Plans to Repair Oldest Catholic Church in Singapore

One thing that has always impressed me about Singapore is seeing how architectural heritage, churches and colonial era buildings, are conserved and maintained. And they do so with efficiency and organization. The moment they see a problem is the time they get their act together. A friend told me that this is their collective attempt to encapsulate the past so they could look at their tangible heritage “like compass” and be reminded how their country started.

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The Cathedral, February 2013

You’d hardly see an old house or building in disrepair here. I doubt if this has anything to do with them having more resources. The limited space here creates tremendous pressure to develop land. The island has some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting CHIJMES I noticed the extensive structural bracing around the Church of Good Shepherd (located just across the street). Later that day, I read an on line articles about “the urgency to repair the Church”. Structural cracks has appeared in its premises as the result of constructions around and beneath it.

According to Catholicnews.sg, “the construction of buildings nearby and infrastructure projects like the MRT Circle Line and Singapore Management University, have caused serious physical stress” to the first Catholic Church in Singapore.

The structural bracing supports the upper portion of the building, it prevents the widening of the cracks. I’ve seen this kind of bracing in the colonial era shop houses in the Little India district. Land is so scarce in this island that they make new rail lines underground.

Fr. Anthony, the Parish Priest, stated in 2009 that the “foundations (of the church) are stable but will need to be strengthened.” He stressed that  “restoration is much more costly than tearing down and building up.” There’s controversy on the amount the Cathedral was compensated for the damage it suffered. This is according to report from the popular alternative news site TR Emeritus. Whether true or not, the idea that there’s compensation for accidental damages is new to me because we don’t have such an arrangement back in our country.

The Catholic church is raising a huge sum to repair the Cathedral. The target, no small amount — 40 million Singaporean dollars.

Last year, I saw a similar situation with works on Sts. Peter and Paul in Queen Street. I thought that the visible deterioration was natural. I didn’t know that the on going constructions around the area (this church is about 500m away from the Cathedral) contributed to the visible interior damage.

But even with these challenges, one could see the lively response to conserve. I would rather have a situation where both private and government are engaged in discussions on ways to solve repair and restoration issues than having no discussions at all – which is what’s happening back home where private families and churches are left alone to fend for themselves.

Manila Connection

The Cathedral, locally known as the Church of Good Shepherd was built with funds from donations.

Manila’s Cathedral, with her parishioners contributed in building this pioneering church. They were the biggest donor to the cause.

During those days, the Spanish currency is the global tender.

And if you follow the places Rizal saw during his globe trotting days, this church is one of them.

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