The Old Oton Church

The building of the church was began by Rev. Fr. Demetrio Cobos in 1845-1853, continued and finished by Rev. Fr. Joaquin Fernandez in 1883-1889, and decorated by Rev. Fr. Nicolas Gallo in 1889-1890. Saved from the ravages of World War II, an intense earthquake on 5 January 1948 sent the whole structure plummeting to the ground. Only two bells, one donated by Doña Victoria Blanco, dedicated to the Nuestra Señora del Carmen and installed by Fr. Joaquin Fernandez in 1887, and an older bell dated 1817, plus a bit of wall remain.ine Churches.

It was the only church planned as a Greek cross, that is, all four wings were of equal lengths and came together at the center. The center was marked by a cupola with arched windows as clerestory and a lantern as its finial. The four ends of the cross were decorated by flanking spires, lancet windows, and a pediment shaped as Gothic arch pierced by a rose window.

Old Church

Old Church

The main entrance had taller spires and three portals all in Gothic style. Likewise, the main entrance had a Gothic shaped pediment pierced by a rose window. Beneath the cupola stood the main retablo designed as a free standing Gothic structure. On four of its sides were altars. This sanctuary area was separated from the naves by a sinuous wrought iron communion rail.

The ceiling had a faux vault all painted in trompe l’oiel, the pendentives portrayed the four evangelists as customary. The blending of a Greek or Byzantine plan with Gothic and Classic elements somehow cohered making Oton church one of the architectural achievements of the colonial period. Pity that it has not survived.

Photo of Oton church courtesy of the University of Wisconsin’s Philippine Image Collection, American Expatriate Album, and forms part of the Southeast Asian Images and Texts Project. For more information, please contact:


Dr. Alfred W. McCoy
at: 207 Ingraham
1155 Observatory Dr.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 263-1755, Fax: (608) 263-3735
or at [email protected]

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