The Church of San Agustin (St Augustine), located within Intramuros, is the oldest standing church in the Philippines. Erected in 1607, it managed to survive eight major earthquakes in Manila over the course of three centuries, and was the only one out of eight churches in Intramuros to remain standing after World War II. In 1993, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with four other Philippine churches, under the collective title of “Baroque Churches of the Philippines.”
The church compounds, and its accompanying museum, are filled with religious artefacts from the 17th to the early 20th centuries – exquisite altarpieces, icons of Christ and other Catholic saints, and paintings of archbishops, saints and significant events in the ecclesiastical history of the Philippines. Touring the premises, I couldn’t help feeling like I was lost in the cloisters of a 17th century Franciscan monastery in Europe. It was a strange feeling of being out-of-place, or rather, out-of-time.
In this gallery, some of the photos have been deliberately over-exposed, to suggest Divine Light – Luz Divina – illuminating the chambers and hallways of the Church, and enveloping the saints and icons, wracked with religious passion. Unfortunately, the museum was rather poorly labeled, and so one had to be satisfied with only admiring, and not understanding, much of the beauty and agony on display.
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