Saturday, December 29, 2012
Taal Heritage Tour | St. Martin de Tours Basilica
TAAL, Batangas - From the Taal Municipal Hall, colloquially called Casa Real, we crossed the street to visit St. Martin de Tours Basilica, considered to be the largest Catholic Church in Asia. As we approach the church edifice, we were greeted by the warm and welcoming smile of children selling candlesticks. In front of the church was a giant church bell standing on a concrete platform. Once called the King of Bells, it was later retired after it was damaged during an earthquake in 1942.
When we entered the basilica, the paintings on the walls, pillars and ceiling instantly called our attention. Taking a closer look, we noticed that they were quite new. According to our guide, the basilica’s interior has recently undergone repainting. He added that the newer wall paintings were patterned after the original older wall paintings found on the main altar’s ceiling.
The basilica’s dome is supported by four massive pillars, on top of which are portraits of the Four Evangelists. The dome ceiling features a painting of the Ascension of Christ. There was an ongoing wedding ceremony during the time of our visit. The voice of the priest resonated inside the vast interior of the basilica, further intensifying the grandiosity of the structure.
From the basilica, we stepped into the adjacent museum housing a number of antique items once used in the basilica including wooden sculptures of Catholic saints, church bells, jars and musical instruments. We were also able to take a glimpse into how priests in Taal spend their free time. From the museum, we could smell what the priests were cooking for lunch while other priests train inside their in-house gym to maintain their physical fitness.
From the museum, we went up to the basilica's tower through a dark, narrow and winding stairwell. The tower gave us access to the basilica's rooftop from which one can have a panoramic view of the whole town of Taal and the two bodies of water bordering Taal. We enjoyed the cool breeze blowing from the highlands and the view over the clear blue waters of Balayan Bay. Being able to climb on top of the biggest Catholic church in Asia was indeed a unique experience.