Basilica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebu is oldest Catholic church in the country

The Basilica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebu is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country. Located in Cebu City, the church’s patron saint, Santo Niño de Cebu (a statuette of the Child Jesus) has often been referred to as “symbol of the birth and growth of Christianity in the Philippines.”

The church’s facade is a combination of Muslim, Romanesque, and neo-classical features, preserved in its original stone texture and natural color. The bell tower has two blind and open windows alternating in shape, ending up in triangular pinnacles with a circular disc crowned by balusters and a bulbous dome of Muslim influence.

The center section, on the other hand, is the focus of attention. The arched main entrance is balanced by the side rectangular corners, with a double-edged triangular pediment crowning the facade.

Photo by Joel Nigos

The elaborately-carved wooden figure of the statue of Santo Niño is believed to have been the same one that Ferdinand Magellan presented to the wife of the Cebu chieftain when the explorer first landed in the island in the 1500s. The statue, which disappeared until its rediscovery in 1565, is thought to be of Belgian origin. 

Today, the statue of Santo Niño is displayed in the church’s altar, enclosed in bulletproof glass.

The Basilica was founded many centuries ago, in 1565. Since then, the church complex has undergone many renovations to continuously upgrade, repair, and restore the place.

As devotees kept increasing over the years, a pilgrim center was built within the church compound opposite of the Basilica. Completed in September 1990, this open-air structure can accommodate 3,500 people. The basement of the Pilgrim’s Center, on the other hand, houses the Basilica Del Sto. Niño Museum.

Aside from the church itself, tourists and pilgrims visit the complex for its museum (located below the Pilgrim’s Center), as well as a public library. The Basilica is also a stone’s throw away to several tourist destinations such as the Magellan Cross, Fort San Pedro, and Carbon Market.

The Basilica is open to the public, Mondays to Sundays, from 6:0am to 7:00pm.