The San Diego Pro-Cathedral is the center of Roman Catholicism in Silay City, Negros Occidental. It draws not only the faithful but also tourists because it is the only church in the province that has a dome.
Also known as the Silay Pro-Cathedral, it is located at Rizal Street, across the city park. The church’s patron saint is San Diego de Alcala. Masses are held there everyday.
Prior to the construction of the pro-cathedral, the parish of Silay was built in 1776 using bamboo, cogon grass and nipa palm. Its first priest was Father Alejo Ignacio de Molinas, a Spaniard.
A more permanent structure made of stone and wood was constructed in 1841. Galvanized iron was used for the church’s roof. Further improvements were done but the church was left unfinished when the 1898 revolution broke out.
But in 1925, Don Jose Ledesma, a wealthy sugar baron from Silay, donated money to replace the old structure. The construction of the new church was completed in 1927.
Lucio Bernasconi, an Italian architect, was responsible for the design of the new structure. He took the magnificent churches in Italy as the inspiration for the Silay church, hence the architectural design of the structure is Romanesque in style.
The church’s layout follows the shape of a Latin cross, with a cupola or dome rising 40 meters above the cathedral’s central part. The dome design at the top of the nave is unique in the Philippines. Its dome structure is similar to Molo Church and Jaro Cathedral, both in Iloilo City.
Its pillars are of Corinthian design, while its façade has a rose window. The interior of the Silay Pro-Cathedral is a mix of modern and Romanesque designs with pews and pulpit preserved from the past. The church also sports Victorian flooring.
Silay Pro-Cathedral is the only pro-cathedral outside Metro Manila. It was elevated to a pro-cathedral status on December 25, 1994.
A pro-cathedral is named by a diocesan bishop to serve as a cathedral but remains under the governance of the vestry and dean. It is used as a cathedral for diocesan purposes but without the formation of a legal cathedral organization.