of St. Peter.

Serrano’s Legacy – The 1879 Manila Cathedral
The cathedral rose once again to become the city’s premier temple. The Revival Styles, which swept the circles of art and architecture in Europe, made its impact in the Manila Cathedral when Architect Serrano employed a style dentro del mismo estilo romano bizantino pero con mas gusto Oriental como satisfaccion a las exigencias de lugar -after the Romanesque-Byzantine style but with more oriental flavor satisfying the exigencies of the site. What evolved was an eclecticism combining and reviving the two styles, with much influence too from the Renaissance.

The Secularization Issue and the Execution of Gomburza

The Manila Cathedral was witness to the movement to Filipinize parishes and to the tragic aftermath of its persecution. The issue of secularization in the Philippines had long been a source of conflict among the religious regulars and church seculars. Among those who advocated strongly for the rights of the secular clergy were Fathers Pedro Pelaez of the Manila Cathedral and Mariano Gomez of Cavite.

The GomBurZa

A few years later, on January 20, 1872, a mutiny broke out at the Cavite Arsenal over the unreasonable deductions in the salaries of the arsenal workers due to Gov. Gen. Izquierdo’s new tax imposition. Sympathizers for the workers mutineed that night causing the death of Sgt. La Madrid, the mutiny leader, and the fort commander whose wife was also injured.

The Spanish authorities used this incident as an excuse to implicate those who were advocating religious reforms by connecting them to a separatist conspiracy.

Thus, the government arrested Fr. Gomez, along with the outspoken advocate of secularization, Fr. Jose Burgos, a young doctor of canon law, and Fr. Jacinto Zamora. They were healed to a one-sided trial and publicly executed by mechanical strangulation at Bagumbayan on February 17, 1872.



The Earthquake of 1880
In 1880, the cathedral fell victim again to another earthquake. Its bell tower which survived the 1863 earthquake crumbled to the ground and a makeshift one of wood replaced it. The dome underwent repairs after this incident.

The collapsed belfry after the 1880 earthquake

However, the cathedral would remain without a bell tower for many eyras, in spite of plans and proposals to have it restored, until its merciless destruction by war in the middle of the twentieth century.

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The Late 19th Century

The closing of the nineteenth century were turbulent ones, not only for the Church but also for the entire colony. The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and the Filipino-American War, 1898-1902, saw the transition of colonial power from Spain to the United States. During these periods, Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda opened the cathedral doors to the Spanish soldiers who sought refuge from the enemy and to the invading American troops who converted it in 1898 into a hospital for wounded American soldiers.

The cathedral in 1899

The Catholic Church would experience trials again with the shift in colonial power. The Cathedral of Manila witnessed the transfer of leadership of the archdiocese to the American secular clergy. Despite the strong foothold that Protestantism and the Aglipayan Church gained during the early years of the twentieth century, the Catholic Church would remain steadfast and strong as the Archdiocese of Manila had been.

The First Half of the 20th Century

As the twentieth century unfolded, a whole new ear dawned for the Archdiocese and Cathedral of Manila. The few years of this century saw the last Spanish prelate of Manila Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda holding on to the reins of the Catholic hierarchy. Associated with the told and detested system of frailocracy in Spanish colonial Philippines, Nozaleda easily earned the reputation as one of the most unpopular archbishops in the history of the colony. The Philippine Revolution marked the reversal of fortune for Spain and the religious who were portrayed and considered by not only a few as the villain in the colony’s history of servitude, abuse, and oppression.

The Manila Cathedral underwent minor repairs and alterations during the first decades of the twentieth century prior to its cruel destruction during the Battle of Liberation in 1945. Although in 1915, Archbishop Jeremias Harty made slight repairs to bring back the cathedral to its former glory before the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War, Serrano’s design was not changed. Thus, the 1879 cathedral survived until the Second World War, with its basic forms and features preserved and only slightly altered.

In the Manila Cathedral were held important religious ceremonies to celebrate the coronation of the Popes and their demise. In 1907, a significant celebration was held to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, an important event for the cathedral under whose titular patronage it was. Special rites were also performed in the cathedral to observe the First national Eucharistic congress held on December 11-15, 1929 and the 33 rd International Eucharistic Congress held on February 3-7, 1937. The cathedral also witnessed the Te Deum for the safe arrival of Calvo and Arnaiz, the first Spanish aviators who flew from Spain to Manila. A solemn Te Deum and a special mass to mark the occasion of the inauguration of the Philippine Commonweath in 1935 were held in the Manila Cathedral.

Manila Cathedral Prior to World War II

During the period before World War II, the Cathedral was described to be a lovely church replete with ornaments, furniture, statues, and images of remarkable antiquity and beauty. It had several chapels dedicated to St. Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Peter, Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mercy, St. John Nepomuceno, and Our Lady of Guidance. This latter chapel was also known as the Parroquia del Sagrario, the chapel which served as the parish church of Intramuros and home of the image of Nuestra Señora de Guia before her transfer to Ermita Church. The Cathedral also sheltered the Virgin of Antipolo in 1647, for a period of time, some years after the church was sacked and burned down during the Chinese revolt in 1639, until her eventual installation again in Antipolo Church. It was in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows that the offices for the dead were sometimes performed and where, in a niche, the remains of Msgr. Giovanni Battista Guidi, apostolic delegate during the American Occupation, were interred.



