The Urban Roamer has talked about a few times about Intramuros’ past grandeur as the city’s, and the country’s, spiritual center. The “Vatican of the East” if you may, thanks in part to the dominating presence of eight Catholic churches in the Walled City. But as we all know, World War II changed drastically the landscape of this part of the city.
And as far as those churches go, only one managed to remain largely intact: the San Agustin Church. Two of the churches were eventually rebuilt on their original sites, with one of those two only rebuilt just recently after decades in idle development. Two others were also rebuilt but were relocated instead to the new “Capitol City” which is Quezon City. One of them is the Santo Domingo Church and the other is the subject of today’s entry: the Lourdes Church, or the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes as it’s officially called.
Lourdes Church 1.0 in Intramuros
The history of this church was already touched upon here, it’s nice to refresh our memory. And to be honest, there is not much of a history to share about it, owing to the fact that it was the last of the original “Intramuros Eight” churches that were built. To be specific, it was completed in 1898, a time in which the Spanish rule was winding down and the Americans on the verge of taking over.
The original Lourdes Church was designed by architect Federico Soler in what is described as “simplified Romanesque” in design. The church was commissioned by the Franciscan Capuchins who were looking into building a church to house the Marian image Lady of Lourdes and the growing devotion to it. The image, or should I say images, found in the church were a work of a Filipino sculptor Manuel Flores, both exquisite image that many would visit and venerate at the old Capuchin chapel in Intramuros.
It’s been said that the dedication of the church to the Lady of Lourdes was borne out of the promise made by the Capuchins to name the church in its honor if it would save the church and Intramuros from a possible attack by the Americans as the Spanish-American War was waging during the church’s construction. Fortunately, the destruction did not come as the Americans occupied the Walled City, sparing the church and Intramuros from destruction by this particular war.
As the “home” of the Lady of Lourdes in Manila, the church would be filled with crowds of devotees every February 11, the feast day of the Lady of Lourdes. In addition, the church became known as a popular venue for weddings, especially among the city’s elite families.
But while the old Lourdes Church survived the Spanish-American War, it would not survive another war more than 40 years later. The church would be among the casualties of the Battle of Manila in 1945. Worse, many Capuchin priests were killed by Japanese forces who were trying to maintain their control of the city and fight the advancing American forces. The Lady of Lourdes image by Flores was spared thanks to the Capuchins who took it to San Agustin Church for safekeeping.
With such loss of lives and of the church, the Capuchins decided to start anew as they set their sights further up north in the then-newly established Quezon City to build the new Lourdes Church.
Lourdes Church 2.0 in Quezon City
The Capuchins acquired a 10,500 square meter property in Santa Mesa Heights, right along Retiro Street (now known as Norberto S. Amoranto Street, named after a former Quezon City mayor) shortly after the war and proceeded to build the new Lourdes Church.
For the new church, they tapped the services of architect Luis Ma. Araneta to help design it. Araneta was assisted by a future budding architect, Carlos Santos-Viola, who would become known for having designed many of the buildings of Iglesia ni Cristo. Araneta went for a neoclassical style with some Romanesque touches reminiscent of the Intramuros church. Work would begin in 1950 and completed a year later with the transfer of the two original Lady of Lourdes images to their new home.
The rest of the property the church was built on would later on be the site of a school, the Lourdes School of Quezon City, which was completed in 1955.
In 1997, the Lourdes Church was elevated by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to the status of a “national shrine”. This means the Catholic Church leadership in the country recognizes the church as a site of national significance for the Catholic faith due to the devotion of the Lady of Lourdes. Like the Santo Domingo Church, the Lourdes Church in Quezon City has remained an important Catholic site despite the destruction of the old church and eventual relocation.