Heritage Series: the all-steel San Sebastian Church

September 07, 2017

San Sebastian is perhaps one of the most unique and one of the most magnificent churches in the Philippines.

In the old district of Quiapo, Manila, San Sebastian Church stands tall and magnificent, as if it knows its prominence in history. The San Sebastian Church is an all-steel edifice, the only such church in the Philippines and one of the few structures in the world to be made almost entirely out of metal.

Façade of San Sebastian Church

Heritage Series: the all-steel San Sebastian Church

    Its neo-gothic architecture is also unique at the time when baroque structures were more favored during the Spanish colonial era of the Philippines. In every aspect, it is a work of art.

    Seeing San Sebastian Church for the first time

    I first saw San Sebastian Church when I went with a friend to witness the Traslacion or the procession of the Black Nazarene. I remember being in awe at that time. San Sebastian Church looked like it was transported right out of Europe. It was magnificent, the ceiling was high and the details of its design looked intricate.

    Side building of San Sebastian Church

    Fast forward to a few years later, I was back to San Sebastian Church because I accompanied Khris to claim her baptismal certificate, a requirement for our wedding. I was still in admiration of the church's architecture.

    History of San Sebastian Church

    The history of San Sebastian Church dares back as early as the year 1611 when older churches built by Recollect friars stood at the present site of San Sebastian Church. However, these were destroyed by fires and earthquakes subsequently in 1859, 1863, and 1880.

    Interior of San Sebastian Church

    In the 1880s, then parish priest Esteban Martinez approached Spanish architect Genaro Palacios to design a church that could withstand fire, earthquakes, and other natural calamities. The solution was to build an all-steel structure that can defy the elements as well as the test of time.

    San Sebastian Church altar

    In no time, pre-fabricated steel segments were manufactured in Belgium, shipped to the Philippines, and assembled by Belgian engineers. The stained glass windows, meanwhile, were ordered from Germany. The church was solemnly blessed on August 16, 1891.

    A religious statue inside San Sebastian Church

    San Sebastian Church was included as one of the National Shrines, Monuments, and/or Landmarks in President Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 260 in 1973 and a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines on August 15, 2011.

    How to go to San Sebastian Church

    To reach San Sebastian Church, we boarded a Quiapo-bound van and alighted at Morayta Street. From there, we walked all the way to San Sebastian Church.

    Alternatively, you can take LRT 1, alight at Central Station, and ride a jeepney bound for San Miguel, Quiapo. You may ask the jeepney driver to drop you off in front of San Sebastian Church.

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    1. Hi! Have you tried joining on their church heritage tour?

      1. Hello, not yet but I am interested to join a walking tour around old Manila. I believe it includes San Sebastian Church. But I have heard that there's a dedicated tour for San Sebastian Church alone.