The Eight Cathedral 1958 - Present

The present Manila Cathedral rose phoenix-like from the desolate ruins of the old cathedral, which was bombed mercilessly along with the rest of the Walled City during the Battle of Liberation in 1945. Asserting back its distinction and dignity as Manila’s premier temple and metropolitan seat of the Archdiocese, the present structure emerged in the midst of the pathetic remnants of Intramuros, its open spaces colonized by squatters and its ancient ruins converted into cargo warehouses.

Cathedral ruins after destruction

For many years after the war, the shell of the Manila Cathedral stood before the gaze of the statue of Carlos IV in Plaza Roma. The ruins of its famous façade remained. There was the rose window without the colored glass and the three portals with their receding arches and the cathedral’s historical marker.

In fact, Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty and Archbishop Gabriel Reyes pondered on the idea of transferring it to Mandaluyong. It was only through the efforts of Archbishop Rufino Santos that the cathedral was able to reign again in its rightful seat. Fortunately, the cathedral ruins were left to stand in place, still untouched by the bulldozers that leveled off most of the ruins of Intramuros.

The Manila Cathedral covers an area of almost 3,000 square meters. The present structure has a Latin-cross plan which closely follows the distribution of spaces of the previous cathedral-aisles are separated from the nave by arcaded colonnades, and several chapels flank the nave.

The beauty and wonder of marble as a building material stand out in the Manila Cathedral. The chapels are paved by highly polished Carrara marble prefabricated in Italy. The main altar, which has a two-meter high statue of the Immaculae Conception, is featured with lovely columns built out of green Carrara marble. Paving the rest of the cathedral floor are cream slabs of marble. Marble also found its way in the altars of the side chapels where reliefs and mosaic panels add further decorative accents. Likewise, the pulpit and the Episcopal throne are made out of Italian marble.

The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral was solemnly consecrated on December 7, 1958 before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a tribute to Our Lady under whose guidance and patronage the Cathedral of Manila was able to reign as queen of the Walled City, refuge of Manila’s denizens, and symbolic seat of the Catholic Church in Manila.

Pope Paul VI’s Visit to the Philippines

In the 1970s, the most memorable event that brought thousands upon thousands to the mother church of the country was perhaps the visit to the Philippines of Pope Paul VI in November 1970. A marker at the base of the main altar commemorates his pastoral visit in the presence of the ancient venerated image of Nuestra Señora de Guia.

Euphoric Reception to Jaime Cardinal Sin, 30th Archbishop of Manila

The next Archbishop of Manila came from Aklan-the energetic and witty Jaime Sin of New Washington-a nephew of the late Archbishop Gabriel Reyes. At the steps of the cathedral, where Manila’s clergy gathered to make their first encounter with their new pastor, Archbishop Sin declared: “Today Sin is Glorified.”

Three years later, the entire Philippines rose as one to welcome the third Filipino Prince of the Church. Archbishop Sin was the youngest Cardinal in the world, and the cathedral was again host to his reception. His youth and energy were called upon to rehabilitate the St. Paul’s Hospital and the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital, which then boasted of expert medical staff and hospital equipment second to none. The St. Joseph the Worker Foundation, Radio Veritas, and various charitable institutions were also to receive much-needed shots in the arm.

Pope John Paul II’s Visit; Beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant religious events in the Philippine ecclesiastical history was the beatification of the first Filipino martyr Lorenzo Ruiz on the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines in February 1981. The much-loved Pope came amidst cheers of Totus Tuus from the crowd to celebrate his first Mass on Philippine soil at the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral. Shortly thereafter, he told Cardinal Sin that he wanted the cathedral to be a Basilica.

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Renovations

Further to the major structural repairs and renovations of Manila Cathedral, which were blessed in a proper ceremonial rite during its 44th anniversary in December 2002, more construction projects have been undertaken.

These are efforts of the Rector in connection with a continuing “facelift program” for the Cathedral until it becomes fully furbished by the time it celebrates its Golden Anniversary in 2008.

2012 renovation and 2014 reopening

Reliquary-calendar with fragment bone of St. Caesarius of Terracina, deacon and martyr, Manila Cathedral. In photo, cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle next the new icon of Saint Caesarius.
The cathedral underwent repairs for earthquake retrofitting and subsidence prevention in 2012.

During this time, the San Fernando de Dilao Church was designated as the temporary official church (pro-cathedral) of the Archdiocese of Manila. However, Msgr. Nestor Cerbo stated that the cathedral would finish its renovations on March 25, 2014.

Panorama of the cathedral interior

Some added features and changes include the installation of CCTV cameras, large flat screen television screens (similar to those found in Baclaran Church), improved audio-video systems, and improved interior and exterior LED lightings. The cathedral completed its restoration on the said date and was reopened to the general public on April 9, 2014 after two years of renovation.

The visit of Pope Francis

On January 16, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated his first Papal Mass in the country at the cathedral as part of his apostolic visit to the Philippines. The mass was celebrated for the bishops, priests, and the clergy in three languages: Latin, English, and Filipino.

Front view of The Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila as of April 2015

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WHERE TO STAY IN MANILA

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