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Visita Iglesia: 7 Churches in Cebu City You Can Visit

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Here are 7 of the best churches in Cebu City you can visit for Visita Iglesia.

Holy Week, also known as Semana Santa, is one of the most widely celebrated events in the Philippines. Filipinos religiously follow several Semana Santa traditions commemorating Jesus’ suffering before His death.

One famous tradition consists of praying the Holy Rosary while visiting seven churches around town, a practice referred to as Visita Iglesia. Usually done within a day, devotees typically participate in this tradition during Holy Thursday.

The seven churches represent Jesus’ seven last words. Most devotees join in to have special prayers answered, as it is believed that you will be rewarded once this routine is completed.

Participants travel to these churches via public or private transport, but some go above and beyond and walk (sometimes barefoot) from church to church.

ORIGINS OF VISITA IGLESIA IN THE PHILIPPINES

Visita Iglesia was believed to have originated in the 16th century, when St. Philip Neri protested Pope Julius III’s celebration of the Spring Carnivale.

St. Philip thought the carnival brought a lot of unnecessary disorder to Rome, so he gathered several groups of people for an informal walk after an afternoon prayer to counter the noisy celebration.

Others believe that Christian communities during the Roman Empire had a tradition of visiting churches in commemoration of Jesus’ death.

When Christianity became the empire’s official religion, the practice centered around seven major basilicas believed to be burial sites of prominent Catholic figures, such as St. Peter and St. Paul.

The church-touring practice soon spread to other parts of the world and became a fixture in many religious celebrations.

In the 1560s, the Spaniards introduced the practice to the Filipinos. However, this posed a challenge, as there were not many Catholic churches in the Philippines at the time.

Additionally, churches were quite far from each other, so walking to them was virtually impossible.

As Christianity in the Philippines spread, more churches were built. Transportation also improved and traveling from church to church was much easier.

This made Visita Iglesia a Lenten season tradition that many devotees participate in. Some also appreciate the opportunity to visit several mesmerizing churches.

7 CHURCHES YOU CAN VISIT IN CEBU CITY

The traveling aspect of the Visita Iglesia gives participants the chance to go sightseeing around the different churches in the city.

Cebu has some of the oldest churches in the Philippines, so expect a lot of traditional architecture not only in the provincial areas, but also within the city.

Here is a list of seven churches you can visit in Cebu City:

  • Redemptorist Church

The church was constructed by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorist Missionaries, when they tried to supplement the country’s diminishing number of Spanish friars.

The missionaries started in Compostela, even learning Bisaya to communicate with the locals better. Cebu soon served as the base of operations for Visayas and Mindanao-based Redemptorists.

After a successful fund-raising event, the priests set up a church 44 years after they arrived on the island during the feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

The Redemptorist Church remains one of the most famous churches in Cebu, stationed behind Puregold (previously Fooda Saversmart) along General Maxilom Avenue.

The church’s design is inspired by Romanesque European churches, with 14 Corinthian pillars linked by arches carrying its nave.

  • Sacred Heart Parish

A few meters away from the Redemptorist Church is another Catholic church, the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, more commonly known as the Sacred Heart Parish.

You can visit it when you pass the road going to D. Jakosalem Street, next to Jollibee across from Iglesia ni Cristo.

The Sacred Heart Parish was started by Chinese Catholics in Cebu City, after they requested for a Jesuit priest to tend to their pastoral needs. Fr. Miguel Pardinas eventually became its first parish priest.

The property where the parish stands today was acquired by Dr. Hildebrando Jurado, who sold it to the priests at half the market value. Soon after, the church had its first mass on Christmas Eve of 1960.

The church grew as a personal parish for the Chinese Catholics in Cebu, but then Ricardo Cardinal Vidal declared it a territorial parish for all communities.

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish

Nestled in one of Cebu’s biggest neighborhoods is the home of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, aptly called the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu.

You can access this huge church through any public utility vehicle going to Guadalupe. Several of these pass by busy areas like Ayala Center Cebu or Fuente Osmeña Circle.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the patron saint of Cebu, thanks to its complex history. It is believed to be a gift from Augustinian missionaries to rebels fighting against the Spanish colonizers.

After getting lost and forgotten for several years, it was discovered within a cave in the mountainous area of Kalunasan.

Devotees built a small chapel for pilgrims to pray and worship, and a church soon followed. This was built in a more accessible spot where devotees did not have to cross a flood-prone river.

  • Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church (Capitol Parish)

North Escario Street is known as one of Cebu’s busiest highways, brimming with business centers and restaurants. But some may know it more as the home of one of the most iconic Catholic churches in the city.

Located directly across from Vibo Place is Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish, colloquially known as Capitol Parish. It got its moniker due to its distance from the Cebu Provincial Capitol.

It was first erected in the 1960s by priests from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. It was soon turned over to the local diocesan clergy in 1979.

During its 50th parish anniversary, Archbishop Jose S. Palma declared a special year of grace from August 2013 to 2014, and the church a place of pilgrimage.

  • St. Joseph Parish (Mabolo Church)

Saint Joseph the Patriarch Parish was previously part of two different churches during the colonial period. It was eventually elevated to a parish on April 3, 1950, while the town was renamed Mabolo.

The design of the church we see today takes inspiration from the Neo-Gothic style in the 1920s, but its historic bell has stood outside the church since 1892.

The Mabolo parish sustained massive cracks after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Cebu in October 2013.

One can get to the church by riding either a 03A or 03B jeepney in Colon or Carreta. This will pass directly in front of the church, so you won’t have to walk that far.

  • Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

The Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (commonly called Punta Church or Lourdes Parish) is most noticeable due to its impressive architectural features.

Its 18-meter-high concrete parabolic shell was built in 1970. The church is now 60 meters long, with 22.3-meter transepts.

The main altar has a large image of Jesus Christ on the cross hanging above. The image’s body was made from a Dutch pine tree by Spanish artist Casa Bochaca for Php 6,000.

The parish started as a small chapel within the home of Don Pablo Atillo, an avid devotee, who shared his faith with the rest of the community. As it could no longer accommodate the increasing number of devotees, a church was soon erected.

The first parish of Our Lady of Lourdes was made up of local products, like nipa and sawali, and the Don Bosco Youth Center was its first location.

  • Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

Aside from the Basilica del Sto. Niño, downtown Cebu has another one of the oldest and biggest churches in Cebu. The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral has been a fixture in Cebu for so long that it has basically seen the island develop throughout the years.

Its construction was delayed several times due to the lack of funds and unforeseen circumstances like the war against the Moro forces.

It was eventually established as a diocese in 1595, and later elevated to a metropolitan archdiocese in 1934.

The Cathedral is the same as many churches built during the colonial period, using sturdy materials like limestone to withstand natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Although the church was destroyed because of bombings during the Second World War, it was soon rebuilt in the 1950s, gaining its now iconic look. 

This Holy Week, you can visit these wonderful historical churches and embark on your very own Visita Iglesia. You don’t have to follow the order this article gives you, and you can even find other churches in the city to visit. 

Make sure to learn how to pray the holy rosary if you have not already, to respect the sanctity of the tradition. While the tour around different churches in the city is a worthwhile activity, sightseeing is secondary to prayer.

If you still don’t have a grasp on the holy week traditions in Cebu, you can start by joining this tradition with friends and family. You can learn a lot about Catholicism in Cebu, and maybe even get your wishes finally answered. 

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