Barasoain Church a Fine Example of Eclectic Architectural Style

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A lot can be learned from the Barasoain architecture. This structure is a living architectural legacy and authentic historical evidence.

Built in 1885, the Barasoain church belongs to the typical Church-Convento-Patio mission churches built by the Spanish friars in the Philippines. Strongly of the Eclectic architectural style (late 1800s), its builder selected to adopt elementary and well defined lines following the period’s trends. Various European historical styles, predominantly Baroque revival, were employed. The eclectic composition made use of the Early Renaissance technique of transfiguring the classical temple form into a new shape, in the case of Barasoain, into a Baroque oval-based design of the church facade. Then details and elements from Romanesque and Neo-classic styles were proportionally copied with delicate balance onto the basic façade outline.

The architectural design was an austere version of the magnanimous European Baroque and Neo-Classic buildings built by master architects. Since Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines were built by missionaries, not master architects, obviously there was less articulation. Only Basilica type or larger churches found in first class towns and cities, afforded two bell towers, elaborate façade, painted ceilings, a pulpit, replica statue-filled and gilded retablo, landscaped patios and a cloister, while the rest settled for whatever resources were available, including local materials and manpower. Reverend Fr. Juan Giron of the Augustinian Order was said to supervise the construction of the Barasoain church. A certain Magpayo, a Filipino, was the Maestro-de-Obra. From this premise we can understand how a mixture of styles came about.

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The church nave is very simple. Its single nave is subdivided into three open aisles, a central nave and two side aisles, by two symmetrical rows of wooden posts which support the roof superstructure and arched ceilings. The ceilings were reconstructed in the later part of 1980s approximating the original oval-arched (vaulted) ceilings. The new wooden retablo was then removed and relocated to another site, revealing the original stone altar that was covered for a long time. The floor was raised and replaced twice because of periodic flooding inside the church. The old baldoza tile finish was replaced with granolithic topping, and then recently overlaid with Bulacan marble veneers.

The Romanesque revival is clearly portrayed by the rose window, the receding arches, the solid blank base wall of the bell tower, the arched windows and the machicolations of each bell tower tier, the battlements on the top tier and the tower terminating in a pointed pyramidal cap which follows the tower’s hexagonal plan. The bell tower cap has been replaced with different tops for a number of times.

The church interiors appears to be perfectly adapted for holding public gatherings since it has a low and vaulted ceiling conducive to good acoustics as in theaters and concert halls. This was the thinking of the former parish priest of Barasoain on why the Barasoain church was probably chosen as the venue for the First Congress in Malolos.

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Filipino ingenuity and artistic quality are reflected in the manner in which the convento structure was designed and constructed. This is truly a typical Bahay-na-Bato architecture that is only found here in the Philippines. There is a feeling of robustness in the composition of the convent’s ground level arcade structure, which therefore creates a balance and graceful match with the adjacent church and bell tower.

The all-timber second floor construction depicts local architecture features such as continuous row, from one end of the façade to the other, of light transfusing capiz windows and transoms subdivided into several bays so that window panels could freely slide open or close for the desired mode of natural light and ventilation. Air circulation is reinforced by the ingenuously provided ventanilla on each of the bay centers below the window opening. Hand-lathed window mullions are the only ornamental accents of the convent edifice. Other cool features are its high ceilings, a corridor which also doubles as continuous balcony connecting the spacious rooms and the outdoors through wide open window bays, and the high-pitched roof that responds to any inclement weather.

The front patio where the cheering revolutionaries gathered to welcome the various delegates to the first Filipino Assembly is still intact, but perhaps already forgotten. One would wonder why the statue of General Emilio Aguinaldo and a flag pole were put up within the church premises. Aguinaldo played a vital role here. After his proclamation of Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite, his new government center had moved to Bulacan, since American presence and eventual intervention in the Philippines was already felt strongly in Cavite and Manila. Moving then northward to Malolos, the church of Barasoain was decided to be the site for holding the historic convention. There, Aguinaldo was proclaimed president of the new Republic. Thus, the Aguinaldo figure serves as a monument to his leadership. The Philippine flag, of course, represents the national status of the site.

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A lot can be learned from the Barasoain architecture. This structure is a living architectural legacy and authentic historical evidence.

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Cover picture: wikipedia public domain

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Posted on May 1, 2010