MANILA, Philippines—Bad news for couples who have booked their weddings at the country’s premier church.
The Manila Cathedral will be closed to the public for at least a year to make way for major repairs.
Cracks found in key parts of the structure prompted the archdiocese to close the church starting Feb. 7, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said on Monday.
“Based on the study presented to me toward the middle of January, there are some concerns raised about the structural integrity of the edifice [so] repairs are needed as soon as possible, not only to preserve the building but to ensure the safety of the community that uses the building,” Tagle said at a press conference at the Arzobispado in Intramuros, Manila.
Fr. Carlos Reyes, a civil engineer from the Ministry of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila, said a detailed study of the cathedral’s structural integrity found cracks in the building.
Reyes said some of the columns and beams did not meet the standards set by the 2010 National Structural Code of the Philippines.
“Such failures indicate conditions that render the structure as not safe. These conditions are compounded by the ever present threat of earthquakes that may hit Manila,” said Reyes.
Commissioned by the Manila Cathedral administration, Angel Lazaro and Associates International conducted the structural study.
Reyes said the repairs were timely following the 6.9-magnitude quake that hit the Visayas last week.
The repair and restoration work would cost the Archdiocese of Manila some P40 million, a part of which would be raised by Manila Cathedral-Basilica Foundation Inc., according to the church officials.
Because of its rich history, the Manila Cathedral has been one of the popular venues for wedding ceremonies among Filipino couples, including celebrities and high-profile personalities.
Cathedral officials have formed a task force to explain the situation to couples, who have booked their wedding at the church and to help them find alternative venues.
“There’s a ‘wedding task force’ helping these couples look for other church venues also within Intramuros and also negotiate for their schedule,” Tagle said.
Though the cathedral has been closed since Tuesday last week, it will continue to accommodate weddings until March, noted Reyes. Some 200 couples have been affected by its temporary closure, he added.
Located within the walled city of Intramuros, the cathedral was originally a parish church governed by the diocese of Mexico in 1571. It became a separate diocese in February 1579 upon the issuance of a papal bull by Pope Gregory XIII.
It was initially made of nipa and bamboo. A stone cathedral was built in 1592, which was destroyed by earthquakes in the 1600s. The seventh cathedral, constructed in 1879, was destroyed by bombings in 1945 during the battle for the liberation of Manila from Japanese forces.
The present structure was constructed from 1954 to 1958 during the term of Manila Archbishop Rufino Jiao Cardinal Santos.
Several repairs have been made on the cathedral’s bell tower in recent history, said Reyes. “But this is going to be the first major repair of the church since 1958,” he added.