Ciudad del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus, or the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, P. Zamora Street, Cebu City, Philippines
The Cebu Cathedral is younger than the Diocese of Cebu ( created in 1595 ), as the first church, from 1595, was one of wood, bamboo and thatch. Although stone walls were added, it was in a sorry state according to a 1667 report of Bishop. Juan Lopez to the King of Spain. After many false starts to build a more worthy church for the Catholic Bishop, the Spanish military engineer Juan de Ciscara was commissioned in 1719 to design the cathedral. He opted for a cruciform design with short transepts. He placed the altar mayor at the crossing, reserved the apse for the altar de pardon, and placed the choir stalls for the cathedral canon in the nave. Work on the construction was suspended when funds were diverted to military campaigns against slave raiders. Construction began in 1734, was interrupted four years later, resumed in 1741 under Bishop. Protasio Cabezas. The facade was completed in 1786 and in 1811 the cathedral was blessed. The completed cathedral departed from Ciscara’s plans. It was renovated in 1829, 1836 when Bishop. Santos Maranon, who designed other churches in Cebu, designed and built the bell tower. The cathedral was improved in 1886, during the incumbency of Bishop Gorordo, and in 1939. Damaged during World War II, architect Jose Zaragosa rebuilt the cathedral in 1959. The cathedral’s interior was renovated more recently.
Because of damage caused by World War II and the recent renovation, nothing of the historical interior remains, however, the exterior remains 18th century. The 21 meter high facade is capped by a pediment shaped like a trefoil. The monogram IHS decorates the upper register pediment while little circular openings decorate the lower part. A pair of griffins and bas-relief floral designs fill the pediment. The two story facade is divided vertically by paired columns on a tall plinth and the cornice over the main door is broken and emblazoned with a coat of arms in low relief.
The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is the ecclesiastical seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cebu in Cebu, Philippines. Cebu was established as a diocese on August 14, 1595. It was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese on April 28, 1934 with the dioceses of Dumaguete, Maasin, Tagbilaran, and Talibon as suffragans. Construction of the cathedral took many years due to frequent interruptions, brought about by lack of funds and other unexpected events. At one time, funds meant for the building of the cathedral were diverted to the Moro wars. The death of an incumbent bishop who spearheaded the construction/reconstruction and vacancies in the office were also factors.
The architecture of the church is typical of Spanish colonial churches in the country, namely, squat and with thick walls to withstand typhoons and other natural calamities. The facade features a trefoil-shaped pediment, which is decorated with carved relieves of floral motifs, an IHS inscription and a pair of griffins. The Spanish Royal Coat of Arms is emblazoned in low relief above the main entrance, reflecting perhaps the contribution of the Spanish monarch to its construction. During World War II, much of the cathedral was destroyed by Allied bombings of the city. Only the belfry (built in 1835), the facade, and the walls remained. It was quickly rebuilt in the 1950’s under the supervision of architect Jose Ma. Zaragosa, during the incumbency of Archbishop Gabriel Reyes.
In 1982, a mausoleum was built at the back of the sacristy at the initiation of Archbishop Julio Cardinal Rosales. It serves as a final resting place for the remains of Cebu’s bishops and clergy. Cardinal Rosales, who died three months after inauguration of the mausoleum, is interred there along with Archbishop Manuel Salvador, a coadjutor archbishop of Cebu, and Archbishop Mariano Gaviola, the archbishop of Lipa (1981–1993). The remains of Bishop Juan Bautista Gorordo, the first Filipino and Cebuano bishop of Cebu, are also interred there. The cathedral was renovated recently for the 75th anniversary celebration on April 28, 2009 of the elevation of Cebu into an archdiocese. An application is pending at the Vatican for the cathedral’s elevation into a minor basilica in honour of St. Vitalis, an early Christian martyr. His feast day coincides with the day the image of the Sto. Nino de Cebu was found almost 450 years ago, as well as the anniversary of the elevation of Cebu into an archdiocese.