Inside the vicinity of Manila and the quieter side of Quiapo, is a church with reborn gothic architecture, best known as the San Sebastian Church. Also known as the Basilica Menor de San Sebastian, it is one of the oldest churches in the country and the only all-steel temple of God in the Philippines.
Many people of all ages are going to this church to solemnly pray. The ambiance that this church provides is very different from other churches of the new age. Some say this is their favorite church and that when the time comes for marriage, here’s where it should be held.
How to get to San Sebastian Church?
From LRT1 Central Station, ride a jeep bound to San Sebastian and you will be dropped off in front of the church. Look for San Miguel – Quiapo signboard.
From LRT Doroteo Jose Station, board a jeep bound for Sta Mesa on C.M. Recto. Alight from the jeep before reaching Mendiola then walk towards Ayala Bridge then turn right on San Rafael St.
By Car: from Makati, make your way to Ayala Bridge drive past P. Casal St. then make a left turn at the corner of San Rafael St. The church could be seen immediately.
Beauty and History of San Sebastian Church
San Sebastian Church is made of prefabricated steel crafted and manufactured from Belgium. They had to make correct measurements first before shipping the parts to the Philippines. It comprises of 100+ all-steel pillars and it had already withstood around 11 or more earthquakes that hit Manila. The church wasn’t welded but we’re fastened by rivets and bolts as there were no welding machines and rods available during the time of manufacture.
Did you know that the church is already 126 years old (as of writing)? Yes, it’s more than 100 years old already. The church was raised to the status of a minor basilica by Pope Leo XIII on June 24, 1890, and was completed on 1891. The major basilica you ask? The Vatican. All other basilicas are just minor basilicas like San Sebastian Church.
Although the basilica is made of all-steel, it was painted as if it was made of stone to deceive the eyes of parishioners. Try putting a magnet in and it’ll surely stick.
Above the main altar is an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, given to the church by Carmelite sisters from Mexico City in 1617. The image withstood all the earthquakes and fires which had destroyed previous incarnations of San Sebastian Church, but its ivory head was stolen in 1975.
San Sebastian Church is declared as a Philippine Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure — a prestigious designation for historic buildings in the country that are dated more than a hundred years old.
The stained glass windows add effect to the overall look of the century-old church. You can see it is properly detailed. Some colors have faded but when struck by rays of light, it shines beautifully. You’ll also be seeing faded wall paintings and you’d know they were already there even before you were born.
Access to the belfry is possible!
You may take a special tour if you wanna go to the organ area. This special tour includes access to the belfry (bell tower) and you’ll see more of Quiapo from above the church – with food, drinks, and transport included and a guide that will tell you more of the story and history of the church. The tour is provided by Fundacion Santiago in cooperation with Save San Sebastian Conservation and Development Foundation. These partners units are aiming to raise awareness for Filipinos and tourists that our heritage are part of our culture and we should preserve them as much as we could.
If you wanna know more about the tour, please visit and contact Save San Sebastian Conservation and Development Foundation on their Facebook page or you can also PM me if you’re interested and I’ll direct you to the appropriate unit.
Due to the old age of the church, rust and corrosion are starting to build up that may cause the destruction of the church. A 10-year restoration project was launched by the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. (SSBCDFI) is now in its third year of work.
If you know anyone who is concerned about our National Historical Sites, let them know that SSBCDFI is looking for potential helpers for the project. Let’s help and save San Sebastian Church.