The 182-year-old Armenian Church at Hill Street is a beautiful place worth visiting, here’s why

It was built by the small but important Armenian community.

By Tanya Ong | July 14, 2017

*Editor’s note at 3pm: A photo from this article has been updated, due to feedback received from a reader.

Built in 1835, the Armenian Church is the oldest Christian church in Singapore.

The church is testament to the influence of the Armenian community in Singapore during the 19th century.

When Singapore became a trading port in 1819, the Armenians were one of the earliest merchants and traders to arrive in Singapore. Even though they were small in number, they started holding religious services from the early 1820s.

The Armenians initially worshipped in a makeshift chapel at Commercial Square (Raffles Place today). However, they requested the British authorities for land and were offered a space at the foot of Fort Canning Hill to build a church.

More than a century later, the Armenian church stands as a national monument ever since it was gazetted in 1973.

Here are some pictures of the architectural masterpiece:

Photo from National Heritage Board’s Facebook

 

Photo from National Heritage Board’s Facebook

 

Photo from National Heritage Board’s Facebook

 

The church was designed by G.D. Coleman, the man behind other prominent buildings such as The Arts House and St. Andrews Cathedral.

In his design of the Armenian Church, he incorporated certain features of traditional Armenian architecture. These include the cupola (the small structure on top of the building that often crowns a roof) and the vaulted ceiling.

The Armenian Church was also built in the plan of a cross, as seen in this aerial photo:

Screenshot from Google Maps

Additionally, Coleman understood that the architectural design of the building had to take Singapore’s tropical climate into consideration. He ensured that the church had sufficient windows and doors to ventilate its interior.

Other than functionality, the church’s interior is distinctive also because of its circular design. It is the only church in Singapore to have a circular interior.

Its interior and vaulted ceiling can be seen here:

Photo from National Heritage Board’s Facebook

 

Other than notable architecture, it is also significant because of its Memorial Garden.

Within the church grounds, the Memorial Garden is home to tombstones of prominent Armenians who have made significant contributions to Singapore. Many of the tombstones were recovered from the exhumed cemeteries at Fort Canning Hill and Bukit Timah.

Among them are Agnes Joaquim and Catchick Moses. Agnes Joaquim is known for her hybridisation of the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, Singapore’s national flower, and Catchick Moses co-founded The Straits Times.

Photo of Catchick Moses (left) and Agnes Joaquim (right) from Armenian Weekly

Here’s how the Memorial Garden looks like:

Photo by Tanya Ong

 

Since 1973, the church has been carefully restored and maintained to preserve it for future generations.

Top image from National Heritage Board’s Facebook.

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

 

 

About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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