San Agustin’s richly carved exterior portals

sanagustindoor3.jpg Just before one enters San Agustin, one is already introduced to the massive and richly carved portal bearing the symbols of the Augustinian order as well as the carvings of the order’s founder and his mother. It awes. Its rocaille embellishments, said to be a characteristic of Rococo, a successor to the Baroque style, are highly stylized forms of leaves, rocks and shells.

It is said to be made during the mid-17th century owing to its Rococo style. This portal is 20 feet high by 16 feet wide. One of the reasons for this massiveness is that carriages or carrozas, pass here during processions. Unlike other churches, this and the one found at the side along General Luna St. has no postern or postigo, a smaller door within this portal that accommodates persons passing through.

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Details of the main door includes familiar Augustinian symbols: left, Saint Augustine; middle left, a close up of view of St. Monica, the mother of the saint; middle right, the bishops mitre and right, the pierced heart. These motifs can also be seen in the church doors in Hagonoy and Angat in Bulacan.

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At the side of the church is another well carved but smaller portal. The motif are almost the same except for the saints that are carved on the lower part: middle, St. Rita of Cascia holding a skull and right, St. Nicolas Tolentine. Galende wrote that the last memorable time that these doors were opened was on February 1945 when Japanese soldiers let out 3,000 hostages. Before the war, newly weds are said to exit the church to their waiting car at this door.

sanagustindoor1.jpg During World War II, the occupying Japanese soldiers sawed off the lower right portion of the main door (archival photo at left taken shortly after the end of WWII showing American soldiers hearing mass outside the church) where they stood guard and gunned down whoever passes the patio. Now, one can still see the cut (circled in red) but can easily be missed if not seen closer.

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