the world as I see it

Santo Domingo Church in Quezon Avenue

Posted by BCS on September 21, 2008

Angel statues standing by the doors of the church, each holding a basin of holy water

Angel statues standing by the doors of the church, each holding a basin of holy water

This is probably one of the first churches I’d been to in my life. Just like with the Mabuhay Rotonda, I’ve never given it much thought until somebody told me (a few years ago) that it has paintings in it done by the late Carlos “Botong” Francisco which, in turn, led me to learning more about its historical background.

Santo Domingo Church Entrance (as viewed from the inside)

Santo Domingo Church Entrance (as viewed from the inside)

I am in no capacity to put into my own words all the things that I’ve read about it as I very much believe that I will miss out on a lot of things and commit errors if I do so.

So, allow me to present to you this article I found on Philippine Daily Inquirer’s website through Google. By the way, I’ll be inserting the photographs I’ve taken within the article to give you clearer pictures of what’s being mentioned.

House of spirit
By Lito Zulueta
Inquirer News Service

IT surprises people to know that the Santo Domingo Church, easily one of the biggest and most important centers of faith in Catholic Philippines, was not originally in Quezon City, where it now stands as a definitive landmark. The original Santo Domingo used to be in Intramuros. According to the CCP Encyclopedia, the church was “one of the jewels of the treasure chest that was Intramuros.

Intramuros was of course “the city of 10 churches,” and Santo Domingo’s relocation from there to “Extramuros” owes as much to the vicissitudes of war as well as the postwar expansion outside of Manila-to new horizons, new frontiers-much like the missionary spirit of the Dominicans and the other great religious orders, who braved the jungles and dangerous territories of the Philippines to make of the islands a vast green temple of Christ, an unbreakable rosary of the Blessed Mother.

The Quezon City church, in fact, was the sixth Santo Domingo Church. The first Santo Domingo was erected in 1588 from nipa and cogon, frail materials that naturally gave way to the elements, particularly to fire. In fact, the first church was gutted by fire in 1603, prefiguring the fiery history of the Dominican order in the Philippines.

Not fire, but seismic turbulence, however, greeted the next Santo Domingo structures, which were destroyed by earthquakes in 1619, 1862 and 1863. Each time the church was toppled, the Dominicans erected a more magnificent church, defiant as ever. The neo-gothic church that replaced the one toppled by the earthquake of 1863 was particularly noted for its majesty, easily the grandest in a district known for its grand churches.

It was this neo-gothic structure where Jose Rizal attended mass before boarding a ship to Spain to continue his studies. It was this structure that particularly impressed the new American colonizers. In the 1915 “Guide to Manila Catholic Churches” published by Norton, the church was described as “unusually attractive” with “a brilliant radiance”:

“Highly agreeable is the first impression of this church, with wide nave, groin vaulting; narrow side aisles separated by pillars, set wide apart (that) gives a very airy appearance… (with a) pulpit of fine workmanship, of molave and other rare native wood… (and in the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary), the gallery of tracery work noticeable; and you are facing a beautiful altar where is standing in surroundings of artistic splendor, the image so famous in history, and now venerated as the patron of the islands.”

For nearly a century, the gothic church withstood earthquakes, the Philippine revolution and the American invasion. But alas, it did not survive the Second World War. On December 27, 1941, Japanese planes bombed Santo Domingo and laid it to rubble. But when the Dominicans cleared the debris, they recovered the image of Our Lady of La Naval, the icon of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary that got its name after the Spaniards and Filipinos defeated the vastly superior invading Dutch armada in the 17th century. The image would later head the procession to symbolize Santo Domingo’s relocation from Intramuros to Quezon City.

After the war, the Dominicans proceeded to build a new church in Quezon City. During the La Naval feast and procession on October 10, 1954, the church was inaugurated. The image was taken to her new altar, and the Santo Domingo Church was also canonically erected as the National Shrine of the Holy Rosary in the Philippines.

Spanish Moderne

In building the new church, the Dominicans commissioned their protege, architect Jose Ma. Zaragoza, who built the church according to the Moderne style that had been prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s, around the time he was an architecture student at the University of Santo Tomas.

His choice was radical. The Moderne style, which was short, was mainly employed in residential structures, in contrast to the earlier Art Deco, which was tall and used in commercial buildings. Thus, while the orientation of Art Deco was vertical, that of the Art Moderne was horizontal.

But the Santo Domingo was anything but short. Like any church structure, its initial thrust at spiritual magnificence was directed upwards, to the heavens. But because of the horizontal orientation of Moderne, the structure appears box-like and massive.

