It’s a composition that is postcard-perfect: a religious architectural marvel as a vantage point for majestic Mayon Volcano. It’s a vista that is sure to take your breath away. This is the Church of the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria also called Our Lady of the Gate but more commonly known as Daraga Church. We beheld its beauty when we went to Bicol in 2014. After breakfast at the homegrown Bigg’s Diner restaurant, we made a steep climb on a road until we reached the top of a hill where the church was perched.
History of Daraga Church
The Church was constructed in the late 1700s by Franciscan missionaries in the old barrio of Daraga, then part of Cagsawa. Daraga became a municipality when the old town of Cagsawa was destroyed by the devastating eruption of Mayon Volcano during the early 1800s. The survivors of the eruption sought refuge in Daraga which has since then grown to be a first-class municipality that is a center of trade and business.
Daraga Church’s architectural style is touted as distinctive among local churches because it features a blend of three design influences: Renaissance, Gothic and Mexican baroque. Its façade, carved out of volcanic stone, features four spiral columns with medallions bearing images of the four Evangelists, Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The elaborately-engraved façade also contains images of Our Lady of the Gate, Franciscan saints, and the coat of arms of the Franciscan order, among others. Meanwhile, the multi-tiered belfry has an octagonal base, and sides that feature the images of the 12 Apostles. As can be expected, volcanic stone is the primary material used to build Daraga Church.
Daraga Church was used as headquarters by Japanese soldiers during World War II in 1945. Severely damaged because of the war, it was restored from 1971 to 1972.
The Church is a National Cultural Treasure as declared by the National Museum. A historical marker officially confirms the Church’s status as a historical and cultural landmark.
Daraga Church was named in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria or Our Lady of the Gate, the title given to the Virgin Mary because of her intervention which allowed mankind to enter the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.
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