10 Famous Churches in the Philippines with Beautiful Architecture

These churches are not just places of worship—they’re also works of art.

By: Patricia Marie Prado | March 30, 2018
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famous Catholic churches in the Philippines


For us Filipinos, the churches all over our country are more than just a place of worship every Sunday. Many of these churches are actually architectural wonders—some even as popular as the next tourist spot—that have been standing for more than hundreds of years. They represent not just our faith but our colorful history and culture as well, so why not learn more about them and appreciate them for the art form that they are?

If you’re curious about the history of our most famous churches, read on as we talk about the architectural influences and stories behind 10 of the most famous Catholic churches in the Philippines.


1. Basilica Del Santo Niño

Address: Osmeña Boulevard, corner P. Burgos Street, Cebu City



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Marvel at the country’s oldest church in Cebu.

Image: @issapapaya


Officially called the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebú, Basilica Del Santo Niño was built in 1565 and is the oldest church in the country. It is largely believed that the place where the church was erected is where explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi found an image of Santo Niño de Cebu.

During its first few years, the church burned down a couple of times until it was finally finished in 1739. Today, it is also known for its Pilgrim Center, a theater-like stadium that accommodates hundreds of devotees who visit the Santo Niño. The church is also the center of celebration during the Sinulog Festival, one of the most popular feasts in the country.


2. Manila Cathedral

Address: Sto. Tomas, Intramuros, Manila



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Intricate details both on the outside and the inside make Manila Cathedral a stand-out.

Images: Left, @kian_xxi; Right: @shoheied


Manila Cathedral was established as a parish in 1571 and as a cathedral in 1581. In its early years, it was made simply out of nipa, bamboo, and wood. Now, it is known for its Neo-Romanesque architecture, detailed tympanum, and the Papal arms at its dome that were given by Pope John Paul II. Inside, the church has an attractive rib-style vault ceiling that draws people’s eyes to it and flooring made out of marble.

Manila Cathedral has also had its fair share of challenges: it has faced earthquakes in the past and has also endured bombing by the Japanese during World War II. But with continuous renovation and care, it still stands as one of the most beautiful and well-known churches in the country.




3. Miagao Church

Address: Zulueta Ave, Miagao, Iloilo



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Miagao Church’s detailed bas-relief depicts the life of the locals during its construction.

Image: @lmvcarrillo


Iloilo also has its own church to be proud of in Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, more popularly known as Miagao Church. Established in 1731, the Augustinian-led church was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1993 under the title Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Miagao Church is also known for its distinct ochre color which is attributed to the eggs, adobe, and limestones used during its construction. In addition to this, it is also popular for its detailed façade that contains bas-relief sculptures depicting the life of the locals during the church’s construction. Inside, a huge gold-plated retablo (a painting found above or behind an altar) awaits the visitors.


4. Taal Basilica

Address: Calle San Martin, Taal, Batangas



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Aside from its size, Taal Basilica’s ionic columns and trompe l'oeil paintings make it a beauty.

Images: Left, @ayahjoyze; Right: @bonnifaciooow


Measuring 88.6 meters long and 48 meters wide, Taal Basilica or Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours holds the record as the largest church in the country and in Asia. The church is also known for its beautiful façade detailed with iconic columns and glass-stained windows.

Inside, Taal Basilica boasts of walls and ceilings decorated with trompe l'oeil paintings that feature realistic imagery with a three-dimensional effect. Although the Basilica faced significant damages due to twin earthquakes last April 2017, the government is making an effort to preserve it.


5. Tukon Church

Address: Basco, Batanes



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Your Batanes trip won’t be complete without a visit to Tukon Church.

Image: @viajetoledo


If Batanes is one of your dream destinations, you’re probably familiar with this quaint church on top of a hill called Tukon Church. Also known as Mt. Carmel Chapel, the church is a project spearheaded by the Abad family, a well-known clan in Batanes. With the help of the locals, construction was completed within a year and the church officially opened in 2008.

The stone exterior of the church was inspired by the stone houses of the Ivatan tribe in the province. Inside, the walls are covered by paintings of the scholars of Pacita Abad Center for the Arts.


