10 beautiful baroque churches to see during Visita Iglesia 2018 |
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10 beautiful baroque churches to see during Visita Iglesia 2018

by Jillian CariolaPublished: February 20, 2018Updated: May 24, 2018

With the aesthetic and historical quality of Philippine Baroque churches, your spiritual journey can also be an educational trip.

To the most dedicated of Catholics, Holy Week is synonymous to Visita Iglesia, a form of pilgrimage performed during the Lenten season. Within a single day or several days leading up to Easter Sunday, devotees visit seven churches or more, reflecting and saying a prayer at each stop.

As a country that is largely pious and particularly rooted in Catholicism, the Philippines is home to some of the most magnificent baroque churches and chapels, many of which have been declared as national treasures or landmarks by various government institutions, as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The beauty and history of these religious edifices means visitors are able to ask penance while getting a lesson on architecture and local culture on the side. For a Visita Iglesia experience that is both enlightening and awe-inspiring, be sure to add these baroque churches to your list.

San Agustin Church. Photo via Depositphotos

San Agustin Church

Location: Intramuros, Manila

One of the World Heritage Sites officially recognized by UNESCO as part of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila was the first church to be built in Luzon when it was constructed in 1571. The current stone structure is actually the third version: the first structure made of bamboo and nipa was burned down in 1574 in an attempted invasion, while the second—a wooden construction—was also destroyed by fire in 1583. The church we see today is truly an example of resilience, with the main structure having survived several major earthquakes as well as the battle between Japanese soldiers and the combined American and Filipino forces during the Second World War.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty San Agustin Church Manila
Sta. Maria Church. Photo by Harrybalais [Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)] via wikimedia Commons

Sta. Maria Church

Location: Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Sta. Maria Church in Ilocos Sur—also called  the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption  or Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion)—is another UNESCO-recognized baroque church, and one that presents a unique aesthetic due to its purpose. Unlike traditional Spanish churches set in the middle of the town plaza, this structure is perched on top of a hill and surrounded by walls because it served not just as a religious sanctuary but also a lookout and a fortress when it was constructed in 1765. Due to its elevated location, visitors can only access it by climbing an 85-step granite stairway, which also takes them high enough to enjoy a panoramic view of the lower plains as well as the town itself.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Paoay Church Ilocos Norte
Paoay Church. Photo via Depositphotos

Paoay Church

Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Formally known as the Saint Augustine Church, the Paoay Church is another one of the four baroque churches recognized by UNESCO. The church itself was completed in 1710 with the initiation of Augustinian friars, while construction of the bell tower began in 1793. Seen as a primary example of Spanish-era Earthquake Baroque Architecture, Paoay Church most distinguishing features are the 24 buttresses surrounding it, which were put in place not for aesthetics but as a protective measure against earthquake damage.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Miagao Church Iloilo
Miagao Church. Photo by Constantine Agustin (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr Creative Commons

Miagao Church

Location: Miagao, Iloilo

Rounding up UNESCO’s four Baroque Churches of the Philippines is Miagao Church, a Baroque Romanesque church that was completed in 1797. Also known as the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, it has an ornately carved façade that features images such as a coconut tree representing the tree of life, St. Christopher dressed in traditional garb, and scenes from the daily life of the locals. As a form of protection back when the town was frequently invaded by southerners, two belfries were built directly attached to the church to serve as watchtowers.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Boljoon Church Cebu
Boljoon Church. Photo by Adamdaley [Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Boljoon Church

Location: Baljoon, Cebu

The Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church, commonly known as Boljoon Church, was constructed in 1783 as a fortress church with the primary purpose of being a watchtower for possible invasions by southerners. With a style referred to as Filipino Baroque, Boljoon Church combines elements such as terra cotta roof tiles and folk art, lending it a unique fusion aesthetic. The entire church complex also includes a convent, bell tower, blockhouse, church plaza, and cemetery.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Tumauini Church Isabela
Tumauini Church. Photo by Marcelo R. Rabosa, Jr. [Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Tumauini Church

Location: Tumauini, Isabela

Officially the San Matias Parish Church, the Tumauini Church is hard to miss due to its bright red form, brought about by the red brick used in construction in place of stone. The church, which was completed in 1805, has several unique features other than its crimson exterior, such as the pseudo-Corinthian columns and niches, and the circular pediment that is uncommon in Spanish-era churches. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, a faithful restoration managed to bring the church back to its original glory.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Lazi Church Siquijor
Lazi Church. Photo by Lawrence Ruiz [Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Lazi Church

Location: Lazi, Siquijor

Lazi Church, or the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church, is a Neoclassical construction currently in the running for consideration to be included in UNESCO’s Baroque Churches of the Philippines. Completed in 1891, it uses sea stones and hardwood and has a bell tower that was built a year after construction began on the main church. Accompanying the church is a bahay na bato convent, one of the largest built in the Spanish colonial era.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Baclayon Church Bohol
Baclayon Church, taken May 2012. Photo by Nataniel Luperte [Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Baclayon Church

Location: Baclayon, Bohol

La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, or Baclayon Church, was built when the Jesuits founded Christianity in the municipality, turning it into one of the oldest Christian settlements of Bohol. A large part of the church sustained damage during the 2013 Bohol earthquake, but it has since been fully restored. In contrast with the simple exterior, the inside of Baclayon Church is filled with murals, commissioned paintings, ornately designed pulpits, and grand statues. Aside from the beautifully crafted interior, visitors can enjoy the convent next to the church, which is actually a museum where religious artifacts dating back to the 16th century are displayed.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Maragondon Church Cavite
Maragondon Church. Photo by Ramiltibayan [Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Maragondon Church

Location: Maragondon, Cavite

Also known as The Our Lady of the Assumption Parish Church, Maragondon Church was built by the Jesuits in the early 1600s. At 400 years old, the building is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, and is the sole national heritage structure in the municipality as declared by the National Museum. The Maragondon Church’s basic structure is simple, which is in contrast with its elaborate carved main doors, the polychromed retablos adorning the altar area, and the octagonal pulpit affixed to one side. Also on the property are a bell tower, which is taller than the main church, and a convent.


Philippine Baroque churches for Visita Iglesia 2018 MyProperty Calasiao Church Pangasinan
Calasiao Church. Photo by Oyayi [Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

Calasiao Church

Location: Calasiao, Pangasinan

Founded in 1588, the Calasiao Dominican Provincial Chapter Church was built by Dominican priests between the 17th and 19th centuries and renamed the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church after 1621. Truly a resilient structure, it has been damaged and rebuilt after fires and earthquakes, and managed to avoid complete destruction in 1945 when three Liberation bombs launched at it did not detonate. Under R.A. 4896, the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts declared Calasiao Church a National Cultural Treasure.


Main photo via Depositphotos

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