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San Sebastian Church

Date of Submission: 16/05/2006
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Historical Institute
State, Province or Region:
Manila - district of Quiapo
Ref.: 518
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

San Sebastian Church is located in Quiapo, one of Manila's older districts.  Surrounding it are rows of old houses.  The Church of San Sebastian is made of a steel frame and panels and is  known for its distinct characteristic - that of being the only neo-gothic steel church in the Philippines and in Asia.

The steel parts were manufactured in the Societe Anonyme's foundry in Binche, Belgium and were shipped to Manila.  On June 12, 1888, the first shipment of steel parts were brought to the Philippines.  For two years, the church was assembled with local artists and craftsmen joining the Belgian firm in applying the final finishing touches on this new church of steel.  The stained glass windows were imported from the Henri Oidtmann Company, a German stained glass firm.

On June 24, 1890, the Church of San Sebastian was raised into the status of a minor basilica. The following year, on August 15, 1891, the all-steel church of San Sebastian was inaugurated and blessed.  The interior of the church display groined vaults.  Styled along neo-Gothic lines, the steel parts of columns, walls and ceiling were painted to resemble marble and jasper by Filipino artist Lorenzo Rocha and his students.  True to the Gothic revival spirit of the church are its confessionals, pulpit and altars as designed by Filipino artist Lorenzo Guerrero.  He with fellow artist Eulogio Garcia carved the statues of holy men and women.  Trompe l'oeil paintings was used to decorate the interiors of the church. 

The Church of San Sebastian is a reflection of the late 19th century innovations in architecture, art and construction.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Church of San Sebastian is a declared National Historical Landmark per Presidential Decree No. 260.  State funding was accorded to the church through the National Historical Institute which undertook restoration of the church since 1982.  The Recollect community has likewise expended funds for the church's maintenance and restoration.   In addition, the church was listed among the 1998 World's Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Watch.

Comparison with other similar properties

There is no other example of a prefabricated all-steel church in the Philippines and in Asia.  It is the only known all-steel basilica in this part of the world.