Monday, November 25, 2013

*353. Pampanga's Churches: STA. CATALINA CHURCH, Arayat

STA. CATALINA CHURCH, as it appears in 1911. The 3-level Renaissance-style facade gives it a signature look, that has earned a reputation as among Pampanga's most beautiful churches. Luther Parker Collection

The ancient town of Arayat rests on the foothills of Pampanga's mountain landmark, that has also come to be called by the same name. Its actual founding, however, is shrouded in mystery; with some sources naming either Prince Balagtas or his son, Araw--both Madjapahit Empire nobles, as the founder. But what we do know was Arayat was already a viable settlement as early as the 14th century, and 1571, it was one of the most important riverine towns of Pampanga, becoming a hub for trade and commerce.

The coming of Augustinians ushered in a brisk period of evangelization and, on 29 August 1590, Bishop Domingo Salazar approved a request to establish the first mission in the town, which was subsequently set up by Fray Juan de Valderrama. By 1600, the Arayat parish was already firmly established , under the ministry of Fray Contreras.

The early church was dedicated to Santa Catalina de Alejandria (St. Catherine of Alexandria), a 4th century virgin-martyr killed under the reign of Maxentius. Considered as one of the most important saints of the Medieval period, Sta. Catalina was also a popular Augustinian devotion.

The stone and brick structure was erected in 1753; cacnonical books indicate that the first baptism was conducted there in 1758, by a certain Fray Villalobos. The church was rebuilt by Fray Jose Torres starting in 1858. Fr. Juan Tarrero continued with the project only to become an unfortunate victim of the Philippine Revolution. It was finally finished in 1892, under the able supervision of Fr. Urbano Beduya, although several renovations continued through the first 2 decades of the 20th century.

The beautiful Sta. Catalina Church features a multi-levelled Renaissance style fachada. measures 70 meters long and 16 meters wide and stands12 meters high. It belongs to the parish of the Vicariate of Mary, Help of Christians in the Archdiocese of San Fernando. An image of its titular patron, Sta. Catalina, stands on the church portico. A separate antique image also resides in the main altar. Her  feast day is celebrated on November 25. 

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