Basilica de San Martin de Tours
The Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, designed by the famed Spanish architect Don Luciano Oliver, stands 95 meters long and 45 meters wide on a plateau in the heart of Taal. The adobe stone slabs which make up the whole structure were dug up in a nearby barrio and painstakingly carried by menfolk on an uphill climb to the church site. When household duties were done, the women and children also helped carry sand in their aprons and handkerchiefs from the seashore to the place of construction. This massive structure of stone was held together by lime and not cement. It has withstood the onslaught of the elements within a period of more than 100 years, rebuilt in 1850′s. The structure took shape in the period of ten (10) years.
The façade resembles St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with its Ionic columns. The original ceiling was painted by Giovanni Dibella, one of two Italian artists who painted the ceiling of San Agustin Church. The style is trompel’oeil or “trick of the eye” which gives a 3-dimensional effect. Its tabernacle is made of silver, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. It was declared as a national shrine on January 16, 1974.
Originally built in an area that is now San Nicolas town in 1575, the basilica was destroyed in the 1754 eruption of Taal volcano. It was built in its present location in 1755 by the Augustinian missionaries and was damaged anew in an 1849 earthquake. Rebuilt from 1856 to 1865 during the time of the parish priest Fray Marcos Anton.
San Martin de Tours is a baroque style basilica built in the 18th century. Covering a little less than half a hectare of ground area, it still stands majestically today and is considered the oldest and largest church in the Orient. A steep and narrow passageway through its belfry grants visitors a grand view from the church’s rooftop.