Adjacent to the church in Intramuros, some of the large Monastery (convento) of Saint Augustine was converted in 1973 to become a museum for religious artefacts and art treasures dating back as early as the 16th century. To discuss, therefore, the earlier monastery and the present Museum is to dwell upon the same building. (The Augustinian friars have long lived in newer buildings on the property.)
The first monastery cloister (internal courtyard)
The first cloister of the attached San Agustín Convento (monastery) was built to south and west of the church, and was contemporaneous with the church. It enclosed an inner garden. This cloister (courtyard, patio) has echoed with some of the more dramatic moments in the history of Manila and the Philippines. It was the site of the hanging by civil authorities in 1635 of a murderer named Francisco de Nava, and the site of the assassination of Governor Francisco de Bustillo Bustamante in 1719. Here also encamped the invading and looting British soldiers in 1762 and the Spanish troops in 1898.
Possibly the most spectacular event there was the hanging of Fr Juan de Oscariz O.S.A. and his accomplice. Together in 1617 they had strangled to death the Prior Provincial of the Augustinians in the Philippines, Fr Vicente Sepulveda O.S.A.
The second and third monastery cloisters
The second cloister of the San Agustín monastery was built 1623-88 and linked to the first cloister by a passageway. The Municipal Architect of Manila, Don Luciano Oliver, added a third storey to the second cloister in 1861. The third cloister was built intermittently between 1713 and 1828 and was an extension of the first cloister. They were destroyed by bombing in World War II, leaving only the wall of the three-storey second cloister (see photo on next page).
In the second cloister was the famous garden of Fr Manuel Blanco O.S.A, whose botanical research created a garden of Philippine flora. Specimens in this garden and others collected by Blanco are documented in his historic folio volume, Flora de Filipinas, illustrated by prominent Filipino artists. In 1898 the military forces of the United States of America attacked Manila after they had defeated the Spanish fleet. San Agustín became the refuge of the sick, old, women and children. Governor Jaudenes of Manila prepared the terms for the surrender of the city at the Chapel (cappella) of Our Lady of Angustias within the Church of San Agustín. Soon the Americans held the Church and monsatery. They stole books, food, money and statues from the monastery (convento).
Some background on Intramuros.
This walled city was laid out on a grid, with 51 blocks within an uneven pentagon, its massive walls breached by seven gates. Only Spaniards and Spanish mestizos (i.e., persons with one Spanish parent and one Filipino parent) were allowed to live inside; each night, drawbridges across the moat were raised to ensure the security and safety of the colonists. The elite dwelt in elegant houses with wrought iron balconies and tiled roofs, although the narrow streets were not paved until the late 19th century.
The walls contained 12 churches, plus chapels, convents, monasteries, palaces for the governor general and archbishop, government buildings, schools, a university, printing press, hospital, and barracks. Not much was left of this medieval European city in the tropics after World War II, but a restoration project by the Intramuros Administration is ongoing. So far, the gates and walls have been restored, along with five period houses.
San Agustin Museum, Intramuros
Here one can spend an entire day to cherish and absorb the remains of the religious history of the Philippines. For over three centuries, the Philippines amassed a large wealth of artistic treasures under Spanish rule, especially religious art and artefacts in churches.
As well as precious objects and art works brought from overseas, there became an increasing collection of beautiful works created by artists in the Philippines. This especially involved the carving of objects from wood, as early as the 1570s. Much of these imported and local works of religious art were pilfered or destroyed during warfare and foreign invasions (most recently the liberating American forces in 1945). Many of these looted works were sold illegally and ended up in the hands of private collectors and wealthy families in the Philippines and overseas.
The San Agustin Museum began in 1965 as a simple collection of photographs of a hundred of the churches that had been constructed in the Philippines during the past three hundred years. Provision for a permanent museum was made in 1968-1969 when the restoration of San Agustín church and monastery were planned. The old vestry and community dining room on the ground floor of the old monastery became art galleries. From there eventually the entire two floors of the old monastery developed into becoming the spectacular San Agustín Museum of today. There is also a beautiful interior courtyard (cloister, clausura, patio), with its flowing fountain and tall palm trees.
Photos (at right): Picture 1: A display room in the museum. Picture 2: Carriages for procession of statues.
San Agustín Museum: Postal address:
Calle Real del Palacio PO Box 3366 Intramuros, General Luna Street) Manila 1002, Manila 1002 PhilippinesThe Museum has three large halls on the ground floor, and six large halls on the second floor. The floors are joined by a grand staircase in stone. The various rooms and hallways display the antiques of the church. These include twenty-six large oil paintings, sacred vessels to church vestments, early documents and parchments, paintings, gold and silver ornaments, church furniture, and altars.
San Agustín Museum, Intramuros. With captions. http://superpasyal.blogspot.com.au/2007/09/san-agustin-musem-part-one.html and http://superpasyal.blogspot.com.au/2007/09/san-agustin-museum.html
San Agustín Museum. 96 photos taken by visitors. http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g298573-d549326-Reviews-San_Agustin_Museum-Manila_Metro_Manila_Luzon.html
San Agustin Church and Museum. A blog. http://pinyapol.blogspot.com.au/2007/02/san-agustin-church-museum-in-intramuros.html
Architecture of San Agustin Church. A blog. http://arquitecturamanila.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/san-agustin-church-museum-and-monastery.html San Agustin church and museum. As in 1946-1947. Blog.https://jennifersopko.wordpress.com/2012/05/page/2/ AN4259