Pre-war visita iglesia in Intramuros

visitaiglesia.gif This is a series on the different churches in various areas in the country devoted to the much observed Filipino Catholic Lenten tradition of the Visita Iglesia.

For purposes of this post, I am featuring the seven major churches of the different religious Orders in Intramuros that existed before WWII. After the war, all but San Agustin was left standing. The Manila Cathedral was rebuilt but the rest never rose again when the Orders abandoned there lots and relocated to other parts of Metro Manila.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church

1 Testament to its solidity and strength of structure, it was only San Agustin that was left standing in the aftermath of World War II.

Considered the Mother of all Churches, construction started in 1587 and was finished in 1607. It is the mother church of the Augustinians.

A more detailed treatment of this church, contained in 24 posts can be found by clicking on the San Agustin tag. You can also go to the start of these posts here.

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral

2 Where else can you find a city in the world where its cathedral was built on the same site seven times?

From its beginnings in the 16th century made of light materials to lofty structures over the centuries destroyed by typhoons, a fire, earthquakes and the last world war, the Manila Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Manila (Secular) is like a phoenix that has many times risen from its ashes. The current structure was rebuilt in 1958.

Sto. Domingo Church

Sto. Domingo Church

3 The Sto. Domingo Church was the fifth to be built on the same site after the fourth was destroyed by the 1863 earthquake, including the Manila Cathedral. Its in the Neo-Gothic/Gothic Revival style and is said to be a literal imitation of the facade of the York Cathedral in England (13th and 14th centuries). It also has one of the beautiful carved main church portal in the country.

The famous image of the Nuestra Senora del Rosario or what is popularly known as the La Naval de Manila is venerated in this church, so named because of the miraculous aide that the Blessed Virgin Mary extended to the Spanish fleet who was victorious over the Dutch in the 17th century. After the war, the Dominicans relocated in Quezon City along Quezon Avenue where the current Sto. Domingo church now stands. The current lot is now occupied by a bank (BPI).

Left, San Francisco Church; right, Chapel of VOT

Franciscan Church

4 The Franciscans occupied this site as early as 1577 and dedicated the Franciscan Church to the Nuestra Senora de los Angeles. Perpendicular to it, the Chapel of the Venerable Orden Tercera (VOT or the Venerable Third Order, right).

The Franciscans relocated in Quezon City while the VOT relocated in Sampaloc. The current lot is now occupied by Mapua Institute of Technology.

Recollect Church

Augustinian Recollects’s Church

5 The pre-war Church and Convent of San Nicolas Tolentino, built in 1881, was the third church to be built by the Recollects on the same site. The second was destroyed in the earthquake of 1863. It has a five tiered belltower and elaborately carved facade.

The Recollects relocated to San Sebastian in Quiapo and the current lot was bought in 1976 by the Manila Bulletin where it built its offices and printing plant.

San Ignacio Church

Right, ruins of the church built before their expulsion; left, new church when they returned to the country

6 The Jesuits before their expulsion in 1768 had their first San Ignacio Church of what is now the location of the Pamantasan Lungsod ng Maynila.

In 1859, they returned to the country but it was only in 1878 that the last San Ignacio Church was started. It was finished in 1889. Done in the Neo-Classical style, it had two flanking towers and an impressive interior done by Filipino artisans. The woodwork done by Isabelo Tampinco is considered to be the height of woodcarving ever achieved in the country. Unfortunately, it was burned by the Japanese during World War II.

The Jesuits relocated in Quezon City and what remained in its present site are the ruins of the church.

Lourdes Church

Franciscan Capucin Church

7 The Franciscan Capuchins were the last major religious Order to arrive in Intramuros in 1886 and they constructed the Church and Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1891. The church was popular for weddings and first communions but during the war, it sustained heavy damage. Instead of rebuilding it, the Capuchin Fathers relocated in Quezon City.

The site is now occupied by the El Amanecer Building, a shop for arts and crafts.


  1. Pingback: Visita Iglesia: Seven Old Manila Churches | Simbahan

  2. Hi! We are currently doing an investigative research on Carlos P. Romulo’s life and I came across your very informative blog site. we wish to enlist your help re: churches. Would you know if there was ever a chapel/churn in Intramuros or Manila in 1898 called “Parroquia de la Sta. Iglesia Catedral?” Many thanks!

  3. Pingback: Visita iglesia: Bulacan, Manila, Cebu, Capiz » langyaw

  4. There is no such thing as Parroquia de la Sta Iglesia Catedral.
    You are referring to another chapel.

  5. The Chapel of Poor Claires, actually almost a church because of its dimensions,
    and VOT again not a chapel but almost a church and San Juan de Dios were
    also opened for Visita Iglesia.

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