Day 130/365 of Steel – San Sebastian Church

Consecration of the San Sebastian Church in Manila (16/8/1891)

San Sebastian Church
Fig 1: San Sebastian Church
Photo: Chester Ong/SSBCDFI

The San Sebastian Church is a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church in Manila, Philippines. An example of the Gothic Revival architecture in the Philippines, it is the only church in the Philippines build with a steel framework. It was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1973 and as a National Cultural Treasure in 2011.

San Sebastian Church during construction
Fig 2: San Sebastian Church during construction
photo source unknown

In the 1880s, Esteban Martínez, the parish priest of the ruined church, approached Spanish Architect Genaro Palacios to build a church that will withstand the earthquakes. Palacios planned to build a fire and earthquake-resistant structure made entirely of steel.

Construction (1888–1891)

San Sebastian Church during construction
Fig 3: San Sebastian Church during construction
photo: factoidz wikimedia

The prefabricated steel sections that would compose the church were manufactured in Binche, Belgium. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, the knockdown steel parts were ordered from the S.A. des Entreprises de Travaux Publics in Brussels. In all, 1.527 tons of prefabricated steel sections were transported in eight separate shipments from Belgium to the Philippines, the first shipment arriving in 1888. A ninth shipment of altarpieces from Belgium never arrived, because the ship ran into a storm and lost its cargo.

Inside view of the San Sebastian Church
Fig 4: Inside view of the San Sebastian Church
photo source unknown

New wooden altars were then made in the Philippines to replace the lost Belgian altars. Belgian engineers supervised the assembly of the church, the first column of which was erected on September 11, 1890. The walls were filled with mixed sand, gravel, and cement. Upon its completion, on August 16, 1891, the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián was consecrated by the Archbishop of Manila.

View of the ceiling of San Sebastian Church, Manila
Fig 5: View of the ceiling of San Sebastian Church, Manila
photo: Marksy

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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