THE SEVENTH CATHEDRAL: 1879-1945
On April 13, 1870, Governor Carlos Maria de la Torre issued a directive
giving the necessary authorization to begin the leveling of the cathedral ruins
and empowering the eccelesiastical governor, Mateo Yague y Mateos, in the absence
of Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez who was attending the Concilia Vaticano
in Rome, to designate the Arquitecto de la Administracion Local, Don
Luciano Oliver, to be the dor director of works for the cathedral
reconstruction. Yague was also authorized to arbitrate for the necessary funds
for the project, to send out circulars calling on those who would want to donate
and to open a subscription from persons willing to support the monthly salaries
of workers to be hired in the cleaning and clearing of the ruins and in the
On April 18, 1870 , during solemn rites in the Church of Santo Domingo ,
an eloquent discourse on the cathedral brought out the desired reaction from
the faithful who pledged to pay for the daily wages of the laborers employed
in the reconstruction. In the morning of the following day, April 19, work
on the leveling of the ruined cathedral commenced. Present to witness the first
phase of the cathedral project were Governor de la Torre, Yague y Mateos, cathedral
canons, the parish priest of San Pedro ( Makati ), Luciano Oliver, government
officials, and other guests.
For the proper disposal of the debris, Yague coordinated with the Cuerpo
de Yngenieros which decided to dump the debris in the site of the fortification
called El Pastel, of Santa Lucia, and in several points of the beach
within the military zone of Manila. For such work, Yague requested for 30 carritones to
be available on hand at the gates of Santa Lucia and Postigo to carry the
rubble, and another additional 20 more at a site which the governor general
pleased. Among the cathedral rubble were human remains and relics which were
separated and turned over to the Archbishop’s palace upon Oliver’s
discretion. Among such relics were the mortal remains of Simon de Anda, gallant
hero during the British invasion and occupation of Manila .
The clearing of debris and rubble lasted for 56 days at a total cost of 3,000
pesos. After this, Don Luciano Oliver presented his proposed plan for the cathedral.
Oliver was chosen primarily because he was considered to be the best architect
around, with his record of twenty-two years of designing and building structures
in the colony, among which were the churches of Taal, Tayabas, Malolos, Navotas,
Caloocan, and Malate, and other houses which he built to especially withstand
On June 15, 1870 , Governor de la Torre issued an ordinance creating the Junta
Consultativa para los Restauraciones de las Yglesias or Consultative
Committee for the Restoration of Churches. Formed specifically to restore
Intramuros churches, the committee would assist in the restoration of the
Manila Cathedral. The Junta had the governor general for its president, the
dean of the cathedral for vice president, and the penitenciario,
magistral, doctoral, a racionero, and a secretary as members.
The Inspection General de Obras Publicas also proposed to the governor general
the creation of a facultative commission, as ordered by the Royal Orders of
August 10 and October 19, 1863, that will take charge of the reconstruction
of buildings destroyed by the earthquake. It was composed of Luciano Oliver
as head with two others as members. Its aim was to meet with the ecclesiastical
governor and obtain from him the program of the cathedral regarding the necessary
requirements for the new edifice; to assess and examine the cathedral and determine
which areas needed to be demolished and preserved; and to propose the most
scientific, artistic, and economical method of construction best suitable for
the reconstruction. The committee fulfilled its objectives but Oliver was not
able to make a proper project presentation for some reasons. Since the Inspeccion
General de Obras Publicas could not give its stamp of approval without
any formal project proposal, it proposed on March 8, 1871 , to suspend all
works on the cathedral. The suspension took effect on May 26, 1871 by virtue
of Royal Order No. 396.
On July 29, 1871 , Governor General Rafael Izquierdo ordered for a reassessment
of the works executed in the cathedral and to determine which could be completed,
so that in a span of two months, the cathedral could be protected from the
coming rainy season, until such time the formal project proposal could be approved
and reconstruction work could commence again. However, Don Luciano Oliver could
not continue to work on the project, and on October 3, 1871 , he renounced
his position as director.
