Sunday, December 17, 2017

title pic San Sebastian Church: Asia’s First Iron Edifice and Paris-Inspired Wedding Church

Posted by admin on February 23, 2013

Love is a blissful state which harmoniously unifies two romantic hearts as one.  It is the most beautiful and lasting expression of human souls that emanate from the depths of their inherent emotions. As this feeling grows more intimate, it proceeds to a higher level which is legally known as marriage.  This new and exciting chapter in the life of a couple entails thrilling phases of their tedious preparations for a simple or grand wedding.

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Goyena @thejeffreyg)

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Goyena @thejeffreyg on Instagram)

Primarily, the right choice of an affordable wedding venue is a must for would be husbands and wives. It is one of the most important requisites and considerations of which both a man and a woman must mutually agree upon. Suggestively, the San Sebastian Church or otherwise known as the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian is one of the widely popular wedding churches in the Philippines that exudes the aura of a fairy tale wedding; though those lifetime partners are not blessed with a million-dollar fortune.

The San Sebastian Church is a Roman Catholic minor basilica located in Manila. Historically, this wedding church in Quiapo was elegantly finished in 1891. Moreover, it is notable for its striking architectural features. Like for instance, its revival of the Gothic architecture is very splendid and graciously crafted. In addition, the so-called Gothic revival which is also alluded to as the Victorian or Neo-Gothic is an architectural conglomeration which all began in England in the year 1740. Going back to the magnificence and glaring ambiance of San Sebastian Church, it is the one and only all-steel church in the heart of Asia. Thus, it is described as the only “pre-fabricated steel church across the globe”.

In 2006, the Church of San Sebastian was luckily included in the temporary list of tourist destinations that could be possibly designated as a World Heritage Site. Also, this Gothic-inspired wedding church was adjudged as a “National Historical Landmark in the Philippines”; in 1973, during the powerful incumbency of former president, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. It was under the virtue of Presidential Decree 260.

Since is establishment, this ostentatious work of art was under the mantle and supervision of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects. These dynamic and goal-driven fishermen of Christ also take charge of  its college university just beside this eye-catching basilica of the Philippines.  The said learning institution is located along the street of Plaza del Carmen; at the eastern section of Claro M. Recto Street, Quiapo, Manila.

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: @jennon)

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: @jennon on Instagram)

Historical Overview

In the year 1621, Don Bernardino Castillo who was a devout Catholic and a devotee of San Sebastian, generously donated a parcel of land upon which the San Sebastian Church proudly stands. Originally, the initial architectural composition of the church was made of wood. Unfortunately, it was gutted down by fire during a Chinese Revolution. Hence, the subsequent structures were consist of high quality bricks. However, devastating calamities such as fires and earthquakes had tested its tenacity in three different years.-1859, 1863 and 1880 respectively. But, Esteban Martinez, a former parish priest of San Sebastian Church had commissioned an architect from Spain whose name is Genaro Palacios to make a plan or prototype that is totally fire and earthquake resistant and thus, made of steel. Successfully, he had remarkably made a design that perfectly combined an Earthquake-Baroque architectural concept alongside with a Neo-Gothic style and elegance. But his ultimate architectural masterpiece came out with a design which had drawn its inspirations from the Gothic Burgos Cathedral, which is found in Burgos, Spain.


Generally, the prefabricated steel aspect of the glorious San Sebastian Church was exclusively made in Binche Belgium. According to Ambeth Ocampo, a notable Filipino historian and writer the knockdown steel components of this illustrious church in Manila were ordered from Societe Anonyme des Enterprises de Travaux Publiques in Brussels.  Amazingly, the engineers and architects of this historical church had made use of 52 tons of prefabricated steel parts. These were carefully transported through eight individual shipments from Belgium to the Philippine Islands.  To date, the initial delivery of these imported materials safely arrived in Philippine shores in the year 1888.

Afterwards, the brilliant engineers of Belgium had meticulously managed the making of San Sebastian Church.  After a few years of dedication and hardwork, the first colossal column of this enigmatic House of God was beautifully erected on the 11th of September 1890.

Descriptively, the church walls of San Sebastian were filled with equal amounts of mixed gravel cement and sand. Meanwhile, its stained glass windows came from the Henri Oidtmann Company. This was a German firm that had been blessed with an unparalled expertise in stained glass manufacturing. On the other hand, local artisans were the ones responsible in applying the final touches of the first-ever steel church in the Philippines.

Through the years, San Sebastian Church was eventually placed in the highest pedestal of world-class recognition when it was named as a minor basilica by Pope Leo XIII on the 24th of June, 1890. In addition, its final completion on August 16, 1891 led to its unforgettable consecration by Bernardo Nozaleda, a former Manila Archbishop.


The brain with an unparalled excellence behind the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty in New York was tremendously linked and attributed to the construction and design of San Sebastian Church. He is no other than but the genius Gustav Eiffel.  Based from the historical chronicles of Filipino writer Ambeth Ocampo, the colorful tales and evolutions of this towering church in Philippines all started when a Chinese-American visited the country in the later years of 1970’s. During his fruitful rendezvous with the Pearl of the Orient Seas, he had accurately validated and confirmed the news that indeed the craftsman of world famous tourist attraction in Paris designed the first steel church in Asia.

