Dulce Nombre de Maria {Sweet Name of Mary} Cathedral Basilica

Photo of Basilica This majestic structure is located on the site where the first Catholic church on Guam was constructed in 1669 under the guidance of Padre San Vitores. The present building looms above the palm trees and is a familiar landmark in downtown Agana. The original structure was demolished during WWII. Construction for the present cathedral began in 1955 and was finished in 1958. The cathedral, now a part of Guam's Register of Historic Places, was a project headed by Bishop Appolinaris Baumgartner, designed by Antonio S. Dimalanta and Built by Frank D. Perez and Perez Bros.


The precursor of the present day Basilica was a chapel, or capilla, constructed of rough logs and nipa thatch built within the perimeter of the Plaza. The Church was the focal site around which the administrative buildings were built. Built under the direction of Padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores with the assistance of the Chamorus of Hagatna, it was dedicated on February 2, 1669. Queen Maria Ana donated 300 pesos and Chief Kipuha of Hagatna contributed the land. In 1670 a more permanent structure was erected. Built of coral stones with the technique of mamposteria, this structural foundation expanded to become the Cathedral. Within this structure were walls, ceilings and floors constructed of ifil wood. A fresco on the rear wall depicted the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The original Cathedral was destroyed by bombardment during the retaking of Guam.

Photo of patrones of Agana

According to historian Benigno Palomo, 'In 1669, one of the main mission of the Spanish soldiers and missionaries was to exalt "the Catholic faith" and that "the people living in islands and land of this sort, you will and ought to bring to the Christian religion", from the Bill of Partition issued by Pope Alexander VI.

Other churches were built at Fuuna near Umatac, at Tepungan by Asan, at Ritidian, at Tarrague, at Dededo and at Orote. Initially, many of these churches were destroyed by the Chamorros in their effort to regain their independence. Others were destroyed by natural causes. Over the years, the Chamorros gradually accepted the faith of the spanish as their own.

As time passed, village life centered around the church. Rituals involving birth, transition from adolescent to manhood, marriage and death centered around the church.

Before the war there were nine churches and 22 chapels throughout Guam. These chapels were little sanctuaries between villages where one could privately pray during the long journey to and from home. All were destroyed during WWII except San Dionisio at Umatac, San Jose at Inarajan and San Francisco at Yona.

Today, churches destroyed during the war have been rebuilt and new ones constructed. In addition, temples, synagogues and a mosque have also been built on Guam.'

The Basilica, as in the past, shelters the statue of Santa Maria del Kamalen the Patroness of the Diocese of Hagatna {click here for the legend} which was found floating by a fisherman during the 1600's. Beneath the Cathedral's altar are the burial sites of the church hierachy [bishops]. Beneath the original first Church of Agana several matua or high clan Chamorus such as the Maga'lahi Ke'puha were also buried. As with other cathedrals around the world it houses a piece of the religious artifact of the original Cross.

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