Basilica Complex

Foundation of the Church

The convent of the Sto. Niño de Cebu was founded by Fr. Andres de Urdaneta on April 28, 1565 , the very day the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition arrived in the island. On May 8 of the same year, when Legaspi and his men planned the urbanization of the city, they allotted a "place for the church and the convent of San Agustin, "where the Santo Niño image had been found."

In 1599, the convent was made a house of studies of grammar, headed by the Visayan linguist, Fr. Alonso de Mentrida. It also served as a rest house for missionaries working in the province and as a retirement home for the aged and the sick, usually attended to by a lay brother.

The church has always been the Sanctuary of the Sto. Niño, under the custody of the Augustinians. The number of priests assigned to the church varied from three to five aside from one or two lay brothers.

Devotion to Sto. Niño

The Chapter held on August 6, 1578 recommended to all the fathers "that prayers to the Sto. Niño be offered every month as was the custom before." In 1641, the father provincial ordered that the feast of the Sto Niño be celebrated on January 14 “with all the possible solemnity, mass and sermon, since He deserves all the affection from us, being the Dulcisimo and most affectionate patron of our province."

Fr. Nicolas de la Cuadra (1731) was very instrumental in spreading the devotion of the Sto. Niño. He led an exemplary life, had writings and solemn rites which he established in the sanctuary, and acquired many jewels for the decoration of the statue.

The first novena to the Santo Niño was introduced by Fr. Mateo Diez, rector of the sanctuary in 1889, under the Cebuano title Novena ug pagdayeg sa Sto. Niño Jesus nga guisimba sa cyudad sa Sugbu , printed in Mandaluyong, Asilo de Huerfanos , 1888. This novena has been reprinted countless times.

Up to this time, the number of Sto. Niño devotees who follow the novena and attend mass every Friday keeps on increasing.

Construction of the Church

  • 1566 - the first church believed to be built on the site where the image of the Holy Child was found was destroyed by fire. It was said to be built by Fr. Diego de Herrera using wood and nipa.
  • 1605 - Fr. Pedro Torres started the construction of a new church, again made of wood and nipa. It was finished in 1626 but was again burned in 1628.
  • 1628 - Fr. Juan Medina started the construction of another church, using stone and bricks, a great innovation at that time. The construction was stopped because the structure was found to be defective - the bricks used seemingly "melted" upon contact with air.
  • February 29, 1735 - Father Provincial Bergaño, Governor-General Fernando Valdes, Bishop Manuel Antonio Decio y Ocampo of Cebu and Juan de Albarran Prior of the Santo Niño, started the foundations of the present church, using stone. A lot of help came. Fr. Antonio Lopez, prior of San Nicolas, assisted also together with the people of his district. The residents of Talisay also did four weeks of work and Fr. Francisco Aballe also tried to help with his parishioners from Mactan.

The materials used:

The stones were quarried from Capiz and Panay by an army of bancas. The molave wood came from the mountains of Talisay and Pitalo and was transported in bancas hired in Argao and Carcar. Fr. Albarran confessed that there was much difficulty in quarrying the stones. Despite the seemingly impossible task, Fr. Albarran was not discouraged. He used white stones to make the lime, with one banca transporting some 400 pieces of stones. There was also another obstacle: the lack of chief craftsmen and officers which forced Fr. Albarran to acquire some knowledge of architecture.

The church was finished not later than 1739. According to an author named Vela, "the church has all the characteristics of a solid construction to withstand all the earthquakes..." And true enough, the church withstood all earthquakes.

The original features of the church have been retained except for the windows added by Fr. Diez in 1889. In 1965, both church and convent underwent a bigger restoration on the occasion of the fourth centennial of the Christianization of the country. The face lifting was made with utmost respect for the historical character of the old structure.

Cardinal Hildebrando Antoniutti, Papal Legate to the Philippines , conferred upon the church the title of Basilica minore , a special privilege granted to the Augustinian Order by the Pope Paul VI. On the other hand, the former President Ferdinand Marcos declared the Sto. Niño Basilica a national shrine because of its historical significance.

Style of the Church

  • Facade - a blending of Muslim, Romanesque and neo-classical features - all set in what has otherwise been described as a high degree of integration. The façade is preserved in its original stone texture and natural color, conveying an air of simplicity of line and elegance.
  • Bell tower - serves as a counterbalance to the convent located on the opposite far end. It has two blind and open windows alternating in shape, ending up in triangular pinnacles with a circular disc crowned by balusters and a bulbous dome of Muslim influence.
  • Center section - the focus of attention. The arched main entrance is balanced by the side rectangular corners. A double-edged triangular pediment crowns the facade.

The Sinulog

Cebu is abuzz with a flurry of activities every January of each year which culminates on the third Sunday, during which the fiesta Señor takes place.

On said Sunday, the grandest and biggest of all Philippines festival takes place in the streets of Cebu, the Sinulog Festival. The Sinulog takes its roots from the candle vendors in front of the Augustinian Church of Cebu. It is rendition of the sinug, which is a prayer-dance offered either in supplication or in thanksgiving to the Santo Niño. It is by candle-waving women who follow a simple forward and backward routine while offering prayers for any devotee.

The dance routine of the sinug is said to be in imitation of the sulog (current) of Pahina river of Cebu City. While dancing and waving candles, the women chant: Pit Señor! Pit Señor! which is short for Sangpit sa Senyor or loosely translated as Hail the Lord! Devotees have also adopted the chant as an ejaculatory prayer and one would normally hear petitions like: Pit Senyor kang Tatay kini (Hail the Lord, this one's for my father!)

