Church of Our Lady of the Pillar (Sibonga, Cebu)

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar

Part 6 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This southern Cebu town’s present stone and brick church was started by Fr. Juan Alonso (parish priest from 1868 to 1881) and finished by Fr. Enrique Magaz in 1881. Fr. Emiliano Diez was applying the finishing touches when the revolution broke out in 1898.

The simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic facade

In 1907, the church was restored and blessed by Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty, Archbishop of Manila, American Bishop Thomas Hendrick and 17 other priests.

NHCP Plaque

On December 2, 2010, a cast-iron national historical marker was unveiled at the church’s facade by National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Ambeth R. Ocampo along with Sibonga’s parish priest Fr. Leo Cabahug and the Sibonga Ecclesiastical Heritage Commission’s president Dr. Noel Ponce.

The convent

The solid and beautiful convent was built by Fr. Prospero Puerto (parish priest from 1833 to 1868) following the plans of Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon. The oldest bell, dedicated to Santa Filomena, was installed in 1863. The bell tower was destroyed during the typhoon of November 25, 1877.

The church’s beautiful interior

The altar

The church’s simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic façade, divided into three sections by shallow pilasters, has a flame-like arched main entrance flanked by massive twin bell towers with pyramidal roofs and flame-like arched windows. The Gothic-style triangular pediment has a rose window sporting the Augustinian seal in wrought iron.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

The one-nave interior, clearly influenced by Carcar City’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, has a wooden colonnade and a mesmerizing series of  ceiling murals at the nave.



Holy Communion



Holy Orders

Extreme Unction


Painted in amber and brownish tones by famed Cebuano artist Raymundo Francia (popularly called the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”) in 1924, they feature the  Seven Sacraments (“Baptism,” “Confirmation,” “Extreme Unction,” “Penance,” “Matrimony,” “Holy Communion” and “Holy Orders”).

Christians Defending Their Faith

Christ Purging the Temple

At the entrance vestibule are the ceiling frescoes  “Christians Defending Their Faith” and “Christ Purging the Temple.” The “Creation of the World,” the mural above the altar, shows the Biblical scene of the seven days of creation (Genesis). The ceiling of the side aisles was expertly painted to create an optical illusion of a coffered ceiling woodwork. 

The Creation of the World

Optical illusion of coffered woodwork at ceiling

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar: National Highway, Poblacion, 6020 Sibonga. Tel: (032) 486-9390. Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar: October 12.

How To Get There: Sibonga is located 60.7 kms. south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Carcar City, Cebu)

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Part 3 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

Carcar City is noted for its striking examples of preserved colonial architecture, both from the Spanish and American eras. The most notable structure is the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Around 1622, the town’s first convent and church was burned when Muslims sacked the town.

The church’s Graeco-Tuscan facade

The present masonry church, probably the second or third church, was built on a hill for greater security. It was started by Fr. Antonio Manglano in 1860, continued by Fr. Gabriel Gonzalez in 1865 and completed (including the interior painting) by Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio in 1875. Its roof was blown away during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

An array of statues of some of the 12 Apostles at the church patio

Statue of Judas Iscariot, now painted white

Its lovely and massive Graeco-Tuscan façade, with its strong Muslim influence, has a double recessed arched main entrance (similar to an iwan of a Middle Eastern mosque), a blind wheel rose window below the upper recessed arch (above it is a carved Augustinian symbol), spandrels with geometric flora and a Baroque pediment on a high entablature, which crowns the middle segment.

The church’s interior

The lower story is flanked by a one-story structure corresponding to the aisles flanking the 68-m. long, 22-m. wide and 12-m. high-main nave. Neo-Classical altars, a coffered ceiling and carved cherub heads located along the arcade separating the nave from the aisle embellish the church’s interior.

The church patio, surrounded by a low fence of coral stone and wrought iron, has statues of the 12 Apostles, all painted white.  The statue of Judas Iscariot, standing all alone on a pedestal in front of the convent, used to be painted black but is now in white.

The Neo-Clasical main altar

The twin Muslim-like bell towers have solid geometric pylons which act as buttresses, and have no openings except at the third storey where ogee arches are used for the bells. This level ends up in onion-shaped domes reminiscent of minarets. One of its bells bears the date 1810, suggesting that a church was already in place by the early 19th century.

