San Ignacio Church

The Jesuits built two churches in honor of their founder Ignatius of Loyola at two different sites. The Italian Jesuit priest-architect, Gianantonio Campioni, designed the first San Ignacio; the church was completed in 1632. This was actually the third church built by the Jesuits at the site presently occupied by the Pamantasan ng Maynila. A first church of wood with a tile roof was built in 1587 with donations from the oidor Don Gabriel de Ribera. A second church of stone was built between 1590-96, following plans drawn up by the Jesuit Antonio Sedeño. The church was modeled upon Il Gesú, the Jesuits’ mother church in Rome. The church was damaged by the earthquake of 1600. This stone church was dedicated to Santa Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

The third church, now dedicated to San Ignacio who was canonized in 1622, was begun in 1626 and completed six years later. The church as it came from Campioni may have been more Italianate Baroque rather than Spanish because in the 18th century the church was solemnly consecrated after being renovated. The renovations imposed bas-relief foliage in the voids of the façade making it appear more plateresque than Italianate. The decorations were not received favorably by all. The church interior was painted by the Jesuit brother Manuel Rodriguez, assisted by Tagalog apprentices, in 1700.

The Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768 and their properties confiscated and placed on public auction. Abandoned from 1768-84, the church deteriorated. In 1771, the archbishop of Manila requested authorization to use the Colegio de Manila, adjacent to the church for the Seminario de San Carlos, but approval was not given immediately. The seminary took possession of the college and church in 1784. The church was damaged beyond repair by the earthquake of 6 September 1852. A turn of the century photograph shows the damaged church façade, the flanking bell towers and the nave’s lower floor as the only structures still standing. Later, the church site was used as a military barracks, the Cuartel de España, and subsequently quarters of the 31st American Infantry. When the Jesuits began building the second San Ignacio in 1879, they were authorized to use the stones of the old church for the foundation of the new one they were building. Apparently nothing much was left to be destroyed by war.

A copy of the plans of the San Ignacio and the adjacent Colegio de Manila and Colegio de San José is kept in the Jesuit archives in Manila. Apparently, the plan does not show the structures as built because the buildings are laid out in a regular quadrilateral, rather than an irregular one which would conform to the actual shape of the Jesuit comppound, where southern perimeter followed the line of the city walls.
The second San Ignacio built along Arsobispado beside the archbishop’s palace was designed by Felix Roxas, Sr., in the Classical and Renaissance style. The wooden interior and statuary were designed and executed by Isabelo Tampingco and his atelier, the altars and pulpit by Agustin Saez, who was director of the art academy in Manila and art teacher at the Ateneo Municipál. This church was completed in 1889.

The second San Ignacio was in the Neoclassical idiom although its interior with an arcade and elevated galleries running the length of the nave was more Renaissance in style, so was the church’s artesonado or coffered ceiling. The façade was built of bricks, piedra de Visayas (coral or limestone) with white Cararra marble used for the engaged pillars, portals and windows. The interior was covered with dark hardwood from the forests of Surigao. Wood relieves of Jesuit saints decorated the interior. The whole wooden interior was the work of Tampingco and his atelier, who began working on it in 1882. The church survived the fire that ravaged the Ateneo in 1932. When the Ateneo moved to Ermita, at the site of the Escuela Normál de San Francisco, the church became a parish. It was favorite church for fashionable weddings even among American residents, because in the 1920s the administration of the Jesuit Philippine Provinces had been transferred from the Spaniards to Americans. The American Jesuits who run the Ateneo Municipal introduced English as a medium of instruction. In the San Ignacio, English was also the language used by its Jesuit pastors.

The church was ruined during the liberation of Manila in 1945. The property was acquired by the city of Manila and rented out to different companies. At one time it was the E.J. Neil warehouse. The ruined walls of San Ignacio still stand. It has been cleaned and is now an empty shell under IA. Plans to rebuild the church as an ecclesiastical museum are still to be implemented.

The second San Ignacio was built beside the Casa Mision, the residence of the Jesuits in Intramuros, which housed both the faculty of the Ateneo Muncipal de Manila and the Jesuit superiors of the Philippine Mission. The Casa Mision was built like a typical 19th century bahay na bato with a lower story of stone and an upper story of wood. The city government authorized the construction of a covered bridge above Anda Street linking the Casa Mision with the Ateneo Municipal. This allowed the Jesuit faculty to go to the Ateneo during the rainy season without getting wet. The late Jesuit historian, Horacio de la Costa, wrote poetically about this bridge: “There was something symbolic in that bridge when it was built, something almost sacramental in its air of being at once aloof from, and in the midst of, the ever increasing swirl and eddy or traffic … The building of the visible bridge over Anda, then, may be taken as a convenient symbol of that other invisible bridge which the Jesuits has begun to build: the uninterrupted educational action … by which they transferred or tried to transfer, to the children of an Eastern nation all that is best and enduring in the culture of Europe” (Light Cavalry 1941: 38, 41).

The San Ignacio has been cleaned and the area around it used for events and performances organized by the Department of Tourism. The interior of San Ignacio is used for exhibits and theatrical productions during the dry season from November to May.

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