Paete, Laguna Church of St. James the Apostle

This is St James the Apostle Church in Paete, Laguna. This century old church is filled with centuries-old wooden paintings and statues of catholic saints. It features a baroque style architecture with local styles. This is one of the most beautiful churches I have seen.

It is made of adobe bricks, a mixture of egg white and other native materials. The church has an elaborate baroque style with a fusion of oriental artistry. The intricate retablo pieces were made by Paetenian natives, among them were Bartolome Palatino and Francisco Macahumpan.

The church underwent a lot of renovation due to natural calamities. With a long history of losing the church building to earthquakes, the current baroque mission church has large buttresses on each side to improve its earthquake resistance.

The church’s facade is divided by a frieze that continues around the adjoining belltower. It has bas reliefs of leaves and flowers and a sculpted image of St. James depicted as a Saint James the Moor-slayer in a central niche of the upper story. The relief of Saint James is no longer the original image. The present relief which replaced the original one was installed in 1804. The triangular stepped pediment has a circular aperture directly above the image of St. James. Several arched windows decorate the belltower.

The large wall paintings on wood panels inside the church were executed by another notable son of Paete, Luciano Dans. These depict Langit, LupaImpiyerno – Heaven, Earth, Hell – and large murals of Saint Christopher. Dans used natural color pigments mixed with volcanic ash and brushes made from cats’ hair to create the murals. The large painting of San Cristobal on wood was purchased during the time of Father Francisco de Santa Gonzaleza for 2.002 in October 1852. Unfortunately, the two St. Christopher paintings currently need immediate conservation. 

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The first stone church and convent were built by Paete natives under the supervision of Fray Andres de Puertellanoin 1646 but it was later destroyed by an earthquake in 1717. A new stone church was started the same year under Fray Francisco de la Fuente. It was completed in 1840 under the term of Fray Luis de Nambroca.

In 1884, the church was rebuilt under Father Pedro Galiano, now facing the Laguna lake but this was again destroyed by another earthquake on August 20, 1937. The church served as a dungeon and torture house to the people of Paete during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

The church is 42 m (138 ft) long by 7 m (23 ft) thick by 42 m (138 ft) wide.

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