Paoay Church

Paoay Church
San Agustin Church of Paoay
Iglesia de San Agustín de Paoay

The façade and bell tower of Paoay Church
Paoay Church
Location within the Philippines
18°3′41.5″N 120°31′17.5″E / 18.061528°N 120.521528°E / 18.061528; 120.521528Coordinates: 18°3′41.5″N 120°31′17.5″E / 18.061528°N 120.521528°E / 18.061528; 120.521528
Location Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Country Philippines
Denomination Roman Catholic
Founded 1686
Founder(s) Padre Antonio Estavillo
Dedication Saint Augustine of Hippo
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation National Cultural Treasure, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Designated 1973, 1993
Architect(s) Padre Antonio Estavillo
Architectural type Church building
Style Earthquake Baroque
Groundbreaking 1694
Completed 1710
Length 110 metres (360 ft)
Width 40 metres (130 ft)
Number of domes None
Materials Coral stone and bricks
Archdiocese Nueva Segovia
Diocese Laoag
Archbishop Marlo Mendoza Peralta
Bishop(s) Renato P. Mayugba
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Baroque Churches of the Philippines
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Paoay Church
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv
Reference 677
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1993 (17th Session)

The Saint Augustine Church (Spanish: Iglesia de San Agustín de Paoay), commonly known as the Paoay Church, is the Roman Catholic church of the municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It is declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993.


The town of Paoay was originally called "Bombay" as the earliest inhabitants believed to have come from India. The earliest historical record of the area dates back to 1593, becoming an Augustinian independent parish in 1686.[1] Building of the present church was started in 1694 by Augustinian friar Father Antonio Estavillo, completed in 1710 and rededicated in 1896.[2][3] Some portions of the church was damaged in the 1865 and 1885 earthquake but was later restored under the initiative of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.[4]


Paoay church is the Philippines' primary example of a Spanish colonial earthquake baroque architecture dubbed by Alicia Coseteng,[3] an interpretation of the European Baroque adapted to the seismic condition of the country through the use of enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building.[2] The adaptive reuse of baroque style against earthquake is developed since many destructive earthquakes destroyed earlier churches in the country. Javanese architecture reminiscent of Borobudur of Java can also be seen on the church walls and facade.[2]


The most striking feature of Paoay Church is the 24 huge buttresses[5] of about 1.67 metres (5.5 ft)[4] thick at the sides and back of the church building. Extending from the exterior walls, it was conceived to a solution to possible destruction of the building due to earthquakes. Its stair-like buttresses (known as step buttresses) at the sides of the church is possibly for easy access of the roof.[3]


Its walls are made of large coral stones on the lower part and bricks at the upper levels.[3] The mortar used in the church includes sand and lime with sugarcane juice boiled with mango leaves, leather and rice straw.[3] Its walls suggests Javanese architectural styles.


The stone facade appear as massive pediment rising from the ground and is built leaning towards the front. Square pilasters and stringed cornices divide the facade vertically and horizontally respectively. Its bottom part is plain. Gothic features are also present through the use of finials while the triangular pediment shows Chinese elements and Oriental strokes.[5][6] Crenellations, niches, rosettes and the Augustinian coat of arms can also be seen.[3] Facade is made of brick on the lower level and coral stones on the upper level.[7]

Bell Tower

Adjacent to the facade is a three-storey coral bell tower constructed separately from the church building on the right side resembling a pagoda.[3][6] It was in 1793 when the cornerstone of the bell tower was laid.[4] It stands at some distance from the church as a protection against earthquake.[7] It served as observational post for Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards in 1898 and by Filipino guerrillas against Japanese soldiers during World War II.[5][8]


Several projects for the restoration of Paoay Church is sought by government and non-government organizations due to possible question on its structural integrity. The local government of Ilocos Norte through resolution is seeking the reconstruction of the church's convent presently in ruins and retrofitting of the church.[2][9]


By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260, Paoay Church was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973.[10] The church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with San Agustin Church in Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church in Miagao, Iloilo on December 11, 1993.[7]

See also


  1. "Paoay Church". Heritage Conservation Society. Retrieved on 2011-07-09.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Lazaro, Freddie (June 28, 2014). "Retrofitting of Paoay church sought". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Gaspar, Roger (1996). "Earthquake Baroque: Paoay Church in the Ilocos". Archived from the original on November 2, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 Bagaforo, Nelson (April 20, 2011). "Historic churches of Ilocos Norte". Sun.Star. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Aquino, Mike (May 15, 2013). "Touring the oldest churches in the Philippines". Yahoo News Philippines. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  6. 1 2 Villalon, Augusto. "16th to 19th Century Church Architecture in the Philippines". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 "Baroque Churches of the Philippines". UNESCO World Heritage Site. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  8. "Paoay church in Ilocos to get facelift". March 16, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  9. "Restoration of Paoay church pushed". The Philippine Star. June 23, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  10. "Presidential Decree No. 260 August 1, 1973". The Lawphil Project. Arellano Law Foundation. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
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