Though there are literally hundreds of churches in Singapore, not many foreigners or even locals know that there are places of worship for Christians and Catholics alike which are almost a century old. Some of these churches are even gazette as National Monuments, which speaks well of their significance in Singapore’s history.
One of the earliest churches has to be The Armenian Church, which was built in 1835. It is the hill house price. oldest Christian Church in Singapore and was designed and built by George D Coleman, Singapore’s first architect. The church structure was also generally regarded as one of the best works. The church was named after a 14th century monk converted the Armenians to Christianity. The Armenian community, though small, was prosperous and enterprising, and The Armenian Church was build to serve them initially. Some of the famous members include the Sarkies Brothers, who established the world renowned Raffles Hotel, and Agnes Joaqium, who discovered the Singapore’s national flower, pathing the way for Singapore’s progress to become one of the world’s top orchid suppliers.
A first with the church was that it was the first building to be connected with electricity in 1909. At the side of the church lies a memorial garden where Armenians who died in Singapore since the 1800’s have been laid to rest. The church was gazette as a National Monument in 1973 and won the URA Conservation award for its conservation work in 1995. Located at 60 Hill Street, the church is open for visiting from 9am to 5pm daily from Mondays to Saturdays.
The beautiful St. Andrew’s Cathedral along Coleman Street was chosen for its purpose by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1823. It is actually the second building at the site, after the first building was deemed unsafe after two lightning strikes. The present structure was designed by Colonel Ronald MacPherson in 1856 and was consecrated in 1862. It is one example of the English Gothic Revival Architecture and was elevated to the status of Cathedral in 1870 and named after Saint Andrew, who was the patron Saint of Scotland, in recognition of the Scottish Community’s generous contributions towards the construction. During World War II Japanese invasion in 1942, it was used as an emergency hospital, though it remained open for worship. There is a visitor centre, which is located at the South Transept and has a showcase of artifacts, pictures and a video of the Cathedral’s history. The Cathedral is also Singapore’s oldest Anglican house of worship.
In 1932, a French missionary, Father Boucho obtained a site at Bras Basah Road for the purpose of building a Catholic church. The church was completed in 1833, and when the needs congregation expanded, it was proven that the site was inadequate for its requirements. Father Jean-Marie Beural pressed the land elsewhere to build a new church and the government finally consented the land along Coleman Street across the original church was given. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd stood in its present site since then. The old site was converted into a school, The Saint Joseph’s Institution, which later became the Singapore Art Museum. The church was build based on a design by Denis Leslie McSwiney and was the first ever permanent Catholic Church in Singapore. It was consecrated as a Cathedral in February 1897. Today, visitors can walk in during normal hours although non worshippers are not allowed to join in the services.