Historic: 35 of the Most Beautiful Old Churches in the Philippines

Visita Iglesia, a tradition of visits to seven churches, allows Filipinos to hear mass in, as well as marvel at, some of the most beautiful and historic churches in the Philippines

This article was originally posted on March 17, 2016.

Religion is arguably one of the biggest cultural traits of the Philippines with an estimated 80-plus percent of Filipinos identifying with the Roman Catholic faith. Expectedly, the Lenten Season or Holy Week is considered as one of the most important among the Philippine holidays. While for some it is the time to welcome the summer season, for many it is also a time to further their faith.

This time of the year is often incomplete without Visita Iglesia, or the Lenten tradition of visiting seven churches on Maundy Thursday. The good news is, the country is teeming with sacred places Roman Catholics can visit to observe this solemn season. Here’s a list of churches in the Philippines that are rich in history and unique in architecture worth seeing in your Visita Iglesia. 

San Agustin Church

Intramuros, Manila

San Agustin Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

If you’re looking to visit historical churches in the Philippines, this one should be on your list because it’s the oldest church in the Philippines that is made of stone. Situated in Manila under the auspices of the Order of Saint Augustine, the current San Agustin Church is actually the third to be established on the site. 

The first was built with bamboo and nipa in 1571, but destroyed by fire in 1574. The second was wooden, but similarly burned down in 1583. The third is the one still standing today. In 1993, it became one of four local Spanish-era churches to be chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, collectively known as the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Manila Cathedral

Intramuros, Manila

Manila Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via IngImage

Formally known as the Kalakhang Katedral Basílika ng Maynilà, this old church in the Philippines is a Roman Catholic basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It also serves as the Seat of the Archbishop of Manila. 

Originally established in 1571, the eighth and current rendition of the cathedral was completed in 1958. It was renovated and repaired for earthquake retrofitting and subsidence prevention in 2012. This famous church in the Philippines reopened to the public after a complete renovation in 2014.

Calasiao Church

Calasiao, Pangasinan

Calasiao Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Elbert Malzano via Flickr

Known locally as Saints Peter and Paul Parish, this famous church in the Philippines features baroque architecture, and is declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

This Spanish-colonial-era church is primarily made of bricks or ladrillo with a fortress-like façade designed to withstand revolts and rebellions. Beside it stands Museo Calasiao, a mini-museum housing vintage photos and historical pieces of the baroque church.

Binondo Church

Binondo, Manila

Binondo Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

One of the oldest churches in the Philippines, this one was founded by Dominican priests in 1596. The Binondo Church is also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (the first Filipino saint) and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, and has been rebuilt numerous times over the centuries due to constant damage by war and natural disasters. 

Sporting historic Spanish and European baroque design elements, the church has retained its original character. However, only the western façade and the octagon belfry, which suggests the Chinese culture of the parishioners, are what remain from the original structure. 

Quiapo Church

Quiapo, Manila

Quiapo Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Quiapo Church is very popular because it is the location of the reputedly miraculous Nuestro Señor Jesús Nazareno, better known as the Black Nazarene. Located in downtown Manila in Plaza Miranda, the historical church with a baroque style was expanded in 1984 to accommodate more devotees. Only its façade with twisted columns and the dome at the transept were retained from its classic design. 

José Ma. Zaragoza, a renowned Filipino architect, is Quiapo Church’s architect. This baroque church in the Philippines was officially declared a Minor Basilica in 1988.

Santa Cruz Church

Santa Cruz, Manila

Santa Cruz Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Elmer Domingo via Wikimedia Commons

Consecrated in 1619, this beautiful church in the Philippines was initially built to serve as a parish for the increasing number of Chinese migrants moving to Manila and converting to Catholicism. Over time though, the beautiful church sustained damage from natural occurrences, and was eventually destroyed completely by the end of World War II.

Reconstruction was completed in 1957, and it continues to stand now as a baroque church reminiscent of the Mission Churches of Western Mexico and Southern California.

Malate Church

Malate, Manila

Malate Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Also included in the list of churches in the Philippines with a baroque design, Malate Church is fronted by Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Manila Bay. It is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, or “Our Lady of Remedies,” the patroness of childbirth. 

One of only two churches with a twisted column and a retablo-type façade, Malate Church’s look is said to be a blend of Muslim design and Mexican baroque. Inside is an image of Our Lady of Remedies enshrined on the main altar, bought by Augustinian Fathers from Spain in the 1600s. This baroque church should be in your Visita Iglesia itinerary.

