Standing Steel


Right in the heart of Manila, the Basilica Minore de San Sebastián commonly known as San Sebastian Church, the first and only all-steel church or basilica in Asia inaugurated on August 15, 1891. The 121-year-old church is located in the district of Quiapo, at Plaza del Cármen, at the eastern end of Claro M. Recto Avenue, west of Legarda Street and surrounded by old buildings and houses.

From LRT 2, inside the train, as it runs by, you simply can’t ignore it’s charm from a vantage.

Obviously, San Sebastian Church has a significantly unique style from other Roman Catholic Churches around Metro Manila, or in the Philippines. The Neo-Gothic Style for the church was done in 1883. The church was prefabricated in Belgium. It was shipped backed to the Philippines in six ships. It is said to weigh close to 50,000 tons. The church’s stained-glass windows were done in France.

 

GUSTAVE EIFFEL’S CONTRIBUTION

 

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, best known for his world famous Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 in Paris, France and and the steel structure within the Statue of Liberty in 1886, did the metal works for the first all-iron church in the world, the first iron edifice in Asia and the second in the world after Eiffle Tower.

Not known to many, not even apparently to the Recollect fathers who are its caretakers that the church was the handiwork of the famous builder. It was confirmed by Mr. Ambeth Ocampo, a historian. Eiffel had not designed the whole building but did design its metal structure, If you take a walk inside you can see Eiffel’s signature design.

 

Don Genaro Palacios, the Director of Public Works for the Spanish Insular government, the architect who recommended a new church be built of steel. The original wood building was burned down in 1651 and the following brick structures were destroyed by fires and earthquakes in 1859, 1863, and 1800. Within the church’s apple-green and white façade, flanked by massive spires, San Sebastian’s interior is faux-finished to simulate jasper and marble. Iconography painted by the Academy of Lorenzo Rocha, adorn its walls.

 

ENDANGERED TREASURE

In 1973, the San Sebastián Church is a declared National Historical Landmark per Presidential Decree No. 260. However, due to it’s location, the sea breeze from Manila Bay conveyed and rusting away San Sebastian Church, a major threat to its structural integrity. It was included in the Watch List of World Monuments Fund in 1998 and 2010 World’s Most Endangered Sites.

In May 2010, in New York, a fundraising event for the project and for the establishment of Bakás Pilipinas. In July 2011, the project received a $96,000 award from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the U.S. Department of State, to continue the major effort to carefully study and document the condition of this one-of-a-kind building.

 

Do you think San Sebastián Church is good enough to be included in the List for possible designation as a World Heritage Site? Comment below.