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Friday, May 30 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Architecture Session) Basilica of San Sebastian in Manila, Philippines

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The Basilica of San Sebastian in Manila, Philippines, is one of few surviving all-metal cathedrals in the world. It was built in 1891 using innovative, seismic-resistant structural steel construction after the previous three masonry churches on the site were destroyed in earthquakes.

The Basilica differs from other early uses of structural steel in earthquake-proof construction in that every component of the building is composed of steel or iron, with no masonry or plaster whatsoever. To simulate a more traditional appearance, the entire building was faux painted to create the illusion that the church was built of cut stone. Trompe l’oeil figures, painted by some of the country’s leading turn-of-the-century artists, decorate the interior dome and side walls. The masonry-less construction and the resulting decorative treatment creates a spectacular effect, yet leaves both the paintings and the metal substrates vulnerable to deterioration because the highly decorative finishes serve as the only protection for the steel from the humid environment. As an unfortunate but unsurprising consequence, the structure is actively corroding, causing damage to the important decorative paintings. The size of the building and the significance of the paintings preclude many traditional treatment options, including preventing corrosion through climate control.

This paper diagnoses the specific causes of deterioration of the paint film by examining the original painting and finishing techniques, mapping and categorizing specific localized and systemic conditions, and evaluating climatic factors contributing to the corrosion of the metal. By determining the approximate rate and extent of the deterioration and by pinpointing its specific causes, this paper serves as a basis for identifying and evaluating potential conservation treatments to prolong the life of the paintings in situ.


Christine Leggio

Architectural Conservator/Historian, Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson
Christine Leggio is an Architectural Conservator based in Philadelphia, PA. Her work on San Sebastian Basilica served as her Master’s Thesis for the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. The work, entitled “Investigation of the Deterioration of the Trompe L’oeil Interiors of San Sebastian Basilica, Manila, Philippines” won her the Nicholas Brady Garvan Award for an Outstanding Thesis for the... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 11:00am - 11:30am
Garden Room

Attendees (33)