Guadalupe Church

Guadalupe Viejo, Makati

Guadalupe Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Rich Somes via Flickr

Formally known as Nuestra Señora de Gracia church, this baroque church is presently administered by the Augustinian friars of the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu. Stemming from the first sanctuary and monastery in Guadalupe built by Fray Simon Dantes in 1601, the famous church in the Philippines features different architectural styles with a façade that is neo-Romanesque-gothic, and sets of Doric columns supporting the church’s cornice and the triangular pediment.

Paoay Church

Ilocos Norte

Paoay Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

A UNESCO World Heritage Site (under the inscription Baroque Churches of the Philippines), the Saint Augustine Church in the municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, is widely recognized for its distinct architecture characterized by 24 massive buttresses on the sides and back of the structure. 

For this reason, a lot of artists all over the country make Paoay church sketches. Declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973, this beautiful church in the Philippines also has a three-story coral bell tower that resembles a pagoda, which was built separately from the church for earthquake safety.

Miag-ao Church

Miag-ao, Iloilo

Miag-ao is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, Miag-ao Church was also called the Miag-ao Fortress Church as its two uneven bell towers served as a tactical location for the town’s defense against Muslim raids. It is one of the baroque churches of the Philippines declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and contains the limestone image of the Birhen ng Barangay, traditional Filipino clothing recovered from the 1982 excavations, and the original late 1790s images of Saint Thomas of Villanova.

Santa Maria Church

Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Santa Maria Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this structure, also known as the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, was built on top of a hill to serve as lookout, citadel, and religious center during the early administration of the region by friars and soldiers of the Spanish colonial era. The church and convent are surrounded by a defensive wall on all sides like a fortress. This famous church in the Philippines is reached by way of an 85-step stairway made of granite rock.

Bantay Church

Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Bantay Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Known as Saint Augustine Parish Church, Bantay Church got its name from its old historic belfry, the Bantay tower, which is also the source of the town’s name. While there are many old churches in the Philippines, this one was established in 1590, making it among the oldest in the country. 

Like most, however, it was damaged extensively during World War II, and rebuilt in the 1950s. Its façade is neo-gothic with pseudo-Romanesque elements, and meant to be grandiose and reminiscent of Spanish architecture. Pay this historical church in the Philippines a visit when you go up Ilocos.

Taal Basilica

Taal, Batangas

Taal Basilica is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Measuring 88.6 meters long and 48 meters wide, the Taal Basilica Church is said to be the biggest church in the Philippines and in Asia.Canonically known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, the first rendition of the church began being built in 1575, three years after the founding of the town of Taal.

The present church began its construction in 1856, and has undergone restorations in 1953, 1972, and 2011. Its belfry was rebuilt in 1990. This famous church in the Philippines draws several pilgrims and historical tourists.

Tayabas Basilica

Tayabas, Quezon Province

Tayabas Basilica is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Roy de Guzman via Flickr

Canonically known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel, the Tayabas Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic Church in the province of Quezon. It is famous for its key-shaped architecture, earning the nickname Susi ng Tayabas among locals. This Philippine baroque church is also widely recognized for the clock located inside its belfry, regarded as one of the oldest, if not the actual oldest, clocks of its kind in Asia.

Bacarra Church

Bacarra, Ilocos Norte

Bacarra Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Arnel Manlises via Flickr

Widely recognized for its centuries-old, dome-less, leaning bell tower, this beautiful church is one of the most visited in the Philippines. Apart from the “beheaded” belfry known as Torres di Bacarra, there is also Museo de Bacarra, a church museum housed in the former convent.

The two-story convent dates back to the Spanish colonial era, and presently houses religious and cultural artifacts, as well as archival photos and documents. If you’re eyeing to visit Ilocos Norte, include this famous church in the Philippines in your itinerary.

Our Lady of Piat Church

Piat, Cagayan

Our Lady of Piat Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed as the Pilgrimage Center of the North, the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is one of twelve Minor Basilicas in the Philippines. The historical church is home to a 407-year-old black image of the Virgin Mary, which the church is named after and is dedicated to. Made of red bricks, which is common in Cagayan Valley, the old church has a visually appealing facade. 

It’s unique from the limestone and coral commonly sported by different churches in the Philippines. Enshrined at its altar is the Blessed Virgin Mary with verandas that make the shrine more elegant.

Betis Church

Guagua, Pampanga

Betis Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Rhonaramos via Wikimedia Commons

Declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and Arts, this old church in Pampanga has a bevy of artistic features. The main attraction of what is canonically known as the Saint James the Apostle Parish Church is its ceiling mural done by painter Simón Flores (1839–1904). His painting of the Holy Family is also another feature of the church, as well as an artesian well in the church patio that was dug in the 1800s.

Barasoain Church

Malolos, Bulacan

Barasoain Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Also known as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Barasoain Church earned the titles of Cradle of Democracy in the East, the most important religious building in the Philippines, and the site of the First Philippine Republic. This historical church in the Philippines witnessed key events in Philippine history. 