The church pulpit

Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio also built the masonry and wood convent, established on May 23, 1559, under the advocacy of the Visitation of the Virgin. An independent structure separated from the church by a road, it measures 33 m. in front and 22 m. at the side.  The convent sank during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

The choir loft

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria: Tel: (032) 257-3272. Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandra: November 25.

How to Get There: Carcar City is located 42 kms. (a 1-hour drive) south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (San Fernando, Cebu)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

Part 5 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

The town’s first church was constructed at Brgy. Pitalo but, after repeated repairs, it was decided that a new and much better church was be constructed on a land donated by Doña Clara Najarro at Taboan Market, not far from the town’s present cemetery.

The Neo-Gothic facade

The present masonry church was started by Fr. Miguel del Burgo on December 1870, following the plans of Spanish architect and engineer Don Domingo Esconrillas, and continued by Fr. Emiliano Diez on March 11, 1876. During the November 25, 1877 typhoon, half of the church’s roof, the sacristy and convent fell.  It was finished and solemnly blessed on October 25, 1886.

The pointed recessed arch main entrance

During World War II, the church was spared from war damage. In 1945, the separate, two storey, coral stone convent was turned into a school. From 1968-76, Fr. Constantino Boctoy renovated the church.

The right side of the church

Its Neo-Gothic facade has a flamboyant pointed, recessed arch main entrance flanked by two small pointed arch windows.  The main doorway is topped, above the cornice line, by a large, elaborately carved rose window.  Flat pilasters, mounted on high rectangular pedestals, rise up to the pediment line.  They end up in pinnacles and divide the facade into three vertical sections.

One of two bell towers

The upper level, integrated with the gable, is crowned at the apex by a cross and has a small, centrally located carved Augustinian emblem.  Traceries line eaves of the pediment. The church interior has been heavily renovated.

The church interior

A strong typhoon cut the tops of the twin Gothic-style square bell towers and they were never rebuilt to its original height. The present twin belfries, seemingly incongruous with the overall coral stone structure, were actually built in concrete later in the 20th century. They have one wheel window on the lower level, flame-like windows on the upper and both taper into spires topped by pinnacles at the corners of the painted dome.

The church altar

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer:  Natalio B. Bacalso South National Highway, Brgy. Poblacion South. Tel: (032) 488-9314. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How To Get There: San Fernando is located 29.3 kms. south of Cebu City. Buses to San Fernando park at the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Ave. in Cebu City.  The church is just across the municipal hall.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi (Naga City, Cebu)

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi

Part 4 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

The town’s coral and limestone church was built by Fr. Simon Aguirre in 1839 following plans prepared by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon.  Its bell tower was destroyed by the November 25, 1876 typhoon, repaired, destroyed again in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba. On October 3, 2007, the church was upgraded as an archdiocesan shrine.

The unusual Baroque facade that suggests Mexican art

The convent was started in 1864 by Fr. Enrique Magaz, continued in 1882 by Fr. Gregorio Ros and finished in 1887 by Fr. Roman Gonzalez.  It was destroyed in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba. During World War II, the original bell tower was destroyed and portions of the church were damaged. A new separate bell tower was built in 1979.

The side of the church

The church has one main nave, a transept and measures 75 m. long, 15.4 m. wide and 10.6 m. wide.  Angels and gargoyles guard its doors. It’s simple interior, relatively unchanged since it was built over a century ago, features a dropped ceiling bearing geometric patterns and a gilded retablo and cornices adorning the Corinthian pillars and side walls.  A huge statue of St. Francis of Assisi adorns the patio adjacent to the church.

The church interior

The unusual Baroque-style façade, suggestive of Mexican art that is skillfully integrated into the local Filipino religious architecture, has no distinct architectural style.  It has twin minaret-shaped buttresses with projecting domes and is divided into lower and upper rectangular panels.

The main and two side retablos

The bare lower panel has a triangular arched recessed main entrance with molded door jambs flanked by six square columns while the overly-decorated upper panel has a miniature retablo (the cross with outgoing rays represent the expansion of the Christian faith) flanked by two sets of tiny columns and a frieze heavily-decorated with ornamental Roman-like acanthus leaf patterns and self-repeating designs divided into several rows.


