THE newest museum in the city, Museo Diocesano de Bacolod opened last January 20, the Feast of San Sebastian. It was a fitting date for opening the museum’s doors to the Catholic faithful.

Establishing an ecclesiastical museum in our cathedral is a very good idea. In fact, it’s about time.

Talking about time, did you know that many of the 185 artifacts on display at the Museo Diocesano used to be under the care of the Museo de la Salle For 15 years, the USLS museum kept safe a number of vestments, chalices and books. Some of these were displayed there so if you are a previous visitor to the La Salle museum, those at the cathedral now would look familiar to you.

Antique religious artifacts are displayed in glass cases at the clean, brightly-lit hall of the third floor at the San Sebastian Cathedral Rectory. The Rectory is that light-yellow building behind the Palacio Episcopal or the Bishop’s Palace. The museum doesn’t charge a fixed entrance fee but has a donation box for generous souls who wish to support the museum.

Curious souls will see articles used in the Mass such as bronze chalices, pattens, water goblets, missals, chasubles in various colors and other priestly vestments.

Notable are 19th century silver sanctuary lamps, late 19th century bronze candelabra, acetre and hyssop. What I only knew as a sprinkler for holy water is actually termed “hyssop” which evolved from the one made by nature. [In the Old Testament, the hyssop is a plant with many woody twigs that made a convenient sprinkler. It was used under the Mosaic law to scatter blood or water for ritual cleansing. (Ps. 519)]

All of the items are captioned in English. Most of the labels, though, do not record the provenances of these artifacts except for a few that states that these candelabra are French and that chalice is from India.

There are also old photographs and copies of old photographs. There is a huge one on the wall to the right that shows how the interiors of the Cathedral looked in the latter’s early stages.

When one studies this picture, he will notice that there is a certain ornate elegance to the church before Vatican II. The altar had more embellishments as was the fashion when the priest faced the altar instead of the church-goers.

Given the population of the day, there was more space between benches which made the interior lighter and less stuffy. The plaza, too, looked so different and there wasn’t even a Rizal Street in front of the church yet. What I mean is that a street was constructed much later and before that, people would spill straight into the plaza from the church.

If you want more nostalgia, check out the map of old Negros (also only a copy) where you get to read the names of some municipalities spelled the old-fashioned way. Also, there are pages of a souvenir program that showed photos of the Spanish priests who served the diocese including Padres Mauricio Ferrero and Mariano Cuartero. Prominently displayed are the cathedra used by Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich from 1967 to 1989, and original hardwood bell balancersbeam support.

The museum is uncluttered and air-conditioned, which makes browsing through the items more comfortable. The well-lighted atmosphere is a boon for those who wish to scrutinize authentic church records such as the libro de entieros, libro de casamiento, libro de bautismo, and the libro de confirmaciones dating back to the 1700s.

Also shown is the record chronicling the “estado de almas esta paroquia de Bacolod.” All recordings in the books were done in beautiful, even-stroked, flowery penmanship that will make you lament our lack of refinement in this age of texting and computers.

To accommodate visitors, the Museo Diocesano de Bacolod is open every day except Monday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Museum director Sandy Solinap can take you around the place.

An exhibit called “The Masterpiece A Spiritual and Religious Exhibition” is ongoing at the Museo Diocesano, featuring the works of 13 Negrense artists. It opened last week and will run until April 30.