The three major occurrences were the convening of the First Philippine Congress, the drafting of the Malolos Constitution in 1898, and the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic in 1899. An old church, Barasoain has been one of the most popular pilgrimage churches in Bulacan ever since.

Baclayon Church

Baclayon, Bohol

Baclayon Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, more popularly known as Baclayon Church, is considered one of the Renaissance churches in the country. Built out of coral stones common on the island of Bohol, this beautiful church in the Philippines has a cruciform layout with its juncture surmounted by a pyramidal wall. 

As one of the oldest churches in the country, it was up for addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines, but unfortunately sustained extensive damage during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and other parts of Central Visayas in 2013. The restored building opened to the public in 2018, earning a reputation yet again as one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines.

San Jose de Ivana Church

Ivana, Batanes

San Jose de Ivana Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by MON MD via Wikimedia Commons

Dedicated to Saint Joseph under the jurisdiction of the Prelature of Batanes, this old Catholic Church in the Philippines was first established as a chapel by Dominicans in 1787. The present stone church was built in 1795 with the bell tower following in 1817. 

One of the better-preserved churches in the country, it has only undergone renovation in 1869 and in 2001 after an earthquake partially destroyed it in 2000. This historical church in the Philippines features an old convent and a small museum housing centuries-old relics.

Sarrat Church

Sarrat, Ilocos Norte

Sarrat Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Originally known as the San Miguel Church, this historical church in the Philippines is now the Santa Monica Parish Church or Sarrat Church. It was originally built in 1779. Its complex includes the associated convent that connects to the church via an elevated three-level brick stairway.

Declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2009, this famous church in the Philippines got its popularity for being the largest of its kind in Ilocos Norte, particularly because of the length of its nave.

Daraga Church

Daraga, Albay

Daraga Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Formally called Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church, the Daraga Church was built in 1772, after the then-settlement of Daraga was established a year earlier by those fleeing the town of Cagsawa for fear of another eruption of Mayon Volcano. It is a fine representation of baroque architecture with a Churrigueresque architectural style in its façade. Its walls are made of volcanic rock that is common in the Daraga locale. If you’re eyeing to go to this beautiful church in the Philippines, ask the locals for the Daraga church mass schedule to catch inspiring homilies.

Paete Church

Paete, Laguna

Paete Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Carlo Joseph M. Moskito via Wikimedia Commons

Paete Church is identified by several names, all of which are centered on its patron saint, Saint James the Apostle. The old church has the distinction of being the only Roman Catholic church in the municipality. It is widely popular for its extensive collection of images depicting the Passion of Christ, as well as century-old paintings and wooden images of saints. 

With its storied past of being lost to earthquakes, the current church features large buttresses on each side to be more resistant to calamity. It’s one of the oldest churches in Laguna.

Liliw Church

Liliw, Laguna

Liliw Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Also known as Saint John the Baptist Parish Church and Lilio Church, Liliw Church was initially established as a reduccion, particularly an annexed vista of the then-town of Nagcarlan that became independent in 1605. Adorned with red bricks, this beautiful church in the Philippines is a must-visit for many. The inside is said to be comfortably cool with the only source of natural light being the weak rays that filter through the church’s unique stained glass windows. Because of its beautiful aesthetics, it has become one of the most popular sites for church weddings in the Philippines

Pakil Church

Pakil, Laguna

Pakil Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Richard Eusebio via Wikimedia Commons

Designated as the Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba and as Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish Church, Pakil Church is the home of the Our Lady of Turumba painting. This historical church in the Philippines is constructed in the Corinthian and ionic architectural orders. It takes on the shape of a cruciform and sports a façade with classical Corinthian columns and cornices across a floral stone relief. 

Typical of Laguna churches, its side entrance is elaborately designed, and it also has a belfry housing one huge bell and four smaller bells.

Church of San Juan del Monte

San Juan, Metro Manila

Church of San Juan Del Monte is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Shubert Ciencia via Flickr

Built at the onset of the 1600s, this historical church in the Philippines is more formally known as Santuario del Santo Cristo. Its convent has undergone numerous destructions and subsequent renovations throughout San Juan’s history. The current church was built in 1774, used as a shelter by the Katipuneros during the 1898 Philippine Revolution. 

It serves as the seat of the Cofradia del Santísimo Cristo de San Juan del Monte or the “Confraternity of the Holy Christ of Saint John of the Mountain.” It’s among the miraculous churches in Manila, thereby gaining popularity among city dwellers.

Pasig Cathedral

Malinao, Pasig City

Pasig Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Joymdngo via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the Pasig Cathedral is one of the oldest structures in the city. Its establishment in 1573 coincided with the foundation of the then-town of Pasig. The beautiful church in the Philippines was initially consecrated to the Visitation of Our Lady and changed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception 14 years later. 

