City of Manila

Manila’s Pontifical and Royal Campus (Part 5, a center for faith and thought)

By the 1930’s as the University of Santo Tomas began to settle itself comfortably at its new home in Sampaloc, plans and works were under way for the expansion of what was then just a one-building complex in the middle of what was then a vast tract of land that was its campus. One of the buildings being planned was one that would serve as the University church and residence as well: of the Dominican priests who are assigned there and the seminarians learning to become Dominican priests themselves.

The task for the construction of this structure fell on the hands of Fernando Ocampo, the same fellow who built the old UST Gymnasium. (now torn down save for its façade which is being preserved for the future Alumni Complex building) During the period, Art Deco was the prevailing style of architecture; Ocampo made sure that style was being incorporated in this building, regardless of what the Dominicans might say.

The building would be finished in 1933, as the portion of this building was consecrated on October 7 to be the University Church. It would soon become a parish on April 26, 1942 as the Santissima Rosario Parish. Its name is Holy Rosary in Spanish, named in honor of the Dominicans’ role in propagating the devotion to the rosary.

There’s nothing much to see in the church interior if you are expecting something “grand” inside, though the church altar is said to be a donation from an alumnus who happens to Manuel L. Quezon who was on his way to becoming president of the still-to-be-established Philippine Commonwealth during the time of the church’s construction.

On November 12, 1933, Manila Archbishop Michael O’Doherty solemnly blessed and dedicated the other portion of the building as the Central Seminary, the new home of the Dominican priests and seminarians of UST.

Surrounding the building are bust monuments dedicated to the former rectors of the UST Central Seminary.

Fr. Julio Vicente, the first rector of the UST Central Seminary
Fr. Juan Ylla, the second rector of the UST Central Seminary
Fr. Jose Ortea, the third rector of the UST Central Seminary
main entrance of the Central Seminary

There is also an interesting piece inside the Central Seminary at the seminary chapel in particular. It is a Byzantine-inspired image of Christ called the Pantocrator or “Creator of all” in Greek, made by a former caretaker of the Central Seminary named Joe Barcena, who was also enrolled at the university’s College of Architecture and Fine Arts with the help of the Dominican priests.

the Seminary Chapel, taken from the UST Central Seminary website

Apart from its role as a seminary and a church, the building is also the home of the University’s Faculties of Ecclesiastical Studies: the institute that offers the university’s oldest academic programs dating back to UST’s founding in 1611: Sacred Theology, Philosophy, and Canon Law.

In front of the Santisimo Rosario Parish is a park called Plaza Calderon, named after a UST alumnus who became known as the father of the 1899 Philippine Constitution AKA the Malolos Constitution. It used to be a large park that extended to the Central Seminary but was trimmed down to give way to a basketball court located across the old gymnasium.

Up next, the Benavides Library and the Quadricentennial Square

Acknowledgements to the website of the UST Central Seminary and Wikipedia.

© The Urban Roamer


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