The pediment has a centrally located niche flanked by two sets of tiny columns with the Biblical saying Predicate Evangelicum omni creaturae.  It is also decorated with winged cherubs, rosettes, dancette or zigzag molding (below the raking cornice) and other embellishments. The symbols of the Cross, the Lamb of Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Monstrance are supported by ornamented columns resting on atlantes.

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi: Cebu South Rd. Tel: (032) 489-9799  and (032) 272-2123. Feast of St. Francis of Assisi: October 10.

How To Get There: Naga is located 21.7 kms. south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City, U.S.A.)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Our third, and final, mass in the U.S. was held at the decorated  Gothic Revival-style Cathedral of St. Patrick (commonly called St. Patrick’s Cathedral), the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (created in 1808 and made into an archdiocese by Pope Pius IX on July 19, 1850). Held on the first Friday of July, this was our second visit to the cathedral (the first was 13 days ago) and we attended this mass to pray for a safe journey back to Manila, our flight back being just 8 hours away.

The cathedral is located on the east side of Fifth Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets in Midtown Manhattan. Directly across the street is the Rockefeller Center and it specifically faces the Atlas statue. A prominent landmark of New York City, the land on which the present cathedral sits was purchased in 1810 and it was designed by James Renwick, Jr.  In 1976, the cathedral and its associated buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark.

Here’s some interesting trivia regarding St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

The 100.6 m. high spire

St. Patrick’s Cathedral currently has two pipe organs, both built by the firm of George Kilgen & Son of St. Louis, Missouri. They consist of more than 9,000 pipes, 206 stops, 150 ranks and 10 divisions.

The cathedral interior

The Gallery Organ,  located in the Choir Gallery below the Rose Window over the Fifth Avenue entrance and in the Triforium, near the South Transept, was edicated on February 11, 1930. It took 3 years to build at a cost of US$250,000. Designed by Robert J. Reiley, consulting architect of the Cathedral, it has one of the nation’s most glorious wood facades and is adorned with angels and Latin inscriptions. Containing 7,855 pipes, ranging in length from 32 ft. to 1/2 inch, its longest pipes run horizontally across the North and South Triforia.

The pulpit

The Chancell Organ,  located in the North Ambulatory next to the Chapel of St. Joseph, was dedicated on January 30, 1928. It has 1,480 pipes; located on the opposite side of the Ambulatory, diagonally across from the console, and is encased in a carved oak screen ornamented with Gothic elements of design and symbolism.

Stained glass windows

Here is a timeline of the cathedral’s construction:

