Tales From the Crypt : Final Resting Place of Manila’s Archbishops

Manila Cathedral is the premiere church in the country and unlike other churches of old Manila there is something different that one does not usually see in other cathedrals in the country.Manila Cathedral has  a crypt like churches found in Italy , Spain, France and other parts of Europe.

Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral -Basilica

Manila Cathedral has been the seat of the Catholic Church in Manila since Pope Clement VIII elevated the Diocese of Manila to a Metropolitan Archdiocese in August 14, 1595.

During St John Paul II’s visit in February 1981, he told then-Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin that his wished to elevate the Manila Cathedral as a Basilica. Just months after, on April 27 of the same year, the cathedral became a Minor Basilica.

Manila Cathedral crypt entrance

Manila Cathedral crypt entrance

Bronze letters quotes from the bible was mounted on the wall fronting the Crypt’s entrance from Psalm 116:15 in Latin: Pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus (Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints).

Manila Cathedral Crypt

crypt (from Latin word crypta means “vault”) is a stone chamber beneath the floor of a church or other building. It typically contains coffins, sarcophagi or mortal remains. Another term was derived from the Greek kryptos, which means “hidden.”  The Manila Cathedral crypt is located below the main altar.

Archbishop logo

Archbishop logo

There is also a life-sized statue of the crucified Jesus Christ which greet anyone entering the crypt from the main altar. The said masterpiece dates back late 18th century.

 Marcello Avenali mosaic
Marcello Avenali mosaic

The three-subject mosaic was the work of Marcello Avenali an Italian visual artist who was born in 1912. Many works by the artist have been sold at auction, including ‘Oggetti nello studio’ sold at Minerva Auctions ‘Modern & Contemporary Art’ in 2015. The artist died in 1981.

The mosaic depicts the Lord’s agony on His way to Calvary, the meeting of Mary and Jesus on the way to Golgotha, and the Crucifixion. The crypt has been dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, and the mosaic aptly complements the crypt in theme. There is also an altar table and small chapel which private masses are held.

Manila Archbishop Final Resting Place

The crypt shelters the mortal remains of Michael J. O’Doherty, Gabriel M. Reyes, Rufino J. Cardinal Santos and Cardinal Jaime Sin past Archbishops of Manila. Dom Ambrose Agius , a Maltese monsignor ordained the first Filipino bishop (until 1945; remains transferred to the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat within San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila.

Michael O’Doherty

Michael James O’Doherty (July 30, 1874 – October 13, 1949) was the 27th Archbishop of Manila.  It was written as Miguel J. O Doherty in his tomb.

He was born in Ireland, Archbishop O’Doherty served for 33 years from 1916 until his death in 1949, making him the longest to hold the post, serving through American Commonwealth, the difficult years of the Japanese occupation and post war era.

Gabriel Reyes

Gabriel Martelino Reyes (March 24, 1892 – October 10, 1952) was the 28th Archbishop of Manila and the first native Filipino to hold that position. He previously served as  Archbishop of Cebu from 1934 to 1949, and then served as Archbishop of Manila from 1949 till his death in 1952.

He was responsible for renovating the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral which was destroyed during the closing years of the second world war. He established the San Carlos Seminary  parochial schools and the Cebu Archdiocesan officer newspaper  Diaro- Kabuhi Sang Banua. A Catholic center he wished to build when he became archbishop of Manila was built by his successor, the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, along United Nations Avenue. The Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes Memorial Library (AGRM Library), the resource center of the San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex, was dedicated in his honor.


Rufino Santos

Rufino Jiao Santos (August 26, 1908 – September 3, 1973) was the 29th Archbishop of Manila from February 10, 1953 until his death on September 3, 1973. He was the first Filipino elevated into the rank of cardinal.

Archbishop Rufino”Pinong” Santos was granted a Papal dispensation  to be ordained below the canonical age of 24. On Oct. 25, 1931, two months shy of his 23rd birthday, Rufino J. Santos was ordained priest in Rome. He then served as assistant parish priest in Imus , Cavite and as parish priest in Marilao, Bulacan.

He was also  responsible for saving the life of then Archbishop Michael James O’Doherty during the Japanese occupation.


Jaime Lachica Sin

Jaime Lachica Sin DD, PLH, OS, OL (  born August 31, 1928 – June 21, 2005) was the 30th Archbishop of Manila and was also a Cardinal.

Sin was buried with a “rogito,” a time capsule similar to those that accompany popes into their final resting place.

The time capsule and the summary of his life and reign as archbishop of Manila. The time capsule contained newspaper clippings of his death, coins to mark the year of his death, and a miraculous medal.

The tomb cover were made from local marble, The bust of the former Archbishop were sculpted by local artisan.

What to do Inside the Manila Cathedral Crypt

1.) The crypt is not open during high masses and sometimes close on special occasions.

2.) Dress code is highly important and utter silence must be observed when one is inside the crypt.

3.) Taking photo is allowed but without flash.

4.) Praying is highly encourage, especially to Catholics

5.) People with different faith can visit the crypt provided they must observe simple courtesy and respect.

Note: The visit was courtesy of Intramuros Administration and Manila Cathedral parish

Rence Chan

writer and contributor

social media writer, food lover, heritage advocate, philatelist , deltiologist , numismatist , notaphilist , toy collector, key chain collector, bibliophile , orchid fancier , plant lover , environmental advocate, freshwater aquarium fish hobbyist, tour consultant, memorabilia and art connoisseur.