|Church of St. Monica and bell tower|
The impressive convent, known as the Casa del Palacio Real, was first built in 1779, reconstructed in 1817 and 1886 and completed by Fr. Celedonio Paniagua. It was, at times, used as a Presidencia Municipal. Within its environs then were a jail where criminals and political prisoners were incarcerated and tortured, a sala court, a strangulation room and other secular sections. It also served, for a time, as the Colegio de Santa Monica (a branch of the Liceo de Manila). The convent is now a parochial museum (Casa Paroquial Sarrat). A unique, massive and attractive brick staircase connects the convent with the church.
|The brick staircase connect church and convent|
The church and convent survived many calamities – fire on February 3, 1816 and 1882 and an earthquake on March 19, 1932 (its bell tower was damaged). The church interior, along with the houses surrounding the plaza, were renovated in 1983 for Irene Marcos‘ (the youngest daughter of the late Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos) June wedding to Greggy Araneta. The lavish ceremony was attended by 5,000 guests and cost an estimated US$10.3 million. Food was provided for over 100,000. A few months later, on September 7, 1983, an Intensity 7.8 earthquake severely damaged the church’s main altar and upper facade. The former 3-storey square brick bell tower of diminishing sizes lost its top storeys.