  • On August 15, 1858, the cornerstone was laid, just south of the diocese’s orphanage.
  • Work began that same year, was halted during the Civil War,and resumed in 1865.
  • In 1878, the cathedral was completed and was dedicated on May 25, 1879.
  • In 1879, the cathedral’s first organ, composed of 4 manuals with 51 stops and 56 ranks, was built by George Jardine & Son, one of New York’s most distinguished organ builders, and installed.
  • In 1880, the archbishop’s house and rectory were, both by James Renwick, Jr.
  • In 1880, an organ by J.H. & C.S. Odell (then also from New York City), composed of 2 manuals with 20 stops and 23 ranks, was installed in the chancel.
  • An adjacent school, no longer in existence, was opened in 1882.
  • The spires were added in 1888, and at 329 feet and 6 inches (100.4 meters) were the tallest structures in New York City and the second highest in the United States.
  • From 1901 to 1906, an addition on the east, including a Lady chapel (designed by Charles T. Matthews), was constructed.
  • Between 1912 and 1930, the Lady Chapel’s stained-glass windows were made by English stained glass artist and designer Paul Vincent Woodroffe.
  • In 1927 and 1931, the cathedral was renovated, the sanctuary was enlarged and two great organs were installed.
  • In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the cathedral’s main altar area was renovated under the guidance of Archbishop (and later cardinal) Francis Spellman. The previous high altar and reredoswere removed (now located in the University Church of Fordham University). New items include the sanctuary bronze baldachin and the rose stained glass window.
  • In the 1940s and 1950s tonal changes were made on the two organs.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, additional renovations were made on the organs by Jack Steinkampf of Yonkers, New York, particularly in the revoicing of flutes and reeds, and the addition of the Trumpette en Chamade.
  • In the 1980s, the altar was further renovated, under the direction of Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor. To be more visible to the congregation, a stone altar was built from sections of the side altars and added to the middle of the sanctuary. However, in 2013, this altar was removed.
  • In 1993, the organs underwent major restoration. new consoles for both the Gallery and Chancel Organs to replace the original ones (which had deteriorated beyond repair) were acquired. Robert Turner (of Hacienda Heights, California) constructed twin, 5-manual consoles while Solid State Logic, Ltd. of England designed and engineered the combination action. Fiber-optic wiring were used to enable both consoles to control the Gallery, Chancel and Nave Organs at the same time. In 1993, the Gallery console was finished and installed in time for Christmas Midnight Mass. In early 1994, the Chancel console was installed. In 1995, the entire Chancel Organ was restored
  • On September 15, 2007, the 10th anniversary of the organ’s renovation, the organs were blessed. The Bicentennial Concert Series was also inaugurated with a performance James E. Goettsche, the Vatican Organist.
  • In 2012, an extensive US$177 million restoration of the cathedral was begun and lasted 3 years. The exterior marble was cleaned, the stained glass windows were repaired and the ceiling was painted, among many restorations. On September 17, 2015, the restoration was completed before Pope Francis visited the cathedral on September 24 and 25, 2015.

The cathedral ceiling

Beneath the high altar is a crypt in which the nine past deceased Archbishops of New York as well as notable Catholic figures that served the Archdiocese are entombed. They include:

Plaque commemorating Pope Paul VI’s October 4. 1965 visit

The galeros of Cardinals McCloskey, Farley, Hayes and Spellman (also worn by Pope Pius XII, as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, until the latter’s election to the papacy at the 1939 Papal conclave) are located high above the crypt at the back of the sanctuary. In 1965, the ceremony of the consistory was revised by Pope Paul VI and therefore no galero was presented to Cardinal Cooke or any of his successors.

Plaque commemorating Pope John Paul II’s second Papal visit

Requiem Masses were said at the cathedral for the following notable people:

Special memorial Masses were also held at the cathedral for the following:

The cathedral or parts of it were featured in a number of movies, TV shows, songs and literary works:

  • The climax of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), where Taylor destroyed Earth with the AlphaOmega bomb, were set in the cathedral’s underground ruins. Centuries earlier, mutant humans surviving a nuclear holocaust founded a religion on the bomb (later depicted in Battle for the Planet of the Apes). They reconsecrated the cathedral to their new religion and installed the bomb in front of the organ pipes in place of the crucifix.
  • The TV show Futurama, Fry, Leela, et al. are visiting the sewer mutants beneath the ruins of Old New York and Fry sticks his head in the cathedral, sees the bomb, and says, “So you guys worship an unexploded atomic bomb?” A mutant replies, “Not really, it’s mostly a Christmas and Easter thing.”
  • Nelson DeMille‘s 1981 novel, Cathedral, concerning a fictional seizure and threatened destruction of the cathedral by members of the Irish Republican Army on St. Patrick’s Day, is mostly set in and around the cathedral and details of the cathedral’s structure contribute important elements to the plot.
  • The cathedral is also featured in the 1990 film Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
  • In Giannina Braschi‘s novel, Empire of Dreams (1994), the ringing of the church bells at the cathedral marks a pastoral revolution in New York City.
  • The cathedral was referenced in the song Not A Love Story by musical-theatre songwriters Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. 

The author and son Jandy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Catheral: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022, USA.

New York Public Library (New York City, U.S.A.)

New York Public Library

This public library system in New York City, one of the world’s leading libraries with nearly 53 million items, is the second largest public library in the United States (behind the Library of Congress) and fourth largest in the world. A private, non-governmental, independently managed, nonprofit corporation operating with both private and public financing, this library has branches in the boroughs of ManhattanThe Bronx, and Staten Island, and affiliations with academic and professional libraries in the metropolitan area of New York State.