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: Nico Hernandez @nicorhernandez)

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: Nico Hernandez @nicorhernandez on Instagram)

Through his very critical and in-depth analysis of the church’s Pei was able to undoubtedly verify that Gustav Eiffel had a hand in designing the culturally overpowering San Sebastian Church.  Specifically, its metal fixtures and exemplary overall structural make up were genuinely from Eiffel himself. On the contrary, the official documents pertaining to the construction of San Sebastian had otherwise revealed another side of the story. These writings had shown that the designs and exportation matters which surrounded the church took place in 1875, which were actually 13 years before the actual creation of the church had transpired.

Therefore, if there was any truth to this mysterious conflict it will not affect nor preclude the fact that Eiffel had played a pivotal role in the structural designs of San Sebastian Church; though it was humbly finished by Palacios in those years.


Convincingly, San Sebastian Church boots its beauty and shimmering characteristics through these breathtaking features that would surely make it as your top choice for your much-awaited marital union. Among the lavish features of this most romantic church venue are as follows:

  • The dual open work towers and steel vaulting structures
  • 12-meter central nave of the basilica,  which attractively extends from the floor going to its dome
  • Groined vaults of the church’s interior,  which are intricately finished in a Gothic style of architecture
  • Its steel columns, ceilings and walls were painted by the one and only Lorenzo Rocha and his students, to give  it  a marble and jasper look
  • Trompe I’oell paintings were used as decorations of the church’s interior parts
  • It has significant influences of the Gothic’s revival nature and spirit which can be vividly seen in its pulpits, confessionals altars and five creative retablos
  • Statues of the  holiest men and women which are marvelously carved by Eusebio Garcia
  • There are six holy water fonts in the church,  which are made from high-grade marble materials from Romblon
  • A miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel which was given by the Carmelite sisters from Mexico City. This replica of the Virgin  Mary had been believed to surpass all the strongest quakes and fires which had previously gutted down the incarnations of San Sebastian Church

Historical and Cultural Preservations 

Since San Sebastian Church was founded, there had been numerous structural threats which haunted the Paris-inspired religious edifice. These structural integrity impediments include corrosion and rust and were further compounded by the irresolvable environmental woes of Manila Bay.  Despite of these architectural limitations, San Sebastian Church was included in the roster of the biennial watchlst of the “100 Most Endangered Sites”, by the World Monuments Fund. As far as the state funding of the church is concerned, it was lawfully accorded through the National Historical Institute. Apart from this government agency, the Recollect Community had extended their wholehearted financial assistance for San Sebastian’s restoration and maintenance.

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: @pixie_ferrer)

San Sebastian Church (Photo Courtesy: @pixie_ferrer on Instagram)

Church Wedding Information in San Sebastian Church

Prior to a church booking at San Sebastian Church, here are some of the basic requirements that you and your spouse to be, have to successfully accomplish. Jot them down and be sure to secure them as early as possible to get the earliest wedding schedules. They are briefly enumerated and described below:

  • Certificates of Baptismal-This document must have the notation, “for marriage purposes only”. This is likewise valid for six months and these should be provided by the respective churches of the couple where they are baptized
  • Confirmation Certificate- Again, this document will be valid six months and must have a note of “for marriage purposes only”. These requirements must come from those churches where they were confirmed
  • Birth Certificates and Certificate of No Marriage- Secure these papers from the National Statistics Office. Their validity dates begin from the date of filing
  • Marriage License- It will be duly issued by city hall.  Validity wise, it is lawfully recognized as valid and binding  for 2 months
  • Interview forms to be filled up by the couple
  • Freedom to Marry- A marriage requirement if the couples both reside in a foreign country.
  • Clearance from the Chancery Office. A much needed document if anyone of them had lived or worked abroad for more than a year
  • Note of Requisition signed by the chapel coordinator- A pre-cana seminar from 6:30 A.M to 5:30 P.M.  at the Saint Therese Hall every Sunday, (except the third Sunday of every month) 
  • 4R sized pictures (2 copies)

Note: Some of the above mentioned requirements might not be one and the same for San Sebastian Church in Manila. For security related reasons, you must readily provide original copies of those above mentioned documents in case you will urgently need them in the future.


In the case of those lovebirds who eagerly wanted to give the best on their most special day, wedding rates at San Sebastian Church range from PHP 20,000 and up. This includes flowers, red carpet and all the other services such as a wedding coordinator, priest, organist and soloist. Somewhere, somehow your wedding ceremony will be truly timeless as you grow old together during your twilight years; because there are exclusive photo ops that are enchantingly enhanced by the overall and heavenly architectural designs in both the interior and exterior sections of this well-loved church among Filipino brides and grooms.

After the wedding, the accessible location of San Sebastian Church provides you the opportunity to spend your joys and memories with your respective families, relatives and friends in a restaurant or hotel which serve good food at affordable prices.  However, you must leave early at least three hours before your altar date, to avoid traffic congestion within the vicinity of University Belt.

Now, if you think getting married is as easy as counting your favorite sheeps at night you should think twice. But, mind you that is the most romantic chapter in a woman’s life. To be loved and be loved by his prince, regardless of their cultural and social differences. Therefore, both couples must hone their organization skills, creativity, patience and resourcefulness to make their wedding date at San Sebastian Church,  a lasting memory of unconditional love and commitment even if its going to be a hundred years or more.

San Sebastian Basilica Church
Basilica Minore De San Sebastian
Tel: (+63 2) 734.8908,  (+63 2) 734 8931 ‎
Address: Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila
Download Map

Share Button