Facade of Santo Domingo Church

Facade of Santo Domingo Church

But Zaragoza’s most important innovation was to combine the Moderne style with Spanish colonial architecture. In a nod to history, he designed the church in accordance with the Spanish Catholic mission style, attaching the priory of the Dominicans to the church and making the complex the headquarters of the Dominicans in the Philippines, much like the Santo Domingo in Intramuros, when it was the nerve center of Dominican evangelization in the islands.

The new Santo Domingo is the biggest of the Santo Domingo series. Compared with its predecessor, it is 18 feet wider, 13 feet longer, and 28 feet higher. Measuring 85 meters in length, 40 meters in width and 25 meters in height, it is easily one of the largest churches in the Philippines.

The church is spacious. The total floor area is 3,400 sq m, enough to accommodate more than 7,000 people. Its width gives it a cavernous and magnificent appearance. It has two lateral naves, each with a five-meter width. Despite this, there is no column at the center for support, a construction feat even today.

Interior of Santo Domingo Church

Interior of Santo Domingo Church

Masterful works

The facade is notable for its massiveness and its clean lines. At the foot of the 44-meter tower is the relief of St. Dominic, carved by the Italian sculptor Francesco Monti. At the top of the entrance is a dramatic bas-relief of the Battle of La Naval, also by Monti.

Inside are beautiful stained-glass windows by Galo Ocampo, depicting the old 15 mysteries of the rosary. The windows are large, measuring some 21 sq m. A huge mosaic of St. Dominic constitutes the simple but imposing altar. The mosaic consists of colored stones imported from Italy and inlaid to form a big picture of the founder of the Order of Preachers.

Stained glass windows on the left side of the church

Stained glass windows on the left side of the church

Another series of windows has the pictures of the leading saints of the Dominican order, including St. Vicente Liem de la Paz, the protomartyr of Vietnam and an alumnus of Santo Tomas and Letran, and the Dominican martyrs of Indo-China, Japan and China.

Stained glass windows on the right side of the church

Stained glass windows on the right side of the church

The late National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco depicted important incidents in the life of St. Dominic in colorful murals at the cupola. Eight in all, the murals in the cupolas measure three meters wide by nine meters long.

On the corners of the cupola are the figures of the four evangelists, done in vivid brown tones by Antonio Garcia Llamas.

The triangular murals are by Carlos Francisco, while the rectangular one above them is by Antonio Garcia Llamas. These are situated at the left side of the cupola (if you are to view it from the nave).

The triangular murals are by Carlos Francisco, while the rectangular one above them is by Antonio Garcia Llamas. These are situated at the left side of the cupola (if you are to view it from the nave).

The triangular murals are by Carlos Francisco, while the rectangular one above them is by Antonio Garcia Llamas. These are situated at the right side of the cupola (if you are to view it from the nave).

The triangular murals are by Carlos Francisco, while the rectangular one above them is by Antonio Garcia Llamas. These are situated at the right side of the cupola (if you are to view it from the nave).

Personal Note: I was able to take pictures of  only four of the eight Francisco Murals mentioned above since there was a mass going on at the time.

The church has natural ventilation. The special plywood ceiling is perforated to allow the escape of hot air. Together with the 13 side doors and the three main doors, the perforated ceiling hastens the refraction of air inside the church.

The plywood ceiling is also painted white to permit the reflection of the neon lights inside, and thus give indirect lighting to the whole interior. This is arranged in such a way that there is no dark nook or corner in the church.

There are actually 2,000 40-watt fluorescent lamps that, however, cannot be seen. The dome is illuminated by a 1,000-watt floodlight. Neon lights at the cove above the altar brighten the altar during mass.

Contrasted against the vast white ceiling are colored tiles imported from Spain and Belgium.

Apart from the main altar dedicated to St. Dominic, an altar houses the La Naval, resplendent in its elaborate robe and jewelry, and another altar is dedicated to St. Martin de Porres, the mulatto saint of the poor.

When it was opened in 1954, the Dominicans called the church a “modern” home for Our Lady, one that would update the devotion to the Blessed Mother amid criticisms that the Church belonged to more backward times. But 50 years later, the Santo Domingo Church remains new and modern amid so much tawdry architecture. It is a timeless showcase of artistry and spirituality.


32 Responses to “Santo Domingo Church in Quezon Avenue”

  1. sheri amor said

    hello there.. do you mind If I grabbed the photo of the sto. domingo church? I just wanted to show the readers of my blog what it looked like,.. thank you^_^ I hope you would allow me to^_^ godbless

  2. dwen said

    Hi,i love Sto Domingo church,,, and thanks fr the pictures,, its on of my favorite church here in Manila,,, You should try,, Quiapo, Baclaran, Malate, De Guia Church, Mla Cathedral,,, they are great

    thanks again



    Would you mind if I use one of your pictures of SAnto Domingo Church for a powerpoint for a school mass? I use to live in Santo Domingo for about 11 years, Beautiful shots, thanks.