The New York Public Library, with its collection consisted of more than 1,000,000 volumes, also has four research libraries which are also open to the general public. It is famed for its possession of a Gutenberg Bible and a Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. The iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library, costing US$9 million to build, was officially opened on May 23, 1911 in a ceremony presided over by President William Howard Taft. That same day, after a dedication ceremony attended by 50,000 people, the library was open to the general public.  In 1965, the building was declared as a National Historic Landmark.

Grand lobby

The massive building exterior, which has suffered damage from weathering and pollution, underwent a three-year, $50 million renovation and restoration, underwritten by a $100-million gift from philanthropist Stephen A. Schwarzman (his name was inscribed at the bottom of the columns framing the building’s entrances) and overseen by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., and the refurbished facade was unveiled on February 2, 2011.

Stairway on the left

The library, a French Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings, was the largest marble structure up to that time in the United States. The two reclining, placid but attentive stone lions (nicknamed Patience and Fortitude) guarding the entrance, sculpted by Eward Clark Potter, was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers.

Stairway on the right

This 3-storey building’s broad street frontage, along Fifth Avenue, adds to the variety and dignity of the streetscape. The library’s main façade expands horizontally and completely dominates the field of vision. The terrace, which lifts up the building from street level, is accessed by a wide, inviting stairway.

Bust of John M. Carrere

Bust of Thomas Hastings

The central portico, composed of 3 large, semicircular arched openings with a tall, sculpted attic, is reminiscent of an ancient Roman triumphal arch (a symbolic reference suggesting a ceremonial welcome). The allegorical fountains (Truth to the right and Beauty to the left), by Frederick MacMonnies, are embedded in the walls adjacent to the portico.

Edna Barnes Salomon Room

Print and Photographs Study Room

The interior, organized around a central circulation core, has a grand entry hall, two courtyards and a modest but exquisitely-detailed lobby split into two stairs which take the visitor to the functional rooms of the second floor and then, further up, to the spacious and stately reading room on the third floor.

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division

Today, it is equipped with computers, with access to library collections and the Internet, and docking facilities for laptops. Many writers and scholars, selected annually, have accomplished important research and writing at the library through a Fellows program that makes reserved rooms available for them.

McGraw Rotunda

The rectangular McGraw Rotunda, set beneath arched bays and over 17-ft. high paired Corinthian walnut pilasters, has a richly decorative, Renaissance-style ceiling, with coffered (sunken) panels and painted, by James Wall Finn, with the vast, luminous, 27 by 33-ft. mural “Prometheus Bringing the Gift of Fire.” The colorfully cloudy sky is provided with the bright natural light by the massively-scaled windows.

Prometheus Bringing the Gift of Fire

A set of four large arched panels by Edward Laning, featuring “The Story of the Recorded Word” (the story depicted across each of the murals illustrate crucial periods of development in the history of books and printing) were executed from 1938 to 1942 as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) Project, with supplies furnished by Isaac Phelps Stokes (author of the “Iconography of Manhattan Island’).

Bill Blass Public Catalog Room

Moses with the Tablets of Law, the first mural, to the left of the entrance to the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, depicts Moses, as recorded in the Book of Exodus, descending from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

Moses with the Tablets of Law

The Medieval Scribe, the second mural to the right of the same door, depicts a monk of the Middle Ages copying a manuscript while, behind him, is a scene of destruction and rapine.

The Medieval Scribe

Gutenberg Showing a Proof to the Elector of Mainz, the third mural to the left of the doorway to Room 316, depicts Johann Gutenberg showing a proof of his Bible to Adolph of Nassau, Elector of Mainz.

Gutenberg Showing a Proof to the Elector of Mainz

The Linotype-Mergenthaler and Whitelaw Reid, the fourth mural to the right, depicts Ottmar Mergenthaler (America’s contribution) at the keyboard of his linotype as his patron, Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune, examines a page printed by the new device.

