Sarrat’s Sta. Monica Church

Sarrat's Sta. Monica Church

In the town of Sarrat is a beautiful red brick church of Baroque and Neo-Classical style called the Sta. Monica Church. Irene Marcos, the daughter of former Philippine President Marcos, was married to Gregorio Araneta in a fairytale-like wedding in the church complete with red carpet stretching for kilometers. In the Philippines, it was termed the “wedding of the century.” However, a little more than two months later, on Aug. 17, an earthquake of Intensity 7.6 ravaged Ilocos Norte and destroyed the altar and belfry of Sta. Monica.

The church is located some 7 kilometers to the east of Laoag City proper. It is an all-brick church with buttressed walls and a 3-level brick bridge and staircase connects the church to the convent making it one of the unique features of this church. The Sta. Monica Church, convent and bell tower began construction in 1669 and were completed in 1679. Rebuilt after a fire in 1817, the complex was again damaged by fire in 1882 but was rebuilt and finished in June 1896. The church features a 137-meter nave that is the longest in the country, according to the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. It follows a simple rectangular plan and another outstanding feature of the church is its unique system of roof trusses.

Like the bell tower, the convent stands apart from the church. Separate towers and rectories are characteristic of the province, a measure to minimize damage during earthquakes. At the ground level of the convent are housed memorabilia, books and photographs connected with the history of the parish. The ruins of Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat include a torture room where two huge brick-encrusted pillars dominate. Melvin dela Cuesta, a Filipino historian, said these pillars were used during the Spanish regime to hang Filipinos accused of treason and other high crimes.

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