On the third Sunday of each year, countless visitors from outside Cebu the Philippines come to Cebu City to witness the Sinulog Festival where performers from various parts of the archipelago congregate in supplication or in thanksgiving for the blessings received from the Holy Child.

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Santo Niño Image

The image of the Santo Niño, which is kept in the Santo Nino Chapel of the Basilica, is considered the oldest religious relic in the Philippines . This was the image that Magellan gave to Queen Juana as a gift during the baptism of King Humabon and his wife Queen Juana on April 14, 1521 .

Forty-four years later, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi with Fr. Andres de Urdaneta arrived in Cebu and formally Christianized the Cebuanos on April 27, 1565 . However, they found the natives hostile and set the village on fire. It was in one of the burnt houses that Juan Camus, a soldier, found the image of the Santo Niño unscathed.

Since then, the miraculous image has been venerated by the Cebuanos and became the patron of Cebu. At present, the original Santo Niño adorned with gold and precious stones is enshrined in glass located on the left side of the Basilica altar for public veneration.

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The Pilgrim's Center

The Sto. Niño Friday Novena and Mass devotees keep increasing over the years and could easily fill the Basilica beyond its capacity. To accommodate this growing number of devotees who come to hear mass in the basilica, a pilgrim center was built within the church compound opposite of the Basilica and Holy Mass is celebrated on Fridays and other Religious Festivities are held here in the open-air, theater-like structure.

Completed in September 1990, this open-air structure can accommodate 3,500 people and was constructed from the generous contributions from Sto Niño devotees around the world. The basement of the Pilgrim's Center houses the Basilica Del Sto. Niño Museum .

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Basilica del Sto. Niño Religious Store

Located on the south wing of the Basilica, connecting the convent and the church is the Basilica Shop. Religious articles are sold in this store as well as souvenir items and recuerdos of the Sto Niño.

 Business hours:

Monday to Sunday 8:00am - 12:00 noon
Monday to Sunday.(except Friday) 1:30 - 4:30pm
Fridays 1:30 - 6:30pm

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Basilica Del Santo Niño Museum

The Basilica Del Sto. Nino Museum is located at the basement of the Pilgrim's Center. It houses the Santo Niño vestments in various sizes. Valuable jewelry from rings to necklaces are placed in one display cabinet, gifts of devotees offered to the Santo Niño for his use during his feast on the third Sunday of January.

A camarera dresses up the original Santo Niño a day before the feast and during the procession on his feast day. Most of the Santo Niño's vestments are of 17th-18th century style, design and quality including those of the priests' and the collection of calices, patenas, ciborium, and venajeras. These are church pieces used during liturgical services.

Basilica Del Sto. Nino Museum
Basilica del Sto. Nino, Osmena Blvd., Cebu City
Basement, Pilgrim's Center, Cebu City
Tel: 97660 / 97668 / 97669
Fax: 255-0608

Curator: Fr. Leonard B. Realiza, OSA

Monday to Sunday (except Wednesday)
8:00 AM - 11:45 AM
1:30 PM - 4:45 PM

Registration fees:

Adult P 30.00
Senior Citizen P 15.00
Student P 10.00
Children P 10.00

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Basilica Del Santo Niño Library

Heeding the wise advice of St. Augustine of Hippo that in every house there should be a library (Possidius 31, 6,8), the Augustinian Friars of the Basilica put up a library in one of the corners of the convent. We don’t exactly know when this library was put up, but it is safe to surmise that it was established when the convent was constructed and completed in 1764. Originally, its ceiling had beautiful, elaborate paintings, but unfortunately the fire that transpired in the middle 80’s obliterated them. The library has a mezzanine where many old books are stacked. A gallery of the past Rectors of the Basilica from 1951 to the present adorns the mezzanine. Also, in the library can be found a big coat-of-arms of the House of Hapsburgs, an antique image of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The library, for centuries, was for the exclusive use of the Friars. But, in the year 2000, it was opened to researchers so that it can be of service to them. Since then, the library has accommodated a lot of researchers doing specific studies on the image of Santo Niño de Cebu, the church (Basilica), the convent and the Augustinians in the Philippines and in the world. However, the collection of books of the library is not only confined to these, but it also has books in various disciplines like, history and geography, religion, theology, philosophy, social sciences, languages, arts and literature. Aside from the antique books, special collections of the library include rare photographs of the momentous celebration of the Fourth Centennial of the Philippine Christianization in 1965.

Library Logogram

An eagle with two heads and displayed wings in the coat-of-arms of the House of Hapsburgs. The double heads signify the conjoining of two powers, the Austrian and Spanish Hapsburgs, which were united through royal intermarriage. The spread wings indicate protection, and the eagle denotes noble stature, strength and bravery.

Library Collections

General Reference – is a catchall classification of encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, atlases,Almanacs, bibliographies, globe, yearbook and rare books.

Subject Reference – this classification provide, books about philosophy, religion, social science, languages (Spanish and other languages in the 17th, 18th and 19th century), pure science, applied science, arts, literature, history and geography.

FilipinianaSection - collections include books by Filipino authors, books about the Philippines and published in the Philippines.

Periodicals - include bound issues of journals, magazines and newspapers.

Archive - collection of eventsand records.

Augustinian Sections

  • Books on the Augustinians authored by the Augustinian friars and Non-Augustinians.
  • Periodicals published by the Augustinians they consist of magazines, journals, newsletters.
  • Information files include Augustinian documents, academic yearbooks, directories and manuals.

Other Library Service:

  • Photocopying

Library Hours

Monday to Saturday
8:00 AM - 12:00 Noon
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Fr.Medardo A. Durmiendo, O.S.A.
Library Director

Ms. Leonila S. Bulasa

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