The old church previously belonged to the Archdiocese of Manila, but became the seat of the Diocese of Pasig in 2003. Its status was elevated to cathedral status in the same year. It’s among the go-to destinations for wedding churches in Manila.

Paranaque Cathedral

La Huerta, Paranaque

Paranaque Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Slickdeejay via Wikimedia Commons

Officially called the Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew, this historical church was founded by Augustinian friars in 1580, making it one of the oldest in the Philippines. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Parañaque, which is the church that comprises the cities of Parañaque, Muntinlupa, and Las Piñas. This famous church in the Philippines is the home of the Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso, which was canonically crowned as the Patroness of the City of Parañaque in 2000.

Santo Niño Basilica

Cebu City

Santo Nino Basilica is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo via Shutterstock

Officially called Basilica Menore del Santo Niño, the Santo Niño Basilica is recognized as the oldest church in the Philippines. It is the location of the statue depicting the Child Jesus, known as the Santo Niño de Cebú, which was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1565. 

The present church is part of a larger complex that includes the open-air theater-like Pilgrim Center, a museum containing antique relics and religious exhibits, and an extensive library. This historical church in the Philippines attracts several tourists visiting the Queen City of the South.

San Sebastian Cathedral

Bacolod City

San Sebastian Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Ninya Regalado via Wikimedia Commons

Listed as one of the famous churches in the Philippines, San Sebastian Cathedral serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod. It began the construction to its current form in 1876, using coral stones sourced from the island of Guimaras. 

About nine years after its initial construction, this famous Catholic church in the Philippines had two bell towers built to accommodate two different-sized bells as well as a large clock. The bells are now seen in a special belfry situated in the church’s courtyard.

Santa Monica Parish Church

Panay Island

Santa Monica Parish Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Iannekleina via Wikimedia Commons

Also called the Panay Church, this religious structure was constructed in 1884 with coral blocks. In its site, it replaced a church that sustained major damages by a typhoon in 1875. Out of the different churches in the Philippines, this Visayan church is notable for its unusually large bell, the biggest in the country. It was made out of the coins donated by the townspeople in 1884. This beautiful church in the Philippines received its National Historic Landmark recognition in 1997.

San Salvador del Mundo Church

Caraga

San Salvador Del Mundo Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Olan214 via Wikimedia Commons

Popularly known as Caraga Church, this parish is the oldest church in Mindanao. It reopened in 2020 after being shut off to the public for restoration works. Built in 1883, it has since withstood earthquakes and typhoons that hit Davao Oriental. The architecture of the parish is composed of limestone, corals, and hardwood. While a religious landmark, this historical church in the Philippines also served as a fortress and watchtower. In July 2012, the NHCP declared it as a national historical site.

Tamontaka Church

Cotabato City

Tamontaka Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Joelaldor via Wikimedia Commons

This beautiful church in Southern Philippines got its name from the river near its original site. The first structure was constructed in 1872. A few years later, in 1879, the parish was moved to its present site, as the Jesuits of Zamboanga supervised the church in 1899. In 1976, it sustained major damages from an earthquake, but was reconstructed after two years. It was in 2004 that it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. 

One of the most interesting facts about this famous church in the Philippines is that it’s linked to an underground cemetery through a tunnel. The tunnel forms part of a network of underground caves of Pedro Holina Hill. 

Our Lady Of The Most Holy Rosary Cathedral

Dipolog City

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by Xander Wu via Wikimedia Commons

Similar to the other oldest churches in the Philippines, this parish has gone through several repairs and renovations over the past years since its establishment in 1894. The latest of those renovations were in 2009, as the facade got a touchup with marble stones. The highlights of this church include its altar, a replica of the retablo designed by Dr. Jose Rizal, and its ceiling made of hardwood. If you happen to visit Dipolog in one of your future trips, visit one of these beautiful churches in the Philippines. 

Jimenez Church

Misamis Occidental

Jimenez Church is one of the most beautiful historic churches in the Philippines Lamudi Visita Iglesia
Photo by JJ Carpio via Wikimedia Commons

This late 19th-century Baroque church is also called San Juan Bautista Parish Church. Reflecting a Renaissance-inspired architecture, it has three semicircular arched entrances, forming a portico. A bell tower stands at the left side of the structure, with finials and a domed roof at the top. In 2001, this famous church in the Philippines received recognition as a National Cultural Treasure.

Experience a more meaningful Visita Iglesia by visiting these historical churches in the Philippines. As you reflect on life and meditate on the passion of Christ, may you also discover new learnings on the rich history of our country, reflected in these massive works of art.

Main image via Shutterstock

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