Santa Maria Church, Ilocos Sur: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur

Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur

The Santa Maria Church, also called The Church of the Lady of Assumption (Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion), is a parish church located in Ilocos Sur province of the Philippines. Standing tall on top of a hill, it is one of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines that is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Santa Maria Church is a complex art of clay bricks and mortar.

Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur
Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur

Consequently, it becomes the center of attraction for tourists. It is a perfect haven for the people who love to explore ancient culture and history. The long staircase that leads to the church imparts paradisiacal qualities to the church.

Sta Maria Church, Ilocos Sur
Sta Maria Church, Ilocos Sur


The parish of Santa Maria was originally located in Narvacan in 1567. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Assumption. But Virgin Mary was enthroned at a different place called Bulala. After frequent disappearances, she was found to be perched on a Guava tree. The townspeople then decided upon shifting the church to its present location. The construction started in 1765.

During the renovation of the church, the bell tower and the protective walls were constructed in 1810 and 1863, respectively. The bell tower was remodeled the same year imposing a slightly leaning or tilting structure, as it appears today. Also, the church was initially constructed using bamboo sticks. But later on, the local materials were replaced by hard construction to give longer life to the church.

Facade of Santa Maria Parish in Ilocos Sur
The facade of Santa Maria Parish in Ilocos Sur
Interior of Santa Maria Church UNESCO
Interior of Santa Maria Church UNESCO

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Santa Maria Church inscribed its name in the UNESCO world heritage sites on December 11, 1993, as a part of the four Baroque Churches in the Philippines.

  • It was identified as a heritage site for its massive architecture and fortress-like appearance.
  • The authentic features of the church building mark the church architecture of the Spanish colonial period of the 16th to 18th centuries. It displays specific features such as altars of high Baroque style in the wall facades, in walls separating the chapels, and demonstrates the use of native elements and the depiction of Catholic Patron Saints wearing traditional clothes.
  • The church manifests the local understanding of the life of Christ.
  • The building and design of the church stand as an inspiration for the later church architectures. Also, the church is known to be adaptive to the geographical conditions of the Philippines. The protective walls shield it from the seismic activities.
  • The building tradition of the church reflects European style and setup using organic materials and decorative elements.
Belfry of Sta Maria Church Ilocos Sur
Belfry of Sta Maria Church Ilocos Sur

How To Get There

The cheapest option to reach Santa Maria Church is to:

  • Go to Cubao your Vigan Bound Buses such as Partas, Dominion Bus, Aniceto Bus, and Viron Transit. You can ride any Buses bound to Vigan and get off at the town proper of Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur.
  • Once at the town proper, just walk towards Santa Maria Church.
  • Bus fares are around Php500 to Php600.

Church Location: Santa Maria Church – Burgos Road, Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Operating Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Sunday

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