The Taal Basilica canonically known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours is a Minor Basilica in the town of Taal, Batangas. It is considered to be the largest church in the Philippines and in Asia, standing 88.6 metres (291 ft) long and 48 metres (157 ft) wide.
In 1575, 3 years after the founding of Taal town in its old site near the shores of Talal Lake, work began on the construction of its first church by Father Diego Espinar (O.S.A.) with Saint Martin of Tours as patron saint. The church was rebuilt in 1642 using stronger materials but in 1754, it was destroyed along with the town of Taal in the largest recorded eruption of Taal Volcano. This event led to transfer of the town and the church farther away from the volcano to its present site atop an elevated hill facing Balayan Bay. The ruins of the previous church can still be seen in San Nicolas.
Father Martín Aguirre donated the land and began the construction of the new church in 1755. It was continued by Fr. Gabriel Rodriguez in 1777 and by Fr. Jose Victoria in 1782. Fr. Ramon del Marco decorated the church, built the convent and paved the “processional” road with bricks around the atrium of the parochial building.This church was damaged by a strong earthquake on September 16, 1852. The earthquake centered near Taal Volcano, though no volcanic eruption was recorded.
Construction of the present church began in 1856 by Fr. Marcos Antón with Spanish architect Luciano Oliver, commissioned to design and manage the construction of the new church. Although it was unfinished, it was inaugurated in 1865. The huge church was completed by Fr. Agapito Aparicio in 1878, adding the main altar of Doric style measuring 24 metres (79 ft) high and 10 metres (33 ft) wide.He was also responsible for the baptistery made with tiles imported from Europe. The stone church had three naves with a grand transept and an elegant facade with Ionic and Doric orders. A small tower on the left side of the facade contained the large church bell, which in 1942, was destroyed by an earthquake.
Saint Martin of Tours is the patron saint of Taal. His celebration falls on November 11, where a mass is held and then a grand procession of the patron saint and the Our Lady of Caysasay. This is followed by a lua, where young children are chosen to recite. A Hermano de Mayor is either selected or a person volunteers to be one. The Hermano de Mayor is the one who is in charge of the fiesta and also finances it. Together with the festivities is the Parade ng Kabayo or parade of horses around the town.
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