The town and church of Taal were organized by the Augustinians originally in a place called Balagon. It was abandoned when the community transferred to what is the present-day town of San Nicolas. When Taal volcano erupted in 1754, the townspeople, together with the parish priest sought refuge in Caysasay. Here in 1756 Fray Martin Aguirre, OSA, began construction of a church of reef stones. Completed in 1782, the church and its adjoining convento were again ruined by Taal’s eruption in 1852. In 1858 Fr Marcos Anton, OSA, with the help of the government architect Luciano Oliver, started the construction of the present church of Taal on a plateau above Caysasay. Although inaugurated in 1856, the church was completed only in 1878. Fr Agapito Aparicio, OSA added a main altar and paved the baptistry with tiles said to come from Europe. It was elevated to a basilica minore on 22 October 1948. After years of neglect, the church was restored in 1972 to commemorate the quadricentennial of the town’s foundation. In 1974, it was declared a “national shrine.”
The church stands majestically on top of a hill and is unobstructed by any edifice. Its facade has been described as baroque as it is a single mass of stone shaped according to complex, rich, and dynamic designs. Paired Ionic and Corinthian columns contrast sharply with the massiveness of the facade and create “a dramatic vertical movement broken by the roundness of fenestration aligned horizontally” (Galende 1987). Ever since Taal town was marked as a potential heritage zone with its unusually wide and stately neoclassical church, community effort has been expended to preserve the town’s heritage. The focus was the church complex, with various levels of success. The exterior continues to go through refurbishments. The small bell tower that had been destroyed was rebuilt, and the Escuela Pia outside the church was restored to be reused as a venue for events.
The basilica’s cruciform interior is divided into three naves by massive piers supporting rounded arches of stone. The transepts, like the apse, are rounded. The interior has recently been refurbished in a more pleasing and aesthetically sound way. Around 2008, the trompe l’oeil painting in the manner of San Agustin in Intramuros was reconstructed. The nave floor was resurfaced. The side altar, formerly an unsightly neon-lit cement structure which occasionally housed the Virgin of Caysasay, has been replaced by a replica of the original wooden retablo. However, by 2013, the neoclassical main retablo had been restyled with the addition of flanking niches in the baroque idiom, detracting from its authenticity.
SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer (1991)
Originally posted 2000-11-23 01:07:34.