  4. Jasmine Santos said

    The main altar, the dream of every Lector aspirant…

    • Chito Soriano said

      Yes, it is wonderful experience of a lifetime to be a lector itself to proclaim God’s Word and I like your comment “the main altar, the dream of every Lector aspirant”. I was lector from Sto. Domingo during the 80’s and now I am a lector in Precious Blood Church here in Los Angeles and Christ the King Church in Hollywood. I was bless to be a lector too in my pilgrimage trip to Europe and Holy Land. To sum it all my lector experience in Sto. Domingo was great blessing to me. If you are a lector in Sto. Doming kindly extend my regards to them.
      God Bless you…
      Chito Soriano

  5. […] Ms. Carren Jao left a comment on my About page asking permission to use one of the photos in my Sto. Domingo Church post for a small section on BluPrint magazine. She informed me that although she was unsure if my photo […]

  6. camille said

    hi! your article is wonderful! would you mind if i post your article (with citations of course) on sto. domingo on our wedding website (still working on it)? because that’s where we’ll get married in May 2010. i really hope it’s okay. thanks in advance!

    • BCS said

      Sure thing, Camille. Go ahead. 🙂 I hope you’ll give me the URL to your site so I can visit it when it’s done. 🙂 Take care and have a nice day. 🙂

    • Allaine said

      Hi Camille,

      You mentioned that your’re having a wedding on this church this May 2010. May I know how much is your wedding church fee? What are the inclusion? I hope you could give me their contact number.

      Hi BCS,
      Thanks for posting this article. I appreciate the church even more! It convince me of having this church as my wedding ceremonial venue. 🙂 do you have contact number and person I can reach about Sto Domingo wedding package?

      • BCS said

        Hi Allaine, thanks for your comment. You can try these numbers: 743-7756 and 743-2124. 🙂 Take care.

  7. bheng villarosa said

    i just want to inquire my sister in law wants her son’s christening here…she wants it any weekdays of december 2009…what are the available dates and how much is the reservation?

  8. I wan to contact this church by phone or web site.
    I will appreciate any help.
    God bless you all.

  9. San said

    Hi this is Ms. San of Higher Ground Management Services (HGMS). We are Event Organizer any type of event (Wedding, debut, corporate party/seminar/baptism, reunion etc.) For inquiries Please call at 8128619.

    Thank you & God bless.


  10. thank you for posting this! i baptised at this church and don’t remember the details. do you mind if i borrow some of your pictures? it will be for my personal use and will reference you as the one who took them.

    god bless,
    lourdes =)

  11. Hello,

    I stumbled upon your blog. I would like to ask for permission to borrow
    some pictures of Sto. Domingo Church. I will put in your name as the photographer
    and be show the link where I got the pictures so they can read more
    about the Church.

    Have a great day!

    Mary Ann

    • BCS said

      Hi Mary Ann, thanks for visiting. And thank you for your interest in my photos. Sure thing, you can use the photos. 🙂 Mind if I ask where you are going to use it?

      Here’s wishing you all the best. Take care.

  12. Hello,

    I will use it in the article about Sto. Domingo Church


    I also requested to use one picture from another site. I haven’t posted
    any of your pictures yet. Will it be alright to write about your blog in our

    If its okay, I would like to request for site updates as well. I had been
    going around the net about Sto. Domingo Church, none is as detailed as your site.

    Mary Ann B.

  13. Maria Savillo said

    It was a well written article. I would like to use it for the newletter we are currently doing.


  14. Maria Savillo said

    I would like to inform you that I wish to use some of the information for the newletter we are currently doing. Thank you so much.

  15. Ken said

    Santo Domingo and its parishoners/massgoers are deserving of a large pipe organ to grace the music ministry.

  16. Boracay Island…

    […]Santo Domingo Church in Quezon Avenue « tanawin.wordpress.com[…]…

  17. rica said

    Hi I’d like to inquire if you still have available slot on June 09, 2012 4pm for a Mass Wedding? And how much it will cost?

    Would appreciate your prompt reply.


  18. charlie said

    Can we have your updated contact details

  19. yuhanna said

    Hi,id like to inquire if how much of baptismal there?tenks

  20. […] Links: Santo Domingo Church by Tanawin@Wordpress Battle of La Naval de Manila @ Wikipedia La Naval de Manila Online 0.000000 0.000000 Share […]

  21. rodelzencenterphil said

    hi. the article is accurate except for missing out on one important detail. after being recovered from the bombed ruins of sto. domingo in intramuros, the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary was placed at the Santo Rosario Church in UST before finally being housed in the new Santo Domingo church in QC. 🙂

  22. Smith Warren said

    I’m Smith from Toronto Canada. I need urgently a child care assistance/Nanny for my kids aged between 6-4years.. If interested kindly write to my email smithjames33123@gmail.com

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