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Glimpse the Divine

Glimpse the Divine

The extraordinary escapes us because they’re in plain sight, or have become common place because we see them so often.  Through many trips to the the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or Baclaran Church as its locally known, you get used to the large Nave filled figuratively to the rafters during Sundays and most specially Wednesdays during its famous Novena.  But it’s when you look up and wait a few moments for your eyes to adjust that you take in the master piece that was left to us by its builders and architect.
Built and designed in the 1950’s by Architect Cesar Concio for the Redemptorist Fathers, the Baclaran Church has been the preferred refuge of many souls seeking the intercession of Mother Mary for their intentions.
When you enter the entrance foyer you are treated to the initial idea of the design intent.  The ceiling here gives you an impression that it could have been easier to do a flat plane, but it’s the introduction of what’s to come.  To let you know  to not expect any plain flat surface, and that from here on flat planes will start to change into something special.
Foyer Ceiling

Foyer Ceiling

Detail of foyer post and ceiling connection

Detail of foyer post and ceiling connection

Ceiling above archway

Ceiling above archway

Upon entering the nave and aisles the space springs up nearly 5 stories high in the middle.  And if you allow your eyes to adjust you will glimpse the interlocking palm like arches that seem to remind you of the interlaced fingers of the many believers who line the pews below.  Are they painted? Achieved by the interplay of color and shade like the frescoes of old?  Hardly, these are folded forms achieved in a time before computer modeling could assist in designing them and during an era when the craftsmanship matched the design genius that birthed them.

Side Aisle towards the altar

Side Aisle towards the altar

Side Aisle and Nave connection detail

Side Aisle and Nave connection detail

Nave Ceiling from the entrance archway

Nave Ceiling from the entrance archway

Nave ceiling as view from the side aisle.

Nave ceiling as view from the side aisle.

Nave ceiling terminates at granite archway

Nave ceiling terminates at granite archway

The altar is accented by a ciborium or canopy that is itself underneath folded forms arrayed around an axis which is defined by a granite archway that also serves to terminate the nave’s ceiling.

Altar Ceiling and Nave granite archway

Altar Ceiling and Nave granite archway

Ceiling towards side chapels

Ceiling towards side chapels

View of the Altar ceiling with the Nave in the background

View of the Altar ceiling with the Nave in the background

Even with today’s technology and materials, present day builders will be hard pressed to duplicate this interior.

View of the Nave ceiling from the rear.

View of the Nave ceiling from the rear.

The beautiful and extraordinary escape us like: the beautiful Manila bay sunset, the singular green space of the Luneta Park, and perhaps the breathtaking interior of one of our most ubiquitous churches.  Visit sometime, leave the urgency of the city behind you, and prepare to appreciate the miracle of seeing beauty that has always been there, just waiting for the play of light, the adjustment of the eye to bring you closer to the Divine.
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