The driving distance from our jumping off point at the SM City parking lot in Iloilo to St Julian’s in Janiuay is approximately 31 kilometres. Which translates into a driving time of about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
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The original Janiuay church, another Augustinian built church, was started by Friar Miquel Carod who was assigned to Janiuay as the parish priest between 1830 and 1871.
The actual construction was started in 1849 but Friar Carod died in November 1871 with the ‘finishing touches’ yet to be made to the church. His replacement, Friar Nicholas Gallo completed the church and subsequently built the adjoining ‘convento’ in the same style as the church itself.
This is one more example of a church being built with forced labour. The stone used in construction was quarried in nearby Dingle and various other materials were transported by balsa wood rafts from Guimaras Island some 35 to 45 kilometers to the south. Friar Carod had kilns built near the construction site, to fire the bricks that were fabricated on-site.
The church which measured approximately 250 feet long by 50 feet wide, was considered to be another ‘fortress’ church and was considered to be on of the largest churches in the region. Some hints of its being a fortress church can be observed in the ruins of the old church.
The church flourished until the Japanese Occupation which started in 1942. The church was put to the torch in early 1942.
It is unclear whether it was torched by the Filipino Resistance to prevent its use by the Japanese or by the Japanese themselves to extinguish any resistance from the citizens against their regime of occupation, which was very brutal indeed.
In any event, the church and adjoining convento were destroyed and were not restored over the years since the war.
In fact it took over 23 years after liberation before the parish opened its new church; the one we can visit today which was built immediately adjacent to the ruins of the original.
The new Janiuay church was dedicated in 1968.
We spent several hours on site and recorded the ruins as they stand today, to try to rediscover the majesty that once was the Church of Saint Julian.
The ruins as we viewed them appeared to have been as high as a two story structure. It was constructed as mentioned earlier of limestone from Dingle, stones and rocks brought in from Guimaras as well as bricks made and fired at the site itself.
On approaching the site of the new church we walk past the ruins and one of the first things we see is this wall of red brick and limestone.
Walking around the corner of this wall, we are confronted with yet another large red brick wall leading to the original bell tower.
The corner of the building is a massive construct of limestone and the on-going wall is of solid red brick. A few hundred feet to the north of this corner is the bell tower.
It is said that the bell tower contained three large bells, when the fire occurred they apparently survived the conflagration and when they were removed from the tower in the early 1960s the largest bell was dropped and crashed to the ground causing a 14 inch crack in it. Those same three bells were installed in the new bell tower and it is said that the damaged large bell now has a very distinctive sound when they are chimed.
On our continuing walk around the site of the ruin of the old church, we pass the area immediately adjacent to the new church down an ‘alley way’ and we discover more details about the construction of the original which tend to confirm the concept that the church in its original form was a ‘fortress church’.
The thickness of the walls alone suggests that it was likely constructed to protect the citizens against invaders of one type or another.
If we recall some of the earlier churches we have visited we can remember the great size of the walls – being in many cases up to 3 meters thick with additional strength added to them with buttresses. This church apparently had no buttresses but a look at the wall in the photo above clear indicates a wall of great thickness, likely meant for protection against insurgents or invaders.
Notice the blend of limestone and brickwork used in the construction of this wall and in another view of the same wall with an aperçu of the original belfry.
On leaving the confines of the ‘alley way’ we are faced with a view of what was most like the old ‘convento’ which was attached to the church. The walls of the convento were constructed of red brick. It appears that the ‘convento’ was a two story building as we shall see in a moment…
On entering this part of the structure, we are faced with a massive room measuring at least 100 feet by 150 feet and it appears that divisions may have been in place in this space before disaster struck.
Again we notice when we look at the windows that the wall were at least 5 to 6 feet in thickness and were made primarily of stone with some brick work and limestone corners.
On moving up to the second floor space through the internal staircase we discover Ian Celebrar, the Janiuay artist at work on his paintings of the original church and the cemetery.
On arriving on the second floor we again discovers another very large space but notice a roof line on the remaining wall next to the bell tower suggesting that this space as well as the one below may have served as a residence of some sort. A residence with at least one fireplace.
This huge space is slated for renovation, however due to a shortage of funds and greater difficulty encountered in raising more funds as a result of the ‘recession’ in the Americas and Europe it is now planned to convert this area, which overlooks both the town square and the main intersection, into what is termed a “Contemplation Garden” where parishioners and others would be able to site quietly and meditate or pray in a relatively peaceful open area. It sounds like a wonderful idea. Here’s a view of “beautiful downtown Janiuay” from the Contemplation Garden under the watchful eye of St Julian…
This concluded our exploration of the ruins of the church and we then proceeded to the new church which was officially opened in 1968.
The church has a wide open, bright, airy and refreshing style. Wide open, because there are literally no side walls – the church is open to the elements. There are gratings where the wall should be – see the photo below. Each opening is topped with a stained glass window depicting one of the stations of the Way of the Cross.
As mentioned, the church has a wide open, bright and airy feel to it, as can be seen from the photos that follow…
Everything about this church is quite simple and clean as can be seen in the photo of the sanctuary, the baptistery.
The chapel to the right of the main altar contains statues of various religious icons including: the statue of Saint Julian, the patron saint of the parish, the Blessed Virgin and the “Birhen ng Barangay”.
Finally, as we depart, we find one last treasure, the statue of St. Julian outside the church that overlooks the town square and the town’s main road intersection.
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