Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation
(San Agustin Church)



Facade of Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation (San Agustin Church)

Despite the cultural mix of modern and old elements in the famous Walled City of Intramuros, the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation has remained, through the years, a popular and well-visited place for Filipinos in general and churchgoers, devotees and pilgrims, in particular.

This popularity is partly attributed to the immense aesthetic and architectural reputation of St. Augustine Church, the oldest and only remaining stone church in Intramuros.

When speaking of a place of importance, San Agustin is mentioned with awe for beauty and historicity with beautifully blended influence of the classic, neo-classic, gothic, roman and baroque architecture.

The San Agustin Church was founded in 1571 under the advocation of St. Paul,, thus, its name, Convento de San Pablo de Manila, a name it carried through the countless pages of documents in its more than four hundred years of history. Popularly, however, if has been called San Agustin Church, in honor of the venerable founder of the Augustinian Order, whose members are credited for having discovered the Philippines for the New World and for having built a Filipino culture that was founded on the religious, social and political principles.

Interior of Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation (San Agustin Church)

The Legazpi/Urdaneta expedition opened the routes between Mexico, Spain and the Philippine Islands. It was the source of an unremitting program of development in the Philippines, covering all important spheres of human life: churches, schools, hospitals, eventually revolutionizing the laying down of a system of public utilities in the city such as road networks, water system and transportation.

The Augustinian Friars arrived in the Islands in 1565 not only with their gleaming crosses and rosary beads, but also with tools and equipment for progress and enough imagination to build new cities, towns and whole provinces during the centuries of the occupation of the Islands, aside from working for the evangelization of the natives.

San Agustin Church personifies the many good things the Spanish friars brought into the country. The original church made of wood and nipa easily perished, a casualty of the Limahong invasion of Manila in 1574. Another bigger wooden church was built only to be destroyed again during the confusion of the reign of Governor Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa on February 28, 1583. In 1586 another church was built on its stead, but bad fortune struck it in a fire completely razing the structure to the ground.

Interior of Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation (San Agustin Church)

Lessons were learned from these sad experiences during the church construction. In 1587, the Augustinian Chapter held in Tondo approved the construction of a new church and monastery with the special provision that it will be built into a lasting stone monument to serve as the center of the Augustinian missionary endeavors in the Philippines. The building complex was started in 1587 and finished in 1607 by Juan Macias following a blueprint and close supervision of the Augustinians.

The Church, when completed, displayed artistic genius both in its facade and its interiors. Four sets of ionic and Corinthian columns lend their majestic impression to the whole structure for its massiveness, stability and beauty.

The interior of the church measures 62 1/2 meters long by 27 meters wide and 18 meters high and it unfolds before the eyes of the beholder, as an artistic feast made up of cryptocollateral chapels flanking the central nave completed by Italian painters Alberoni and Disbella (1875), the optically illusive vaulted dome, the decorated walls, reefs, arcades, plasters, cornices with grisailles, coffers, entablatures, moldings, rosettes, acanthus sprays and other decorative motifs.

Altar of Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation (San Agustin Church)

Adding to this explosion of artistic colors inside the Church of San Agustin are the glass chandeliers, imported from Paris, the carved pulpit, the ornate choir stalls, the lectern and the XVIII century pipe organ.

The San Agustin Church has survived many natural calamities and man-made wars and remains standing as a permanent miracle of architecture.

Many people visit San Agustin attracted by its art and history, and many come as pilgrims and devotees to seek solace and comfort from God and Our Lady of Consolation, whether by attending Masses or celebrating life through their weddings, baptisms, graduations and thanksgivings.

Our Lady of Consolation

Image of Our Lady of Consolation

The Augustinian Order has distinguished itself in the devotion to the Virgin Mary under the title of Mother of Consolation. This typically Augustinian devotion appears to have sprung from a mother's distress over a son in danger. Monica (4th century) distraught over her son Augustine, confided her distress to the merciful mother of God who is said to have appeared to her dressed up in mourning clothes and wearing a black in cincture. Our Lade removed her cincture and handed it over to Monica and directed her to wear it and to persuade others to do the same. Monica gave the cincture to her son who, in turn, once baptized by Milan's bishop Ambrose, gave it to the members of his newly founded community. The belt became part of the Augustinian habit as a token of love and fidelity to Our Mother of Consolation.

Devotion to Our Lady of Consolation

This devotion spread in all the convents and churches run by the Augustinians throughout the world, including the Philippines. The Santo Niño Church in Cebu and San Agustin in Manila became the pioneering centers of this devotion.

Image of Our Lady of Consolation

The image of Our Lady of Consolation has been venerated at San Agustin Church, at the chapel close to the main altar. It gained the hearts of the faithful due to its many charitable foundations. The flourishing of this devotion was interrupted by the Revolution of 1896 and the World War II. During the 1942-45 war years, the image was kept inside the monastery by the Augustinian Community to save it from destruction or pillage.

The Confraternity

The Confraternity was established in 1575 in Bologna, Italy and formally approved by His Holiness Pope Gregory XIII. In 1608 the Prior General of the Augustinian Order, Nicolas de Oliva, designated Manila as its center of devotion in the Philippines. It was given official recognition in 1677. From 1898, the war of Independence, the confraternity lay dormant. In 1963 it was revived through the untiring efforts of Sor Candelaria, OSA with Fr. Agustin Fuertes, OSA as the spiritual adviser. From that year up to the present it has been established in several towns around the Philippines.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from lakbaypilipinas.com, etravelpilipinas.com, church.nfo.ph, redbubble.com and flickr.com.

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