Restoration under Archbishop Meliton Martinez
With the arrival from Rome of Archbishop Meliton Martinez, membership of
the Junta or the cathedral restoration committee was modified by the Superior
Decree of September 12, 1871 . The new members would be composed of the entire Cabildo under
the presidency of the archbishop.
The Junta met to elect and assign a new architect for the project. On October
23, 1871 , Don Vicente Serrano y Salaverri was named officially as the new
director of the project. On April 20, 1872 , Serrano presented the memoria
y planos, proposal and plans, of the reconstruction project. In the said
proposal, modifications were made in the buttresses and framework of the roof.
The same, with some modification by the Junta Consultativa de Obras Publicas,
was approved by virtue of the Royal Order of August 6, 1872 .
The following were the modifications in Serrano’s proposal. Instead
of the iron columns specified by Serrano, columns of molave to be sheathed
with iron would be used. The zocalos of granite stone would be replaced
by zocalos of Meycauayan stone. All other specifications made by Serrano
In May of 1873, the final plans for the project were elevated to the Minister
of Overseas with favorable recommendation from the Junta de Obras Publicas.
It was approved by the Spanish Academia de Nobles artes de San
Fernando and ultimately by the Supreme Government on December 13, 1873
by virtue of the Supreme Order No. 1686. Construction of the new cathedral
commenced immediately thereafter.
Construction under Archbishop Payo
Archbishop Pedro Payo worked with so much zeal and tireless activity for
the cathedral so that he was able to obtain easily the necessary funds required
to complete the structure. He even donated part of his own wealth to several
works in the Manila Cathedral among which were the construction of the main
altar, the image of the Immaculate Conception, the organ, and the reboque and
painting of the bell tower.
Failing health forced Serrano to resign from his job as director of the cathedral
reconstruction, so that he was replaced on October 31, 1873 by Eduardo Lopez
Navarro, who was chief engineer of roads, canals, and ports in the colony.
Serrano died a short while after Navarro replaced him. Engineer Navarro continued
to direct the work until April 10, 1878 when he had to leave for Spain to recover
his health. Taking over from Navarro was Manuel Ramirez y Bazan, who was inspector
general of public works, and who was assisted by Ramon Hermosa. Navarro and
Ramirez did not change Serrano’s design. They retained the basic essence
and architectural character of the cathedral as planned and envisioned by Serrano.
The new Manila Cathedral was inaugurated during a two-day festivity with
solemn rites. On December 7, 1879 , the Manila Cathedral was blessed and consecrated
by Archbishop Payo. He blessed the exterior and interior of the cathedral.
Afterwards, the relics of two martyrs, San Victor and San Lorenzo , were brought
to be kept in the cathedral’s Chapel of St. Peter. Then, the first mass
to be celebrated in the new cathedral was officiated by the Bishop of Jaro.
The following day, feast of the Immaculate Conception, titular patroness of
the Archdiocese of Manila, saw the formal opening of the cathedral. Much revelry
and merrymaking, with fireworks and music, accompanied the feastday and the
cathedral’s inauguration, sixteen years after it was destroyed by the
Serrano’s Legacy – The 1879 Manila Catehdral
The cathedral rose once again to become the city’s premier temple.
The Revival Styles, which swept the circles of art and architecture in Europe
, made its impact in the Manila Cathedral when Architect Serrano employed a
style dentro del mismo estilo romano bizantino pero
con mas gusto Oriental como satisfaccion a las exigencias
de lugar —after the Romanesque-Byzantine style but with more oriental
flavor satisfying the exigencies of the site. What evolved was an eclecticism
combining and reviving the two styles, with much influence too from the Renaissance.
The cathedral had the three main portals with receding arches and a giant
rose window over it. In the main façade were large statues of the four
evangelists, while sculptured figures of saints Peter and Paul graced the cornice
above the main portal. Angels with a cross cap the cornice of the uppermost
level of the cathedral’s main façade. Antefixae adorned the cornices
while the roof ridge was ornamented with delicate wrought iron railing. A dome
raised on a fenestrated drum marked the nave and transept crossing of the cathedral.
