Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Out of the Box Church of the Gesù

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The rhythm and balance of elements in the Gesu's interiors is striking. 
Think all the beautiful churches in the Philippines observe Baroque architecture? Wait until you see the Church of the Gesù. Located inside the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, it is not hard to miss this unique architectural wonder once you explore the campus.

Seen from the side, the Gesu looks like a UFO that landed on a hill.
Depending on your imagination, the Church of the Gesù could look like a lot of things: A modern pyramid, a triangular alien spacecraft,  an apostle's hands folded in prayer,  a gigantic white Toblerone, the hands of a priest raising a cross, an eagle about to take flight (from an Atenean) or the profile of a roaring lion (the last one's from my nephew). Unlike the popular churches of the Philippines, this was designed not by a priest or a Filipino artisan.  It is actually the first church designed by local architects Jose Pedro Recio and Carmelo Casas. The typical frescoes on walls and ceilings as well as the stained glass windows were ditched for a design that is in harmony with its lush surroundings. 

Father Rodrigo D. Perez III eloquently described the Gesù this way: 

While stunningly modern, the Gesù is a fine example of Filipino architecture. The sheltering roof   recalls the dominance of the roof in ethnic architecture. The structure is visually light, airy and transparent. The combination of light and abundant space conforms to the Filipino ideal of "maaliwalas". The interior space flows to the outdoors, and the lush tropical vegetation around the church is brought in. The entrance expresses Christian and Filipino hospitality as the ends of the roof dip down to form what seems like arms extended in welcome.

The church is "maaliwalas" - pleasant, bright, spacious and well-ventilated.

Interestingly, it looks very much different from the church that it was named after, the Chiesa del Gesu in Rome (click on the link to see how it looks like) which is considered as the most Baroque church in all of Rome.  Although the difference is like night and day, both are striking and peaceful. 

The Gesù is open to the public* and can be found at the corner of University Road and Father Masterson Drive, overlooking the Bellarmine Field of the Ateneo campus. Take time to visit this out of the box place of worship when you're in Quezon City. 

So, what churches in the Philippines have you visited? Which one did you like best? How do you think it compares to the Gesu? Share it on the comments section below!

*- Note: Guests must log-in at the gate to enter the campus or leave an identification card.  Contact the Liturgical Committee at 426-6069 or 426-6001 local 4071 should you wish to check if the church is open at the time you'll be visiting. For more photos, go to my Facebook page

You might also be interested in: 

Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church

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