The Linotype-Mergenthaler and Whitelaw Reid

New York Public Library (NYPL): 476 5th Ave. cor. 42nd St., New York City, New York 10018, U.S.A

Park Street Church (Boston, Massachusetts)

Park Street Church

The Park Street Church, an active, thriving missionary-centered Conservative Congregational church with 2,000 in Sunday attendance and around 1,000 members, is a historical stop on the Freedom Trail located next to the historic Granary Burying Ground.

Its cornerstone was laid on May 1, 1809 and its construction, under the guidance of architect Peter Banner (his design is reminiscent of St. Bride’s Church in London by famous British architect Christopher Wren), chief mason Benajah Young  and woodcarver Solomon Willard, was completed by the end of the year. On January 10, 1810, it had its first worship service.

The church became known as “Brimstone Corner,” in part because of the fervent missionary character of its preaching and, in part, because of the gunpowder stored in its crypt (which gave off a ferocious smell of sulfur) during the War of 1812.

The church’s beautiful white steeple, a landmark visible from several Boston neighborhoods, rises to 66 m. (217 ft.), making the church the tallest building in the United States from 1810 to 1828. The red brick façade has white accents.  There is a little museum on the first floor.

The church is the site of a number of historical events:

Park Street Church: 1 Park St. cor. Tremont St.Boston, Massachusetts 02108. Tel: (617) 523-3383.  Website: Open Wednesdays – Fridays, 9:30 AM -3 PM. Worship services: Sundays 8:30 AM, 11 AM and 4 PM. Admission is free.

How to Get There: The church located right across from the Park Street subway stop (Red Line) at the edge of Boston Common.

Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History (Boston, Massachusetts)

RH Boston – The Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History

This stately Neo-Classical, red brick and-brownstone building, commanding a park-like block of Berkeley St., between Newbury and Boylston in Boston’s Back Bay, was designed by architect William Gibbons Preston in 1863.  Originally the Museum of Natural History, it was known, over the years to Bostonians, as the Bonwit Teller building and later the  home to the clothier Louis Boston.

The Neo-Classical, red brick and brownstone facade

Now Restoration Hardware’s (a California-based home-furnishings company) Boston flagship store, it was redesigned by AD 100 firm Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, the designers of numerous other RH stores. To approximate the original interior, the designers consulted old photographs and architectural drawings.

In a renovation work that was, more or less, a complete gut requiring 15 months, they took out mezzanines inserted by previous tenants, removed an elevator bank that blocked the central axis through the building and painstakingly restored and recreated original millwork, plaster and steel details.

The Central Atrium

Wall, ceiling and decorative surfaces were coated in neutral gray. Most significant, to recapture views from the ground floor all the way to the gilded, coffered ceiling, they opened up the 70 ft. high, 3-storey central atrium.

The glass and steel traction elevator

Unveiled spring of 2103, the 40,000 sq. ft. RH Design Gallery is the largest outpost for this expanding retailer whose product categories includes tabletop goods (Chinese porcelain dinnerware, Belgian linens, etc.) and “objects of curiosity” (architectural fragments, faux antlers, iPod-compatible reproduction Victrolas, etc.).

When I entered glass and steel entry pavilion of this Civil War–era structure, I was enthralled by its graceful Corinthian pilasters, Romanesque arches, and monumental interior atrium. Gliding up and down the atrium is the store’s pièce de résistance – a new, custom glass and steel traction elevator modeled after the one in Los Angeles’s 1893 Bradbury Building.

The store’s four floors (including a basement level) offer a florist and a dedicated area for RH’s Baby & Child collections (featuring pint-size leather chesterfields and armchairs). In addition, there’s masculine spaces such as wine bar run by Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley (of Yountville, California).

There’s also a quartet of club rooms – a billiard lounge with a rehabbed Brunswick pool table, a cinema room where TVs play classic movies, an inviting library packed with vintage novels and design books, and a pub serving craft beers at a century-old bar surrounded by Motown and rock-and-roll memorabilia.

Sharing the floor with the club rooms is a Paris-themed “conservatory and park.” Here, outdoor furniture is displayed among artificial olive trees and a 24 ft. tall steel replica of the Eiffel Tower (a flea-market find and a fitting totem of RH’s Francophile design impulses).

