3 surprises at the twin belfries of Carcar church

Carcar Church belfry

The twin belfries of Carcar Church can be said as it's defining feature which is capped with minaret like domes.

Carcar Church is only one of three religious structures in Cebu that incorporates Muslim architectural features. The other two are the Basilica del Sto. Nino and Naga Church and were all built by the Augustinians. The minaret like domes capping the twin belfries of the facade is it’s defining feature though it is also paralleled, to some extent, by the one in Naga. Not many people have gone up these parts but for the curious, going through the narrow stone steps from the choirloft are in for a delightful surprise. Make that three surprises!

1 An old bell cast in 1810
Coming out from the dark and damp passageway into the right belfry, one is greeted by three bells of which the middle one suspended by ropes and vine stems is the biggest. Here, you will meet face to face with probably the oldest bell, with inscribed date of 1810 that predates this church (construction started in 1860); and the latest, cast in 1929.

2 An old mechanical clock
At the left are steps that leads out to the pediment where you will find the mechanical clock that is housed inside a covered space. This might still be the original one and is similar to what I have seen installed in Dalaguete (Cebu), Jimenez (Misamis Occidental) and Tayabas (Quezon) churches. Below this contraption, is a deep pit where the extended wire band of the clock hangs. By the way, I’m not sure what the correct term is.

The photos used in this series were taken between 2005 and 2008 as the author visits this church from time to time. Special thanx to Lorens Gibb Lapinid for the assistance in 2008.To reach the other belfry, one has to go down to the choirloft and follow the opposite passageway as the entry way at the side of the pediment has been blocked with coral stones. Going up to the left belfry, is the third surprise.

3 A pair of “bell hammers”
There are two bells in the left belfry and both were cast in 1880 and 1882 at the foundries of F. Pujades and Hilario Sunico, respectively. The latter has the most detailed inscriptions (below). What really surprised me here is the presence of a pedestal carrying a pair of “bell hammers.” Rusting and no longer in use, this is the second time I’ve seen this one, the other is in the ruined church of San Pablo in Isabela.

There you have it, the three surprises of the Carcar Church belfry.

Some observations:

  • the dome of the belfries are made of bricks, just like in Talisay
  • thinking out loud, can it be possible that the minaret like domes might have been used as a ruse for Muslim slave raiders? But 1860 – 1875 already saw peaceful seas with the raiders already suppressed
  • I was impressed with the detail of the minaret like dome
  • the belfries and pediment provides an impressive view of the town as well as the sea
  • like many belfries across the country, graffitti is present

With this done, we are now ready to go inside the church.


  1. Hi, Estan!
    Surprising indeed!
    I am happy that there are still lots of century-old churches to be explored here in our country. Graffiti found in this structures gave me sad thoughts…
    I am very much absorbed by this “walkthrough”. I was virtually with you during the tour.
    By the way, is the clock still in working condition?

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  3. Hilario Sunico’s works is scattered all over the island, I’m not sure if there are documents that list his bells. I’ve tried to look for them but so far failed. You’re documentation together with your wonderful photographs gives basis to the historical importance of Philippine churches in creating the foundations of this country.

    Sunico was the basis of Jose Rizal’s character “Capitan Tiago”, who was not only a wealthy businessman he also became the town leader of his town and was known for his close association with the Church because of his trade. His old fundry shop use to stand in Calle Jaboneros. His original house is in Calle Lavazares, Sn Nicolas Manila. It still stands to this day.

  4. nald, thank you very much for this bit of information regarding Hilario Sunico! I didn’t really know that he made it to Rizal’s book. Bells are also quite interesting for me. If there are no documents about his works, RTJ’s supposed work is still not coming, why, we should continue documenting it 🙂

    By the way, maybe we can have a trip to San Nicolas one day?

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  6. the house of hilario sunico is located at camba corner lara streets in sna nicolas in the western part of binondo. it is not in lavazares as arnaldo mentioned. during his time hilario was appointed kapitan chino of binondo. his closeness to the friars was becuase his main business is in casting bells that adorned centuries old churches in the country. rizal made him as the basis of his character kapitan tiyago in the noli because he and rizal were nieghbors in binondo.

  7. Hilario Sunico is the country’s renowned bellcaster during the 1800s. So that makes him a hisotrical figure. Despite of his percieved closeness with the friars and the Spanish authorities, Hilario contributed funds to the revolution against Spain.

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  10. I would’ve said that the belfries are rather more like Russian Orthodox “minarets” than Islamic ones. Just a thought!

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