Nuestra Señora dela Asuncion Church (Ilocos Sur)

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Santa Maria - Burgos Road
Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur
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Taken on October 2014

Taken on December 2006

17.366652°N 120.483168°E

The Santa Maria Church is a great attraction to both the traveler and the faithful in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. It is not only a reminiscent of the four centuries of Spanish domination of that area but also a unique structure with a diversified architectural design and built of heavy stones and mortar.

Like many of its sister churches in the Ilocos Region, the Santa Maria Church is of lesser proportion, flamboyant in scale and less stunning in the facade and expresses a tightness of space. It shows also a simplified and primitive form of architectural design.

The Church of Santa Maria is a reductable structure. In form and utility, it is built to resemble a travelin or fortin which usually form an important part of the stonewall fortresses used for the protection of the early Spanish settlements against enemy attacks. It was built on top of a hill not only as a look-out and breastwork but later as a religious center during the early administration of the region by both the friars and soldiers of Spain.

The influx of the settlers after the full conquest of the Ilocos Region by the Spaniards greatly increased the population of Santa Maria. Besides economic progress, evangelical missions were expanded. The town’s proximity to the interior settlements which were the targets of the earlier evangelical missionaries made Santa Maria as the center of both the religious and commercial activities. In 1567, Santa Maria was a mere visita of Narvacan; and independent ministry in 1760; and in 1767, it was once again a well- organized township. It had its own minister.

According to the legend, before the Santa Maria Church was built on its present site, the Virgin Mary was enshrined in a distant place, Bulala. It usually happened that the Virgin Mary disappeared from her place of enthronement only to be found perched on a guava tree that grew where the present chapel of the Santa Maria Church is located. This story is believed by many of the people which had led them to erect the church in its present site.

In 1810, a bell tower was built beside the church.

It was furnished a bell in 1811. After it was remodeled in 1863, its foundation must have gradually settled down making the imposing structure slightly leaning or tilting as it appears today.

Partly blocking the frontal view of the facade of Santa Maria Church is the convent. It is accessible from the Church by a structural bridge built over what might have been a deep channel or ditch. In the early days of the colonization, the convent was the seat of the ecclesiastical administration besides serving as a “ home or retreat house of the silvery haired or aged ministers of God upon their retirements or after coming from their arduous and hazardous evangelical labors in the hinterlands.

The builders of the Santa Maria Church must have conceived of making the church last for many years. The long 81 spaces in length and 16 meters in width.

The grand three flight stairway approaches the church doorway and two others behind the edifice- one along the space leading to the cemetery below and from the stairway that approaches the eastern side, a sweeping view of the plain and the town of Santa Maria is beheld. A narrow roadway leads up to the church door and used only by some very special church goers in their stylist vehicles.

A cemetery abandoned and evergreen with brush and weeds lies at the foot of the hill and connected with the church by an old and worn-out but impressive stairway now unused and all in ruins. It is perhaps the limitation of the space on top of the hill that brought about the constricted layout and construction of the Santa Maria Church.

The one-nave church, heavily reinforced by massive buttresses from the exterior is severely plain and the low side, its solidity is relieved only by the lateral buttresses, somehow break up the walls into regular sequence of alternating masses, creating a simple rhythmic movement. –


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