Gallery at the Historical Museum of Natural History: 34 Berkeley St., Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Website:

St. Augustine Catholic Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

St. Augustine Catholic Church

The historic and pretty ornate St. Augustine Catholic  Church (also called Olde St. Augustine’s), built to replace the Old St. Augustine Church (the first Order of Hermits of St. Augustine church founded in the United States) which was completed in 1801 and burned down in the anti-Catholic Philadelphia Nativist Riots on May 8, 1844  (all that remained was the back wall of the altar), was designed by architect  Napoleon LeBrun who also designed Philadelphia landmarks as the Academy of Music (eventual home of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The church’s Palladian-style facade

The present church, whose cornerstone was laid on May 27, 1847, was completed in December 1848 and consecrated by Bishop Francis Kenrick and Archbishop John Hughes who presided over High Mass on November 5, 1848.

The main entrance

In 1922, the altar area underwent significant restoration and change, the vestibule of the church was changed significantly and stairs were put in when 4th Street was excavated to pass under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The nave of the church is original. The color in the brick facade of the church indicates where the original church brick ends and where the 1922 brick begins. On June 15, 1976, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The magnificent interior

On December 1992, a severe storm severely damaged the church’s steeple whose debris fell onto the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, closing for three days. The damaged steeple had to be disassembled and removed. A 50-ft. chasm opened in the church roof caused the priceless painting and murals inside to suffer water damage. On October 18, 1995, a new steeple was erected.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) meets the scared Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) inside the church in The Sixth Sense

The interior and exterior of St. Augustine’s Church was featured in the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan spooky thriller The Sixth Sense (where Bruce Willis, as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, and Haley Joel Osment, as Cole Sear, meet for the first time) and the 2007 action movie Shooter  (in which the church’s bell tower figures in an assassination plot).

The Shooter

This church is the parish of choice of many Filipino-American Catholics (who increased the congregation’s numbers in the 1990s) from Philadelphia, the city’s suburbs and the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware). In fact, on January 11, 1992, an exact replica of Santo Niño de Cebú was installed and dedicated here and Filipinos have held a special mass and festivals (also called Sinulog) for the Santo Niño, making it the National Shrine for devotion to Santo Nino in North America.

This Palladian-style (an Italian-Renaissance variant) church, with its non-cruciform plan, has a flat, decorated roof, semicircular arched window, an enormous cleaving balcony and two sets of stained glass windows, each dedicated to a saint. The impressive, ornate foyer, though lower than the church (you need to take another set of stairs to go up into the church), is treated like a part of the interior.

The main arched altar, framed by an archway supported by brown Corinthian columns flanked by flying angels, consists of white marble with shafts of Mexican onyx bordering the tabernacle. Behind the altar is a Crucifixion tableau, painted by Hans Hansen in 1926, crowned by the words “The Lord Seeth.” Above it sits a domed skylight.  The wrap-around, 3-sided gallery essentially divides the space vertically in half.

The main altar

The beautiful ceiling frescoes, depicting scenes from “St. Augustine in Glory,” as well as murals on either side of the altar were painted by Philip Costaggini (who painted part of the frieze on the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) in 1884 and are the oldest in any church in America.

Statue of St. Nicholas Tolentine at the ornate foyer

Statue of St. Thomas of Villanova

St. Augustine Catholic Church: 243 North Lawrence St., PhiladelphiaPennsylvania 19106, United States.  Tel: +1 215-627-1838. Fax: 215-627-3911. E-mail:  Website: Mass schedules: Mondays – Fridays: 12:05 PM (10 AM during legal holidays), Saturdays (Vigil – 5:15 PM) and Sundays (9 AM, 11 AM and 7 PM). Novena prayers to Santo Nino are held after the 11 AM Sunday Mass. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9 AM to 5 PM; weekends, 9 AM to the conclusion of the evening masses.

Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (New York City, U.S.A.)

The very first mass we attended in the US, on the eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist, was held at the beautiful Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was officiated by the very friendly and welcoming Fr. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J.

Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola

This Roman Catholic parish church, under the authority of the Archdiocese of New York, is administered by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The church is part of a Jesuit complex on the block that includes Wallace Hall, the parish hall (beneath the church), the rectory (at the midblock location on Park Ave.), the grade school of St. Ignatius’s School (on the north midblock location of 84th St., behind the church) and the high school of Loyola School (also 980 Park Ave.) at the northwest corner of Park Ave. and 83rd St. The Regis High School (55 East 84th St.), another Jesuit high school, occupies the midblock location on the north side of 84th St..

