Manila Cathedral was founded in 1581, yet its current incarnation dates from as recently as 1958. During its rich history it has been destroyed by fire and earthquake, while bombing raids during the Second World War inflicted terrible damage. However, the building has risen from the ashes every time and is now one of the heritage highlights of the old city.
Before you step inside, take a look at the bronze panels on the main door to learn a little more about the cathedral’s changing fortunes, starting with the collapse of the original building in 1600. Pause to admire the neo-Romanesque façade with its carved saints and, just beneath the cross, the insignia of the papal keys and tiara, installed in 1981 to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II.
The cathedral’s richly decorated interior contains many interesting features, including one of the largest pipe organs in the Far East and some stunning stained glass. The main altar is adorned with an impressive gilded bronze statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Cast your eyes upwards to the dome, where eight pairs of windows feature yet more striking stained glass.
The side chapels off the main nave are filled with beautiful sacred paintings and sculptures as well as intricately decorated altarpieces. The Chapel of St Peter is particularly noted for its fine mosaic work, while the Chapel of the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Sacrament houses a celebrated bronze altar relief. Don’t miss the ornate marble pulpit and Episcopal throne, reminders of the cathedral’s rich architectural heritage. Before you leave, take a moment to breathe in the special atmosphere of this spiritual place which has triumphed over adversity time and time again.
Manila Cathedral is located in Intramuros, the old walled city. Take a taxi, or catch the light rail to Carriedo Station and hop on a jeepney for the short transfer. It is open daily and admission is free. Check the cathedral’s website for details of mass times and other events.