Santa Maria Church

Santa Maria Church, Ilocos Sur: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Last Updated on April 29, 2022 by Tina

The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion, commonly known as Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur is one of the 4 baroque churches in the Philippines designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was inscribed in 1993 on the World Heritage List pursuant to the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are six properties in the Philippines inscribed on the World Heritage List. These are the Baroque Churches of the Philippines, the Historic City of Vigan, the Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordilleras, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and the Tubbataha Reefs National Park. Of the six, I have already visited three.

The Baroque Churches are the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, Miag-ao Church in Iloilo and the Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur. These churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines which had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. They reflect the fusion of European church design and construction using local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition.

Of the four, Santa Maria Church is the only church I haven’t visited. So when we went to Ilocos Sur last holy week, I told my parents that I would like to drop by Santa Maria Church.

Santa Maria Church is located in the town center and sits on top of a hill surrounded by a defensive wall on all sides like a fortress. It has a diversified architectural design of bricks and mortar. You can reach it by climbing more than 80 steps in a stairway of granite rock. It is an attraction to tourists in Ilocos Sur, especially Catholics.



History of Santa Maria Church

Santa Maria Church was built as a chapel of Narvacan by the Augustinian friars during the Spanish Colonial Period. It became a parish in 1769  dedicated to the Virgin Mary with the title Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion. The bell tower of the church was built in 1810, as a shelter for missionaries going to Abra.

Inside Santa Maria Church
Inside the church

How to Get There

As of the moment, there are no buses to Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. You can reach the town by private car. It is located in the town proper, along Burgos Road. From La Union, Santa Maria is a 1.5 to 2-hour drive.

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