Established in 1851 as St. Lawrence O’Toole‘s (a twelfth-century bishop of Dublin) Church, a wooden church was erected in 1852 but was replaced, in 1853, by a modest brick structure. In 1886, it was entrusted to the care of the Society of Jesus  the Jesuits’ first major apostolate in the Yorkville area of New York.  In 1898, it was granted permission by Rome to change the patron saint of the parish to St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The church’s foundation was built from 1884 to 1886 and the present German Baroque-style church, designed by Arch. J. William Schickel of Schickel & Ditmars, was built from 1895 to 1900. On December 11, 1898, it was dedicated by the Most Reverend Michael Corrigan, third Archbishop of New York. On March 4, 1969, the church was declared as a New York City Landmark and, on July 24, 1980, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The beautiful church interior

Notable people whose funerals were held here include:

This 90 ft. high and 87 ft. wide architectural gem has a Classical Park Avenue exterior that is not static, with the central division raised in slight relief beyond the side divisions.  Its façade has 2 unbroken vertical orders, a Palladian arched window and a tri-part horizontal division which suggest the central nave and side aisles beyond. Directly beneath the pediment are inscribed the words “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (“To the Greater Glory of God”, the motto of the Society of Jesus,  and the Great Seal of the Society (composed of a cross, three nails, and the letters I H S, the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek which later became a Latin acronym denoting Jesus the Savior of Humankind).

The altar

The varying intervals between the symmetrically positioned pilasters create a subtly undulating dynamism that introduces a note of syncopated rhythm reminiscent of the exterior of Il Gesù, the Jesuits’ mother church in Rome. Two copper-capped tower bases, on either side of the central pediment, are hints of the abandoned grander scheme of a pair of towers designed to reach 210 ft. above the ground. The church’s intricate marble work, executed by the firm of James G. Batterson, Jr., and John Eisele of New York, includes American (pink Tennessee), European (yellow Siena, veined Pavonazzo and white Carrara) and African (red-veined Numidian and pink Algerian) marble. The soaring ceiling was beautifully crafted and the intricate stained glass windows tells the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection.

The high ceiling

The marble mosaic Stations of the Cross panels were designed by Professor Paoletti for Salviati & Company of Venice.  The great 12-panel bronze doors, located at the sanctuary end of the side aisles, were designed by the Rev. Patrick O’Gorman, S.J. (pastor from 1924 to 1929) and were crafted by the Long Island Bronze Company. The Carrara marble Jesuit statues (including St. Francis Xavier and St. John Francis Regis) were carved by the Joseph Sibbel Studio of New York.  The church organ, built by N.P. Mander of London, was dedicated in 1993 and is New York City’s largest mechanical action (tracker) pipe organ.

The semicircular wrought-iron baptistery screen of gilt flaming swords, in the Chapel of John the Baptist, was wrought by Mr. John Williams to the designs of William Schickel. The Carrara marble baptistery font, set above the marble pavement, was designed “by Heaton, Butler & Bayne of London, with slight modifications made by Mr. John Buck of the Ecclesiastical Department of the Gorham Company of New York (also responsible for the cutting and installing the mosaic’s tesserae – the pieces comprising the mosaic).

The baptistery’s altar and the surrounding curved walls, designed and executed under the direction of Mr. Caryl Coleman of the Ecclesiastical Department of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company (who also executed the baptistery’s semi-dome), were made with Pavonazzo marble inlaid with mosaics (composed of that company’s justly famous opalescent Favrile glass, as delicate as the Venetian glass mosaics above are bold).

Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola: 980 Park Ave. cor. East 84th St., New York City, New York 10028.  Tel: +212-288-3588. Website: Mass Schedule: Mondays-Fridays, 8:30 AM, 12:10 PM and 5:30 PM; Saturdays, 8:30 AM an 5:30 PM; Sundays, 8 AM, 9:30 AM, 11 AM (Solemn Mass) and 7:30 PM.