Naga Church

Naga Church
Church of San Francisco de Asis in Naga, Cebu, 2013 (Michael Ocaña)

Roman Catholic Parish Church of San Francisco de Asis / Location: Naga, Cebu / Built 1839

Naga was originally a visita (mission chapel) of San Nicolas. In 1829, it was raised to a parish and placed under the patronage of San Francisco de Asis. The church was built in 1839 by Fr Simon Aguirre. The church is cruciform in plan, with a nave 75 m long and 16 m wide, and a transept 32 m long. The bell tower, 18 m high, stands apart from the church. The present bell tower was built in 1974 to replace the original bell tower destroyed in 1942. The walls of the church are of blocks of coral stone. The facade is plastered. Buttresses of almost vertical slant support the sidewalls. Pilasters in the interior correspond to the buttresses. The windows are semicircular arches. Above each window is a small round window 60 cm in diameter. The buttresses just behind the facade and at the ends of the transept rise above the height of the walls, becoming turrets with four-sided curved tops that evoke onion-shaped roofs.

A pre-World War II photograph shows a facade with a triangular pediment. The ends of the present pediment that slope up to half its height appear to be portions of the earlier structure. The upper half of the portion of the pediment is a rectangular wall that rises slightly in the middle to form a not-too-prominent peak. The facade is divided into two horizontal sections: the lower, with few adornments; and the upper, profusely decorated. The portal, which has a shallow triangular arch, dominates the lower half of the facade. Its spandrels are adorned with floral designs. On each side of the portal is a pair of pilasters, and near each end of the wall is a pilaster. The narrow strip above the portal, which is on the level of the capitals of the pilasters, is crowded with carved ornaments. The upper half of the facade has two horizontal sections: the lower portion, which is pierced by square windows at each end; and the upper portion, which forms the pediment. The lower portion has a shallow niche in the middle with coupled columns on each side. In the niche is a circle on which stands a cross with rays. The columns rest on grotesque-looking human heads. The windows are flanked by single columns resting on heads. The sections of the wall between the windows and the niche and the sections extending beyond the windows are divided into four horizontal bands of varying height. The uppermost has floral and tendril forms. The band directly below it has vertical grooves set between rosettes. On the frieze under this are angels with musical instruments. On the lowest band are floral decorations within frames.

The pediment has three horizontal sections, narrowest below and becoming wider towards the top. The two lower sections are divided by six columns, three on each side of the niche which is located in the center on the same vertical line with the portal and the emblem above it. In the niche is an image. In the lower section, the space between columns is occupied by images of angels. In the section above, eight-pointed stars are attached to the middle of the columns. In the uppermost portion, namely, the rectangular section of the pediment, the eight-pointed stars are afloat. Adorning the raking cornice are leaf-like forms.

While various sources describe features of Naga Church as Muslim, Aztec, and Mexican, the basis for such descriptions is vague. This church is unique and its uniqueness exemplifies the Filipino predilection for ornament, particularly the eclectic. Which part belongs to the original 19th-century structure and which part is the product of 20th-century renovation is yet to be determined through serious study. The church was slightly damaged by the earthquake in October 2013 but was subsequently repaired.

 

Originally posted 2011-11-22 19:56:44.