6. San Sebastian Church

Address: Pasaje del Carmen St, Quiapo, Manila



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Lift your eyes and witness the detailed ceiling of San Sebastian Church.

Images: Left, Basilica Menor de San Sebastian Manila Facebook Page; Right, @lala_songco


San Sebastian Church or Basilica Menor de San Sebastian is one of the most iconic structures in the metro. Completed in 1891, the church is the first all-steel structure in the country and in Asia, and second in the world next to the famous Eiffel Tower. The Neo-Gothic church was also designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1973 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2011.

But aside from its many accolades, San Sebastian Church is also well known for its majestic interiors. Look up and feast your eyes on the trompe l'oeil paintings of saints and martyrs by artist Lorenzo Rocha and his students against the church’s steel domes. The church’s towering columns and intricate rib-style vaulted ceilings will also take your breath away.


7. San Agustin Church

Address: General Luna St, Manila, Metro Manila



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Its grand interior is what makes San Agustin a popular spot for weddings.

Images: Left, @fwywss; Right,@bimboy_palaboy


Another National Historical Landmark that can be found at the heart of Manila is San Agustin Church. Like the other structures on this list, San Agustin Church also endured a challenging past as it was destroyed by fire twice during its early days. Finally in 1607, the church was rebuilt and completed using adobe stones and it now stands as the oldest stone church in the country.

In addition to its Baroque exteriors, San Agustin Church is also famous for its grandiose interiors that make it a popular wedding venue. Inside, you’ll be treated to larger-than-life trompe l'oeil paintings that cover the church’s walls and sunken panels, as well as Parisian chandeliers and an ornate pulpit.




8. Binondo Church

Address: Plaza L. Ruiz, Binondo, Manila



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Spanish and Chinese cultures collide at Binondo Church.

Image: @cuacomoela


It’s no secret that the Chinese were already trading with us Filipinos even before the Spaniards came. But when the Spaniards started colonizing our country and the Chinese population started growing, the former managed the latter’s increasing number and eventually converted them to the Catholic faith.

The conversion of many Chinese immigrants eventually led to the construction of Binondo Church. The structure has influences of both Spanish and Chinese architecture: the façade bears the baroque style associated with the Spaniards, while the octagonal bell tower represents the influence of the Chinese, as it is similar to their pagodas.


9. Betis Church

Address: Betis, Guagua, Pampanga



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Get to know the Sistine Chapel of the country in Pampanga.

Images: Left, @afdado; Right, @elmerespiritu23


Just an hour and a half from Manila stands Betis Church, another architectural wonder which is also known as St. James the Apostle Parish Church. The Baroque-style church was made not just to be a place of worship but also to be a fortress of defense that can withstand attacks and rebellions.

Inside, Betis Church is known for the intricate painting on its ceiling that is often compared to the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican City. The detailed artwork comprises of various images, including various scenes from the Bible, the Holy Family, and a number of Catholic saints and even cherubs.


10. Bantay Church

Address: Bantay, Ilocos Sur



famous Catholic churches in the Philippines

Bantay Church’s brown façade stands out against the bluest of clouds.

Image: @dwighthowardtaft


Similar to Betis Church of Pampanga, Bantay Church also served two purposes: as a church for its townspeople and, in the past, as a watchtower to guard the various towns of the province against its enemies.

After being heavily damaged during the Second World War, the church was rebuilt in 1950 bearing the style of Neo-Gothic design with a touch of Neo-Romanesque elements. Meanwhile, its belfry, known as the Bantay Tower, got its name from the word bantay (to guard) as it served as the province’s lookout post. Today, it is now known as an iconic landmark of the province.




The next time you’re visiting any of these churches, you can now appreciate these architectural wonders better! Let us know in the comments section which of these churches are your favorites.
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About Patricia Marie Prado
Patricia came from the field of business and accounting but is now pursuing her dreams of being a writer. She is a self-confessed introvert and is passionate about reading, travelling, writing, movies, coffee and God. When she's not writing, she loves discovering new coffee shops/cafe and doing TV-series marathons.
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