In the 16th century, when Spanish Augustianians settled in Santa María the town was a mission outpost. By the mid-18th century, Santa María had become one of the most successful Augustinian missions in the Philippines, and construction of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción began in 1765.
A stairway of 85 steps leads up a hill from the edge of town to the church, which is perched like a citadel and fortified by a retaining wall of stone. Its elevated setting is unusual for Spanish colonial churches of the period, which were usually sited in plazas. Flanked by two cylindrical columns, the church’s exposed brick façade—once covered in limestone—opens into a nave flooded by natural light. A massive octagonal bell tower, added in 1810, stands nearby.
Serious structural damage to the retaining walls has led to partial collapse. Preservation efforts hope to address the issues of the church structure. The church administrators also aim to engage the local community in preserving this historic heritage site.
Mabuhay ang Santa Maria de la Asuncion!