Santo Domingo Church

The church is known for the Feast of La Naval, celebrated annually on 7 October. This feast in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary commemorates the victory of the Spanish against the Dutch, who tried to invade Manila. It is believed that the victory, involving a number of naval battles, happened through the Virgin Mary’s intercession.

The Sto. Domingo church was built on a site near the University of Sto. Tomás University, that is, on the northeastern flank of Intramuros, near the Pasig. On this site, four other churches had been built; the fifth and last of the Sto. Domingos was in the Neogothic style, designed by Felix Roxas Sr., with construction supervised by Fray Sixto and Fray Ristoro. This was the church damaged by Japanese bombardment on 21 December 1941.

Arriving in 1587, the Dominicans were welcomed by the Franciscans. Bishop Domingo Salazar contributed 300 pesos toward the purchase of land and 3,000 more for construction. On 6 August 1587 ground was broken for a church of light material. Completed on 1 January 1588, the image of the Sto. Rosario was enthroned in the church. In 1589, the church’s roof collapsed compelling the Dominicans to build a second church of stone inaugurated on 9 April 1592. This church burned during a fire on 30 April 1603, which consumed a third of the city.

A third church with a stone vault was constructed but it collapsed on 30 November 1610 during an earthquake. A fourth church of stone and hardwood was built almost immediately. Columns of hardwood supported the roof and divided the nave from the side aisles. The church stayed standing for more than 200 years. On 15 June 1862, the church inaugurated a new façade said to have been patterned after Christopher Wren’s plans for St. Paul’s in London, i.e. it was in the Neoclassical idiom. In 1863, the church collapsed during an earthquake, a little less than a year since the new façade was completed.

As a caution against earthquakes, Roxas designed the fifth church such that the upper story was made of wood and metal, resting on a lower story of stone. The Gothic idiom adapted throughout the church was evident in both the exterior and interior-lancet windows, tracery, even the altars and the furniture were embellished with Gothic motifs. Although the church was destroyed some of its appurtenances, especially the ivory image of the Sto. Rosario, sculpted in 1595, were saved because it had been kept in the church’s vault.
The site of Sto. Domingo is presently occupied by Far East Bank, Tuason-Gonzales Bldg., Beneficial Life, Letran’s gym and a parking lot.

After the war, the Dominicans built a new Sto. Domingo, designed by Jose Maria Zaragosa in the Spanish Moderne style, along Quezon Blvd. in Quezon City. This capacious church houses the image of the Sto. Rosario, whose feast is marked by the La Naval procession. Seeming out of place in this new urban setting, the procession nonetheless attracts a large crowd. The Sto. Rosario is the patroness of Quezon City.


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