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P30-M Cebu Cathedral renovation

Restoring the Archdiocese’s seat First Posted 09:21:00 12/21/2008

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Ancient church tradition dictates that the local ordinary or bishop wields his power from his throne, the seat of the archdiocese.

In the case of Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral which has a ?throne? or seat made of marble located on the left side of the altar, said Fr. Brian Brigoli, curator of the Cebu Cathedral Museum.

The cathedral is undergoing a P30-million renovation work, the second major ?facelift? during the 26-year term of office of Cardinal Vidal.

?This is the seat of the local ordinary, the seat of the highest hierarchy that governs the local church,? Fr. Brigoli said.

Aside from entailing authority, Fr. Brigoli said the seat is the symbol of unity of the church, the ?unifying factor? in Cebu province.

The archdiocese, through Cardinal Vidal, sent an application to Pope Benedict XVI in September this year requesting that the cathedral be declared a basilica in time for its celebration of its 75th year as an archdiocese next year.

First renovation

Fr. Brigoli, the priest in-charge of the renovation work, explained that the Cathedral is a typical example of a baroque colonial church.

Based on the church description documented in the souvenir program published for the fourth centenary celebration of Cebu as a diocese, the church is shaped into a cruciform with thick walls that were built to withstand typhoon and other natural calamities.

Inside the church, a large dome sits upon the pillars of the transept, accenting the barrel vaulted ceiling.

A wooden retablo or altarpiece is in place over the sanctuary.

The church was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

The remaining original structures are the belfry and the facade.

?The facade is a Romanesque element. Usually the pediment is triangle but for the Cathedral it is Romanesque or half dome,? said Brigoli.

Archbishop Gabriel Reyes oversaw the church reconstruction of the church in the 1950s.

The 1993 renovation was part of preparations for the 400th year of Cebu as a diocese and was under the supervision of parish priest Msgr. Manuel Salvador.

The church interior was widened into a rectangular structure. The downsized walls support the balconies.

Major renovation work on the church was done in 1993, as part of preparations for the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines for the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of Manila and the Dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Caceres and Nueva Segovia.

Brigoli, 29, is tasked to oversee the multi-million peso renovation work on the most prominent church in Cebu.

His ?resume? includes a Masters degree in cultural heritage from the University of Sto. Tomas, a five-year course that he took for only two years.

Architecture grammar

He expressed confidence that the project should be finished by April next year in time for the celebration of 75 years of Cebu as an archdiocese.

At present, there are more than 30 workers at one time within the compound.

Three contractors have been hired to do renovation, restoration and plumbing works.

Brigoli said the first renovation work left the facade, walls and belfry intact but they were unable to incorporate structures that convey an ?architecture grammar? from the main door to the nave and the altar.

?When you enter, you expect an old design. This would have brought back the people's collective memory of the place, which is a spiritual aspect of the heritage conservation work here,? said Brigoli.

?We intend to employ the principle of the old retablo that would enshrine a Filipino saint and a Filipino martyr. The old retablo or altar pieces on the main and side altars would be restored,? he said.

The right side of the altar will be reserved for Cebu's popular devotions.

San Vicente Ferrer, San Antonio de Padua and the Immaculate Conception while a San Vitales relleve or statue depicting the martyrdom of the saint will also be installed.

Three custom-made chandeliers will be installed while the interior of the church will be repainted, embellished.

The adoration chapel will also be renovated, fitted with liturgical elements, or items that would appropriate to add to a place of prayer.

Patron seal

The facade, made of coral stone, is the only identity left of the cathedral, said Brigoli.

It bears the patronato real Seal of the patronato real, the king sponsoring the structure or building up the church, which is located on the low relief above the main entrance.

The relleve on the facade is original coral stone which remained untouched in previous renovation work.

Fr. Brigoli said the centuries-old facade as well as the belfry, will undergo mechanical and chemical cleaning to get rid of agents that cause degeneration, carbon deposits, acid deposits and discoloration.

?(We will) fill in the cracks so water would not seep in between the stone and roots of plants encroach into the wall,? he said. Carillon bells will be installed by March 2009.

Aside from the external renovation work, the roofing, electrical, plumbing and water system were also checked and changed.

?We are rewiring because of the fire in Oslob that destroyed the church and convent,? he said.

Electrical engineers checked the spine of the church and found that six trusses made of 40 percent wood were infected with termites.

The trusses were changed to steel tubular trusses.

?We invited an exterminator and were able to confine the termite before it spread. They treated the ground surrounding the church,? he added.

Heritage conservation

The renovation work began with the perimeter fence, said Brigoli, and also includes the parking lot and the incorporation of the plaza with expenses reaching about P15 million.

Brigoli said they will soon have an environment friendly culvert.

?Kada opening sa canal, not cemented. We bring back water to the waterbed. We incorporate the old plaza and the modern need, the parking that would fit 73 cars and 18 motorcycles,? he added.

Fr. Brigoli said the public restroom will be transferred near the grotto since it is hazardous to old stones.

The convent now has balustrades to resemble Spanish era architecture.

The adoration chapel and sacristy are also in line for some renovation work while a multi-purpose hall that could be used by mandated organizations for their meetings/gatherings.

Fr. Brigoli said that the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) is helping out with financing the project, as part of their advocacy of heritage conservation.

He added that fund raising projects are also being organized side by side with solicitation, receiving pledges and second collection.

Center of worship

Renovation would follow ecclesiastical requirements to prepare for conversion of the cathedral into a basilica.

?The renovation work at the Cathedral is to enhance the historical or heritage value of the church. This is a center for worship,? said Msgr. Roberto Alesna, Cathedral parish priest.

?Para ni ma-enhance and worship-life or devotion of the people. This is also for the people's cultural recall or so that they will remember how life was like in the past,? he added.

Alesna said that there were no changes with the schedule of church activities despite the round-the-clock work on the church structure.

Cardinal Vidal had submitted this year an application for the cathedral's declaration as a basilica this year.

As for the name that will be used, Alesna said if the application is approved by Pope Benedict XVI the church would be called ?Basilica Minore de San Vitales.?


Msgr. Dakay explained that the re-discovery of the Sto. Nino, also known as Kaplag, was on April 28 which is also the feast day of San Vitales.

Kaplag is a Visayan word for ?find? and is a celebration that commemorates the discovery of the image of the Sto. Niño in the burned ruins of a pre-Spanish settlement in Cebu.

?There was no other church at that but the Cathedral. So, San Vitales was chosen as the patron of the cathedral,? he said.

Dakay said the move to declare the cathedral as a basilica was timed with the celebration of the 75th year of Cebu as an archdiocese.

He added that another reason was that the number of pilgrims that visit the church was steadily increasing through the years.

The word basilica is from the Greek word basileus, which means king, said Dakay.

?All basilica inside Rome are called major basilica while all basilica outside Rome are called minor basilica,? Dakay said.

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