Manila Cathedral is recognized as the main Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Located in the Plaza de Roma, Intramuros, its official name is Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica and is the seat of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila.
When Catholicism arrived in the Philippines in 1521, it brought with it the western church architecture. One of the most significant and magnificent churches built during the Spanish colonization is the Manila Cathedral.
The first church was built in 1571 by a nonreligious priest named Juan de Vivero. The simple parish made of bamboo and nipa was known as the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate with La Purisima Immaculada Conception as the patron.
On December 21, 1581, Bishop Domingo Salazar converted the church into a cathedral, renovating the structure with nipa, bamboo, and wood. However, a typhoon came in 1582 and damaged the building. A year later, the cathedral was completely destroyed in a fire.
The second church was then built from 1591 to 1592. This time, the materials used were stones. Unfortunately, in 1600, an earthquake took place and caused total damage to the church. It was then restored and was finished in 1614. Seven years later, in 1621, another earthquake shook the site and weakened the structure of the church.
In late 1625, two strong earthquakes had completely destroyed the entire cathedral. The construction of the fourth church started in 1654 until 1751 under Archbishop de Poblete. Sadly, by the early 1700s, the building was not in good condition, so it was decided that another reconstruction needed to be done.
Juan de Uguccioni built the fifth cathedral which was again struck by another earthquake in 1862, damaging some parts of the edifice. And so the sixth cathedral was produced, replacing the baroque façade with a neoclassical one.
Unluckily, a massive earthquake occurred in 1863, destroying the cathedral and its nearby structures. In 1879, the new Manila Cathedral was inaugurated, but another quake happened in 1880, losing the bell tower. In 1945, the cathedral was again ruined due to bombings during the Battle of Manila. It was later reconstructed by Fernando Ocampo from 1954 to 1958 and was introduced in 1958.
If you’re taking public transportation, it’s best to ride LRT. From your stop, get off at Taft Station and then take another northbound train trip to Monumento. The LRT and the MRT are interlinked. Get off at Carriedo Station, then ride a jeepney in front of Santa Cruz Church bound to Pier and get off in front of Manila Cathedral.
Manila Cathedral is best visited during the dry season and pilgrimage season. It is open daily.