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The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin Manila

  • The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila. A site within the district of Intramuros was assigned to the Augustinian Order, who were the first to evangelize in the Philippines. In 1587 the impermanent earliest building in wood and palm fronds was replaced by a church and monastery in stone, the latter becoming the Augustinian mother house in the Philippines. As a result the church was richly endowed, with a fine retablo, pulpit, wall paintings, lectern, and choir stalls. It was the only structure in Intramuros to survive the liberation of Manila in 1945.
  • The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin and the annexed buildings are a World Heritage Site and as such worthy of considerable attention.
  • The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin is in the center of Intramuros, the fortified Spanish City of old Manila which itself is the most important tourism destination in the Philippines. Surrounding it are numerous other buildings of historic and architectural importance.



San Augustin Church Manila


The Design
  • San Augustin is a three ailed church in classic Spanish baroque style with an interior of ornate Baroque decorations. The three isles, as shown in the photograph are occupied by inter communications chapels. The Church and the attached Monastery were constructed simultaneously and their interplay of arches, walls roofs and buttresses support each other. The construction was extremely sound as is evidenced by the success in defeating the effects of typhoons, earthquakes and in World war two, explosives..
  • The two buildings are made of ''tuff' from the quarries at nearby Guadalupe and nothing has been altered since 1607. However the outer front tower was remvied following its damage in the earth quake of 1838 as shown in the illustration here. The original structure of twin facade towers and the internal inner court of the Monastery are traditionally European.
  • The original alter of 1617 was removed and replaced by a larger one in 1628. It has finely carved statuettes and bas reliefs.


The Interior Painting
  • The internal Painting of the church seen today was completed in the late 19th century. Prior to this the original painting had a more Mexican flavor with heavy gold and red colors which were painted in the middle 17th century. The present painting was undertaken by two Italian painters, Alberoni and Dibella who commenced work in 1835. The stone wall structure is simple but the painters added complexity and perceived variation with light and shadow effects, false windows and images from the old and new testaments. There is debate about the '' scenographic '' painting, some say it destroys the granduer and effect of the stone building by adding so many painted features that allure the sense but ignore the logic. But it must be remembered this was the taste of the time.
  • The massive decorations cause the effect of the massive stone structure to be lost.



San Augustin Church Manila