Recollect Church

Recoletos: A reformed branch of the Augustinian order, the Recollects arrived in Manila in 1606. Initially, the Recollects built their church and convent outside the walls as their were no more vacant lots in the city but with the assistance of the governor general they were given a lot along Calle Cabildo near the bastion de San Andrés. The lot an imperfect triangle consisted of 12,000 varas quadras (approximately 12,000 square yards or about a hectare). Here they built a church and convent. Data on construction of this earlier structure is sketchy. The church suffered damage in an earthquake in 1658 but from thence on the church had apparently not experienced much damage until the early 18th century, when a sketch of it appears in the Roxas Fernandez map of 1727. But by 1781, a new church had to be built because the previous structure had been so weakened by earthquakes and was no longer safe.

This late 18th-century church was characterized by a four-story bell tower of diminishing dimensions built to the left of the church. The church was cruciform, with a crossing tower covering the intersection of main nave and transept. The church facade was similar in temper to the Franciscan’s but less the ornate and more architectural.

It was the church interior, however, that distinguished the church. The main altar was in the Baroque style. Divided into niches and stories, the gilded retablo alternated images and painted canvases. In this church, the famous Recollect organ builder, Fray Diego Cera, who built the Las Piñas bamboo organ, constructed his masterpiece. He built a massive pipe organ, outfitting the nave with pipes some ingenuously hidden so that when sounded, the walls itself seemed to sing.
In the 19th century, the church walls were painted with figurative drawings. One on the transept walls depicted the Pope and St. Peter’s in Rome.

The church was damaged during World War II. The Recollects transferred their central house to San Sebastian in Quiapo where they had built a steel church in 1891. Only recently have the Recollects in the Philippines become an independent province, named in honor of St. Exequiel Moreno, who at one time was assigned to the Philippines.

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