Finials with pineapple motifs found their way as ornaments in the façade
The cathedral was cruciform in plan, with a central nave and two collateral
ones. Arcaded colonnades separated the central nave from the other tow. It
had a raised main altar, a semi-circular apse, and transept ends which follow
the same semi-circular pattern. At the epistle side of the main altar was a
rectangular room with a hemispherical ceiling assigned to be the Chapel of
St. Peter. Two other large chapels, which belonged to the Parroquia de
Intramuros or what had been the Parroquia del Sagrario were connected
to the nave by the same ceiling. Although highly modified, these areas were
parts of the old cathedral which had been preserved. The new plan of the cathedral
did not deviate much from the plan of the previous one in terms of distribution
Major access ways to the cathedral were nine: three in the façade,
one at each lateral side, one at each transept end, and two in the apse. Four
minor entrances, which were those leading to the Chapel of St. Peter and the
other auxiliary areas of the cathedral, made up a total of thirteen entrances
to the structure.
The interior of the cathedral was richly ornamented, with gildings, sculptures,
and frescoes. The Italian artist Giovanni Dibella executed the paintings in
the nave and dome. The study of the four evangelists painted in the dome were
by the director of the Academia del Dibuhos, Señor Agustin Saez and
executed by Dibella. The paintings in the chapels were done by native artists.
Illuminating the nave were tall clerestory windows with their stained glass
panes providing a rich and colorful luminosity in the cathedral. The side chapels
were illuminated by large ojos de buey or ox-eye windows.
The church had a spacious and raised nave, with the choir area located at
the center of the nave. The nave columns and pilasters were tall and slender
and raised on granite bases. The arches were majestic and highly ornamented.
Its elevated dome was raised on an octagonal drum, each face of which had three
The choir had benches and a finely wrought railing. Six seats of honor under
the baldachino were imported from Paris , while the rest of molave
were sculpted by the famous Manila artist Isabelo Tampingco who also did some
of the ornamental details in the church like the wooden capitals of the nave
The image of the Immaculate Conception, which was a copy of the Spanish painter
Bartolome Esteban Murillo’s work, was executed in Manila by Señor
Juan Sales, a Filipino.
The main altar had a lovely marble table and was raised by a series of steps
made from the same material. Both were the works of Rodoreda.
The building materials used for the cathedral were varied. Granite was used
for bases, walks, pavements, and steps. Meycauayan stone was used for the exterior
walls while volcanic stones from Guadalupe were utilized for the interiors.
Bricks were used for the upper level of the main façade and for the
arches. Iron was used for wrought and consolidation works. Galvanized iron
found their way in the roofs over the nave and apse. Red copper plates covered
the dome. Gutters were of lead and ornamental crests were of zinc. Mortar used
for the building was reinforced with Portland cement. Native hardwood, like
molave, were also used for structural framework.
The Secularization Issue and the Execution of Gomburza
The Manila Cathedral was witness to the movement to Filipinize parishes and
to the tragic aftermath of its persecution. The issue of secularization in
the Philippines had long been a source of conflict among the religious regulars
and church seculars. Among those who advocated strongly for the rights of the
secular clergy were Fathers Pedro Pelaez of the Manila Cathedral and Mariano
Gomez of Cavite .
Archbishop Meliton Martinez, bothered by the unrest among the seculars over
the usurpation of the parishes by the regulars, wrote in 1870 to Marshal Francisco
Serrano, who was regent of Spain , reporting:
“The tranquility of his diocese…was frequently disturbed as
a result of the practice…of turning over curacies administered by
the secular clergy to the religious corporations. This policy is the cause
of ever growing enmity which is becoming more and more manifest between
seculars and regulars, and which sooner or later, may bring lamentable
results to our beloved Spain .”
A few years later, on January 20, 1872 , a mutiny broke out at the Cavite
Arsenal over the unreasonable deductions in the salaries of the arsenal workers
due to Gov. Gen. Izquierdo’s new tax imposition. Sympathizers for the
workers mutineed that night causing the death of Sgt. La Madrid , the mutiny
leader, and the fort commander whose wife was also injured.
The Spanish authorities used this incident as an excuse to implicate those
who were advocating religious reforms by connecting them to a separatist conspiracy.
