San Miguel Arcangel Church

san miguel arcangel church

san-miguel-arcangel-church-argaoSt Michael Archangel Church of Argao (photo: Cadeac Bernard)

argao's san miguel arcangel church

San Miguel Arcangel Church of Argao is a beautiful church built as Baroque Rococo structure. Its construction commenced in 1734 and was completed in 1788. It seems like old churches are genuinely constructed with great sincerity and proficiencies.

The church is built adjacent to the Argao Town Plaza and other heritage structures such as the Casa Real, Capilla Mortuario, Paso or Way of the Cross wall, and Hall of Justice building. You should know by now that Spanish authorities centralize everything in this way for accessibility to various governance system.

Argao Town, a municipality, is located just around 67 kilometers outside of Cebu City, the capital of the province. The municipality is known for its fine beaches among other treasures and resources for visitors and travelers.

If you are interested, you can find out more about Argao Municipality’s resources here. To get there, you may use any transports you prefer. Now, let’s find out more about this church…

amazing argao church features

What distinguishes the San Miguel Arcangel Church, is the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry, although Augustinian records had failed to identify many of the master carver-artists behind the structure’s artistic ornamentation.

This church is a product of craftmanship, itinerant Chinese, and Chinese-mestizos who were familiar with Christian themes and motifs as well as early Christian symbolism.

“On the first level, the paired columns stand on rectangular pedestals. The two outer pedestals depict lions sitting on their hind legs, holding a ball in each of their paws; a very typical Chinese motif,” wrote Gerschwiler.

The two pedestals flanking the main door each depict a bird, with its head down and wings spread out protectively, nursing three of its young that cling to their mother’s breast, he added in his description.

Similar to other Augustinian structures built in the late 18th century in the Philippines, the San Miguel Arcangel Church or Saint (shortened as St.) Michael, the Archangel Church of Argao, is an edifice of impressive dimensions.

The church structure set in stone is 72 meters long, 16 meters wide, and 10 meters high, which is quite the usual size of church structure built during that period.

Paul Gerschwiler, who chronicled Argao’s history, described the construction as massive, with its “12 strong supporting buttresses reinforcing the walls and enhancing stability.”

church facade

The church facade is a horizontal rectangle topped by a triangular pediment and divided into nine panels, a style that can be found only in five of over 160 documented Augustinian churches and all of them built along the southeastern coast of Cebu, according to Gerschwiler.

Its massive front and side doors made of vertically joined hardwood planks are integrated with smaller semicircular doors and decorated evenly with bronze rosettes embedded on the wood.

Rich and elaborate ornamentation can be seen in the way the double cornices that horizontally divide the facade create an entablature when it intersects with Corinthian capitals richly decorated with floral motifs.

The Atlante-angel carvings carry the paired half-columns running up to the pediment. An intricately stylized peacock sits atop an orb; and can see carvings of angels, fruits of the ivy, and a little snake run down the columns.

Four of the nine panels in the front face is prominent, including the central panel of the pediment where St. Michael the Archangel, armed with spear and shield and flanked by two angels. One of the angels is carrying his standard as light bearer and the other holding the Tuba Christi of the Last Judgement.

the belfry

The belfry of a Catholic church is one of its prominent and important structure of churches during that period.

Church historian Galende describes the three-level campanario or belfry erected in 1830 as “one of the best in the Philippines.” It rests on a solid and thick wall base and has small rectangular openings.

It used to house nine bells, and the earliest one brought there, Santa Barbara was founded in 1875.

fives altars

There are five altars or retablos inside the Argao church. The main one, which a priest decided to paint gold, has neo-baroque influences, said Gerschwiler.

This altar has four niches: the lower level contains statues of the archangels St. Michael (center), St. Gabriel (right), and St. Raphael (left) while the center enshrines a sculpted image Center of the Virgin Mary.

A wooden retablo of grand proportions dominates the altar section, but this has unfortunately been unnecessarily gilded, including even the centuries-old life-size estofado statues of saints enthroned in its niches.

There are two other altars with four semicircular statue niches with round arches bearing ornamentation of Chinese influences and Moorish arabesques.

roof & ceiling

The Argao church is typical of other Spanish colonial churches in the Philippines. This is shown through its vaulted wooden ceiling that covers a simple nave and a transept that gives it a cruciform shape.

Originally, the San Miguel Arcangel Church had the typical Spanish clay tiles for its roof, but this collapsed during the typhoon of November 25-26, 1876, wrote Gerschwiler. He said Argao native Monsignor (Msgr.) Pablo Alcarez narrated that the tiles were replaced with galvanized iron in 1924 due to fear of earthquakes.

Only the murals on the apse and transept of the vaulted ceiling can be attributed to famous 20th-century Cebuano painter Raymundo Francia.

pipe organ

Gerschwiler said the church’s pipe organ is one of three that remains in Cebu. It was believed installed in the second half of the 19th century and, although Mexican in design, used local materials, so it was probably built locally, he wrote.

Argao church’s pipe organ has a total of 700 pipes and provides the organist with 22 different timbres.

The four scenes span the whole width of the nave and transept at their crossing point and depict the battle between the fallen angels of Lucifer and the good angels of St. Michael, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the fall of man.

He described the pulpit as made up of rectangularly recessed planes angled against each other and on them are painted wooden reliefs of (in clockwise direction) evangelist St. Luke, the evangelist St. Mark, the Virgin Mary, the evangelist St. John, and the evangelist St. Matthew.

completion & becoming a parish church

The completion of this Argao church can be traced back to 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi, that quoted Archdiocesan Records.

Pedro Galende, another historian, attributed the current structure to Fr. Mateo Perez, who served as parish priest for 33 straight years (from 1803 to 1806). The date “1788” engraved above the arch of the Argao church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.

Argao was one of eight vicarages established in 1599 and, while it became a town or mission pueblo as early as 1608, it was only set up as a parish over a hundred years later or in 1733, said the Balaanong Bahandi, adding the reason for this oversight was never adequately explained.

Thanks for reading this interesting article and hope you enjoyed it.
Have a great day!

Arfonzo's Buildslaves, (accessed December 07, 2017).

Category: Cebu Archdiocese - Digital Tourism, (accessed December 07, 2017).

Rich Symbolism In Argao’s St. Michael The Archangel Church, (accessed December 07, 2017).

St. Michael The Archangel Parish Archives - .., (accessed December 07, 2017).

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