San Sebastian Church, Manila

San Sebastian Church is the only all-steel church in Asia and the only prefabricated steel church in the world. Located on a quieter side of Quiapo, the church site was first established in the 1600s, but earlier buildings were destroyed in a series of fires and earthquakes. The current one dates back to 1891 and features a Gothic Revival architecture style – quite distinct from other churches in Manila.


Its mint green facade, coupled with twin spires, is an instant eye catcher. It was said to have been inspired by the Gothic Burgos Cathedral in Spain. 

I guess people were tired of having the church razed, so the new one was made to be fire-proof and earthquake-proof as much as possible. 52 tonnes of prefabricated steel sections were made in Belgium and shipped to the Philippines, while the stained glass was imported from Germany with local artisans putting on the finishing touches. All in all, this magnificent structure is the perfect example of European engineering married with Filipino artistry and culture.


The church’s exterior actually reminds me of icing on cake lol trust Eris to see food in everything 😀



Adjacent to the church is a college managed by the church committee. established in 1941.



Stepping inside, I was impressed by the design, which reminded of Gothic churches in Europe. They had just finished mass so the mini chandeliers, dangling in two rows above the church pews, were lit up – casting a warm and cheerful glow to the halls somber interior. Pillars rise to the ceiling, forming an arched shape, and at the back is a dome painted over with the original ‘3D’ style of painting or trompe l’oiel.

PS: The pillars are painted over to look like marble and jasper, but they are actually steel (!)


The main altar has an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, gifted by Carmelite sisters from Mexico City in the 1600s. The image withstood all the natural disasters that have destroyed previous buildings, but ironically, the ivory head was stolen (by people, always people are the worst culprits) in 1975.


Colourful stained glass on the sides depict scenes and characters from the Bible. Some are so delicate that a simple touch with a toothbrush could cause the designs to fade away.

Sadly, this is not the only thing in danger of disappearing. The building’s materials have rusted over the years due to corrosion, and it’s structural integrity is in danger. Here’s hoping that conservation efforts will be put into place to prevent that from happening.

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A pulpit where the priest can deliver sermons. The elevated wooden structure is decorated with elaborate carvings and images.


Plaza Del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila, 1101 Metro Manila, Philippines

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