Thus, the government arrested Fr. Gomez, along with the outspoken advocate
of secularization, Fr. Jose Burgos, a young doctor of canon law, and Fr. Jacinto
Zamora. They were healed to a one-sided trial and publicly executed by mechanical
strangulation at Bagumbayan on February 17, 1872 .
Archbishop Meliton Martinez privately sympathized with the struggle of the
Filipino clergy. Although he threatened the three priests with excommunication
in his pastoral letter, he refused to defrock them as requested by the governor
general. Instead he even ordered the tolling of the bells of the churches of
manila as a funeral dirge for the three martyr priests whom he saw as mere
scapegoats against the rising tide of Filipino nationalism.
In keeping with the treatment of the enemies of the state, the corpses of
the three Filipino priests were clandestinely taken to the Paco cemetery and
were dumped in a common unmarked grave.
The Earthquake of 1880
In 1880, the cathedral fell victim again to another earthquake. Its bell
tower which survived the 1863 earthquake crumbled to the ground and a makeshift
one of wood replaced it. the dome underwent repairs after this incident. However,
the cathedral would remain without a bell tower for many eyras, in spite of
plans and proposals to have it restored, until its merciless destruction by
war in the middle of the twentieth century.
The Late 19 th Century
The closing of the nineteenth century were turbulent ones, not only for the
Church but also for the entire colony. The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and
the Filipino-American War, 1898-1902, saw the transition of colonial power
from Spain to the United States . During these periods, Archbishop Bernardino
Nozaleda opened the cathedral doors to the Spanish soldiers who sought refuge
from the enemy and to the invading American troops who converted it in 1898
into a hospital for wounded American soldiers.
The Catholic Church would experience trials again with the shift in colonial
power. The Cathedral of Manila witnessed the transfer of leadership of the
archdiocese to the American secular clergy. Despite the strong foothold that
Protestantism and the Aglipayan Church gained during the early years of the
twentieth century, the Catholic Church would remain steadfast and strong as
the Archdiocese of Manila had been.
The First Half of the 20 th Century
As the twentieth century unfolded, a whole new ear dawned for the Archdiocese
and Cathedral of Manila. The few years of this century saw the last Spanish
prelate of Manila Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda holding on to the reins of
the Catholic hierarchy. Associated with the told and detested system of frailocracy
in Spanish colonial Philippines , Nozaleda easily earned the reputation as
one of the most unpopular archbishops in the history of the colony. The Philippine
Revolution marked the reversal of fortune for Spain and the religious who were
portrayed and considered by not only a few as the villain in the colony’s
history of servitude, abuse, and oppression.
During this period the secular clergy gained possession of the parishes which
were once the domain of the regulars. It was the time when the delicate issue
of friar lands became a ground for debate. It witnessed the rift and final
schism between Gregorio Aglipay, a secular priest and vicar-general in the
Philippine revolutionary army of Emilio Aguinaldo, and the Catholic Church.
The Union Obrero Democratica of Isabelo de los Reyes, a famous propagandist
and labor leader, proclaimed the creation of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in
August of 1902 when their clamor to oust all the Spanish friars from the country
and their desire to organize a new nationalist and patriotic Church composed
of Filipinos, but still under the authority of the Pope, were denied by the
Vatican. Aglipay accepted the leadership of the newly created Church as Obispo
maximo. Catholic morale was at its lowest when the tide of Protestantism
unrestrictedly washed through and seeped through the colony with the coming
of the Americans, as part of their concepts of Manifest Destiny and Benevolent
With the end of Nozaleda’s term as prelate of the See of Manila in
1903, the American secular Jeremias Harty took over the administration of the
Manila archdiocese’s Catholic faithful, signifying an end to Spanish
dominion in the Catholic Church. Harty successfully consolidated and strengthened
the church during these troubled years. He was responsible for convoking the
Second Synod of Manila in 1911 which summarized and tabulated past Episcopal
decrees and statues. He was succeeded by Michael J. O’Doherty in 1916.
