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St Augustine : Minor basilica of the Santo Ni˝o, Cebu, Philippines
Minor basilica of the Santo Ni˝o,
Cebu, Philippines

The next attempt began on 29th February 1735, and resulted in the basilica that still stands today. 

It involved the planning of Diego Bergaño O.S.A., (Augustinian Provincial), Governor-General Fernando Valdes, Bishop Manuel Antonio Decio y campo of Cebú, and Juan de Albarran O.S.A., who was Prior of the Augustinians at Santo Niño.

The residents of Talisay also did four weeks of work, and Fr Francisco Aballe O.S.A. also tried to help with his parishioners from Mactan.

The decision was made to build the church in stone, and coral stone was the only type that was plentiful in the area. The main walls, made of massive coral stones, are up to two metres thick, making the building look somewhat like a fortress as well as a church.

The stones were quarried from Capiz and Panay by an army of bancas (small boats). The molave wood came from the mountains of Talisay and Pitalo and was transported in bancas hired in Argao and Carcar. Fr Albarran O.S.A. confessed that there was much difficulty in quarrying the stones.

Despite the seemingly impossible task, Fr Albarran was not discouraged. He used white stones to make the lime, with one banca transporting some 400 pieces of stone. There was also another obstacle: the lack of chief craftsmen and officers, which forced Fr Albarran himself to acquire some knowledge of architecture, for which he was able to tap into the experience of the Augustinian friars at Intramuros (Manila) and in Mexico at building thick-walled churches and monasteries that were “earthquake-proof.” 

The church was finished not later than 1739. The main altar is massive, and has three rows of niches designed for the placement of statues. In each niche is the statue of an Augustinian saint, and in the top niche the statue of the Santo Niño stood for over two centuries.

In its architectural style, the facade of the Minor Basilica is a blending of Muslim, Romanesque and neo-classical features, all set in what has otherwise been described as a high degree of integration. The façade is preserved in its original stone texture and natural color, conveying an air of simplicity of line and elegance.

The bell tower serves as a counterbalance to the convent located on the opposite far end of the building. It has two blind and open windows alternating in shape, ending up in triangular pinnacles with a circular disc crowned by balusters and a bulbous dome of Muslim influence.

The center section of the building is the focus of attention. There the arched main entrance to the Minor Basilica is balanced by the side rectangular corners. A double-edged triangular pediment crowns the facade.


The original features of the church have been retained except for the windows added by Father Diez O.S.A. in 1889.
 
During the last World War, a bomb fell inside the Church but the Image was not damaged. Blown from its niche, its fall was interrupted when it caught on a wall lamp, graceful and unscathed. It was one of the numerous miracles and powers attributed to the Holy Image.
 
Since the aerial bombings of downtown Cebu City continued mercilessly, the Santo Niño was moved to the Redemptorist church on the edge of the city, and remained there until 20th April 1945. Both the basilica and the Augustinian monastery suffered damage during World War II.
 
In 1965, both church and convent underwent a major restoration for the occasion of the fourth centenary of the Christian Faith in the Philippines, under the rectorship and leadership of Fr Restituto Suarez O.S.A. Its walls were marble plated, the floor was covered with terrazzo, and leadlight windows added.
 
Cardinal Hildebrando Antoniutti, Papal Legate to the Philippines, conferred upon the church the title of Minor Basilica, a special privilege granted by the Pope Paul VI.
 
The present rector of the Minor Basilica is Andrew Batayola O.S.A. Late in 2005 he undertook some necessary repairs and renovations to the exterior walls and tower of the minor basilica.
 
In the foreground of the photograph (above), the pilgrim centre can be seen. It is an outdoor area with extensive seatling on the left and right, where far more people can be accommodated than can fit inside the minor basilica. The pilgrim centre is used for large gatherings of pilgrims.
 
Book
 
Pedro G. Galende O.S.A.: ANGELS IN STONE AUGUSTINIAN CHURCHES IN THE PHILIPPINES. San Agustin Museum, 1996. New, Hardcover, with dust jacket, with 402 pages. Measures 10 by 13 inches. This huge and beautiful coffee table book is filled with full-color pictures and essays about the various Augustinian churches throughout the Philipppines. There is a foreword by National Artist Nick Joaquin, and the chapters include churches from: Metro Manila, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Ilocos Norte, Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, Cagayan Islands, and Cebu. This is the most comprehensive book on colonial churches in the Philippines.
 
Photo Gallery

To view the photo gallery of the Augustinians in the Philippines in this web site, select Philippines: Province of Cebu and Philippines: Intramuros after you click here.
ID2681

 


   
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