Plaza Roma, Intramuros
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The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, officially known as the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and informally as Manila Cathedral, is a prominent Latin Rite Roman Catholic basilica located in Manila, Philippines, honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Principal Patroness of the Philippines.
Located in the Intramuros district of Manila, it was originally a parish church owned and governed by the diocese of Mexico in 1571, until it became a separate diocese on February 6, 1579 upon the issuance of a Papal bull by Pope Gregory XIII.
The cathedral serves both as the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and highest seat of the archbishop in the country. The cathedral was damaged and destroyed several times since the original cathedral was built in 1581. The eighth and current incarnation of the cathedral was completed in 1958.
The Basilica has merited three Papal endorsements and two Apostolic visits from Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Paul VI and Blessed Pope John Paul II, who through the papal bull Quod Ipsum declared the cathedral a minor Basilica by his own Motu Proprio on April 27, 1981.
The current-elect for the Apostolic Papal Nuncio of the Philippines is Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto. The cathedral serves as the highest seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Philippines, while the present Archpriest of the Basilica-Cathedral is Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, the de facto Primate of the Philippines.
The cathedral originally started as the Church of Manila and was officially established in 1571 by secular Juan de Vivero. De Vivero, the chaplain on the galleon of San Geronimo, was sent by the Archbishop of Mexico to establish spiritual and religious administraion in newly-colonized Philippines.
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the conquistador of the city, chose the location of the church and placed under the patronage of Santa Potenciana. The first parish priest of the church was Padre Juan de Villanueva.
When the church was raised into a cathedral in 1579, a new structure made from nipa, wood and bamboo was constructed in 1581 by Bishop Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop of Manila. The new structure was consecrated on December 21, 1581 formally becoming a cathedral. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1583, which started during the funeral mass for Governor-General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa in San Agustin Church that razed much of the city.
The second cathedral, which was made of stone, was built in 1592. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1600. Construction of the third cathedral began in 1614. The new structure, consisting of three naves and seven chapels, was blessed in 1614. It was toppled by another earthquake which shook Manila in 1645. The magnificent fourth cathedral was constructed from 1654 to 1671.
It was severely damaged in 1863 by a very strong earthquake that also damaged the Palace of the Governor General of the Philippines. In 1880, another earthquake toppled its bell tower, rendering the cathedral towerless until 1958. The seventh cathedral was constructed from 1870–1879. It was solemnly blessed in December of 1879. The cross atop the central dome is a reference point of astronomical longitudes of the archipelago. This incarnation of the cathedral was reduced to rubble by the bombing in 1945 during the Battle of Manila.
The present cathedral was constructed from 1954 to 1958 during the tenure of Manila Archbishop Rufino Jiao Cardinal Santos, and under the supervision of renowned Filipino architect Fernando H. Ocampo.
In 1937, the International Eucharistic Congress was held in the Philippines where the cathedral played an integral part in promoting Eucharistic beliefs. Both a cathedral stamp and medal was struck in commemoration of the event, and was made by the official manufacturer of medals for the Congress of the Philippines at the time, sculptor Crispulo Zamora.
In 1970, Pope Paul VI made an Apostolic visit and celebrated mass in the cathedral. Blessed Pope John Paul II issued a papal bull Quod Ipsum on April 27, 1981 elevating the shrine to a Minor Basilica through his own Motu Proprio. The papal bull was co-signed and attested by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. In the same papal bull, Blessed Pope John Paul II reiterated that the papal decree of June 6, 1968 from Pope Paul VI be eternally preserved and enforced to the merits and titles of the cathedral as its own Basilica.
In 2008, the cathedral’s 50th restoration anniversary was celebrated highlighted by the second Manila Cathedral Pipe Organ Festival from December 2 to 10, organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
In February 2011, the Archdiocese of Manila relocated the bells of the cathedral to the ground level to prevent tower collapse as exhibited in the past earthquakes. In January 2012, the cathedral replaced the bells, personally foundered by German blacksmith Friedrich Wilhelm Schilling from Heidelberg, Germany in 1958. According to the new marker installed by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the newly installed bells are the largest bells actively used in the Philippines. A total of seven Carillon bells were permanently installed in the ground level of the belfry weighing at 17 metric tons.
Presently, the Cathedral is closed for a period of approximately one year starting February 7. Such temporary closure of the Cathedral is for the repair of several structural defects which could endanger the building should a strong earthquake take place as well as surveys that show that the building rests on soft ground. The San Fernando de Dilao Parish Church in Paco, Manila is the temporary official church of the Archdiocese until the repairs of the Manila Cathedral are finished. – wikipedia.org