Archbishop O’Doherty contributed in freeing the Archdiocese of Manila
and the whole nation from 300 years of Spanish Catholic conservatism and in
supporting the rise in leadership of the secular clergy under the Americans
and the emerging Filipino leaders like Manuel L. Quezon. In 1925, he convoked
the Third Synod of Manila which brought archdiocesan legislation in line with
canon law. He strengthened and improved the facilities of the Seminary of San
Carlos, introduced the use of English in Catholic schools, supported the establishment
of welfare groups, like the Welfareville Boys’ and Girls’ Towns
in Mandaluyong, and issued Catholic publications – all well-meaning efforts
to make the Catholic Church closer to the people and attune it with the times.
In time, the Catholic Church gained strong roots again, weathering the criticisms
hurled against it by American Protestant proselytizers, still retaining its
position as the dominant religion in the islands.
The Manila Cathedral underwent minor repairs and alterations during the first
decades of the twentieth century prior to its cruel destruction during the
Battle of Liberation in 1945. Although in 1915, Archbishop Jeremias Harty made
slight repairs to bring back the cathedral to its former glory before the Philippine
Revolution and the Filipino-American War, Serrano’s design was not changed.
Thus, the 1879 cathedral survived until the Second World War, with its basic
forms and features preserved and only slightly altered.
In the Manila Cathedral were held important religious ceremonies to celebrate
the coronation of the Popes and their demise. In 1907, a significant celebration
was held to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Proclamation of the Dogma
of the Immaculate Conception, an important event for the cathedral under whose
titular patronage it was. Special rites were also performed in the cathedral
to observe the First national Eucharistic congress held on December 11-15,
1929 and the 33 rd International Eucharistic Congress held on February 3-7,
1937 . The cathedral also witnessed the Te Deum for the safe arrival of Calvo
and Arnaiz, the first Spanish aviators who flew from Spain to Manila . A solemn
Te Deum and a special mass to mark the occasion of the inauguration of the
Philippine Commonweath in 1935 were held in the Manila Cathedral.
Manila Cathedral Prior to World War II
During the period before World War II, the Cathedral was described to be
a lovely church replete with ornaments, furniture, statues, and images of remarkable
antiquity and beauty. It had several chapels dedicated to St. Joseph , Our
Lady of Sorrows, St. Peter, Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mercy, St. John Nepomuceno,
and Our Lady of Guidance. This latter chapel was also known as the Parroquia
del Sagrario, the chapel which served as the parish church of Intramuros
and home of the image of Nuestra Señora de Guia before her
transfer to Ermita Church . The Cathedral also sheltered the Virgin of Antipolo
in 1647, for a period of time, some years after the church was sacked and burned
down during the Chinese revolt in 1639, until her eventual installation again
in Antipolo Church . It was in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows that the offices
for the dead were sometimes performed and where, in a niche, the remains of
Msgr. Giovanni Battista Guidi, apostolic delegate during the American Occupation,
In the sacristy were hung old paintings of the different archbishops of Manila
. In there were kept rich vestments and old wooden chests, consoles, and bureaus.
Enormous choir books of great antiquity could be found among the reliquaries
and wardrobes in the sacristy. Among the exquisite paintings in the cathedral
were those of The Baptism of Our Lord, St. Anthony of Padua , and The Crucifixion.
The main altar was graced by the statue of the Immaculate Conception, after
Murillo’s painting, with the ceiling above it painted to simulate the
sky dotted with many faces of cherubs. Surrounding this high altar, in a frieze-like
band were the heads of the apostles. While in the transept areas were the kings,
prophets, and patriarchs. The clustered columns in the nave had beautifully
gilded capitals. The dome, which had an anterior balcony, was raised on a drum,
with pendentives, painted with frescoes of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John.
At the back of the main altar were interred the remains of Simon de Anda,
while behind it in a mausoleum were those of Archbishops Jose Aranguren and
From its humble conception as a small parish church, the Manila Cathedral
grew and metamorphosed to be a significant force in the affairs of the archdiocese
and the Church. Its history shows that it has been a survivor of time and nature’s
devastations, and the labor of love of its different archbishops and the countless
faithful of the archdiocese. After World War II and its destruction, the Cathedral
would rise again, as it has always done in its colorful past, stronger and
better, a shining torch of the Faith, not only of the archdiocese of the whole