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One of the most impressive and interesting of all the Manila churches is old Santo Domingo. The exterior with its embattled towers and climbing buttresses is stately and massive. The view from the Ayuntamiento is striking, and the old Gothic windows of the semicircular apsis have a strong ecclesiastical flavor.
If there were nothing of Santo Domingo but its doors it would still be worth going to see. The interior is Gothic, being the only example of the kind in the city, and with its beautiful marble bases and altar steps, its choir and altar railings of worked brass, its colored glass and curved pulpit(said to have cost four thousand pesos), it readily weaves a spell of magic over the beholder. Its sacristy contains many objects of beauty and interest and the mellow tinge of time lends a halo to the whole pile.
My first experience in a Manila church was at High Mass in Santo Domingo at the early hour. There were sixteen hundred candles shining in the gloom of the old sanctuary, and a thousand worshipers were kneeling on the polished floor. Among the high arches gathered the smoke of the incense, and way up in the dome the morning sun streamed red and gold through the colored glass.
The chanting of the priest reverberated through the aisle like the noise of a cataract, and the answer of the prostrate people was like the murmur of many waters upon the sand. Then the great organ with its thundering reeds made the old pile ring and shout like some strong giant in sport, and in the succeeding silence the people waited in awe for what might follow. What did follow was the chanting of the boy's choir without accompaniment, and the effect from the high gallery was as if the voices came from everywhere, the very stones had suddenly become vocal and joined in the acclamation.
At last it was over, and the multitude filed slowly out past the great marble basons, and there remained only the flickering candles, the fragrant incense, the glittering altar and the slanting sun-beams of orange and purple. What a place for reverie, what a spot for romance! What shades of the forgotten past knelt behind the dusty images, and hovered among the pointed arches!
With all its painted pillars and glaring colors the old church has a fascination about its rich tone and its gothic lines that holds one, Whatever it may be, it is a church, and it weaves over the visitor the spell of the old gothic motive, that insistent pointing upward that lifts men's heart to the sky.
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