National Monuments Of Singapore: Saint Andrew's Cathedral
What is a National Monument? Who gazettes them? How many national monuments are there in Singapore? To date, the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of National Heritage Board, has identified and gazetted 75 buildings, structures and sites of national significance as an integral part of Singapore’s built heritage.
And we're here to tell you all about them - one National Monument at a time!
Here they all are on a Google Map we specially created. Every Wonderwall.sg logo, or "W", indicates a spot where a National Monument of Singapore is located:
You've probably passed by or stepped into more than a few of them without realising they were National Monuments: Al-Abrar Mosque, Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), the Civilian War Memorial, the Esplanade Park Memorials, Fort Siloso on Sentosa - no need to plan an itinerary for friends visiting from overseas; just show them this article ✌️
In this edition, we throw the spotlight on Singapore's largest cathedral and oldest surviving Anglican place of worship: Saint Andrew's Cathedral.
Right next to City Hall MRT.
📅 Significant dates
Date built: 1856-61
Date of first service: 1 October 1861; the church building was consecrated on 25 Jan 1862 by the Right Reverend George E. L. Cotton.
Date gazetted as National Monument: 28 Jun 1973
IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/@SENGKANG
St Andrew's Cathedral is the main cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore and serves as the mother church of 27 parishes and more than 55 congregations. The church has existed on the site since 1836, although the current building was constructed from 1856 to 1861.
Fun fact: the original chapel was destroyed by not one, but two lightning strikes - once in 1845 and again in 1849!
The original building: Saint Andrew's Church
Sir Stamford Raffles had originally allocated a piece of land between Hill Street and North Bridge Road for an Anglican church in his Town Plan of 1822. However, construction of the church only began after funds were raised by the community in 1834. In honour of the local Scottish community who raised the initial funds, the building was named Saint Andrew's Church, after the patron saint of Scotland.
The church was then built between North Bridge Road and St Andrew's Road. It is believed that the land on which the church was built was donated by Singapore’s first Arab settler, Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Al-Junied, who was a trader and landowner.
The foundation stone of the original church was laid on 9 Nov 1835. The building was designed by George D. Coleman (who had also designed the Armenian Church) and construction was completed in 1836. The first church service was held on 18 Jun 1837, and was conducted by its first chaplain, Reverend Edmund White. The building was subsequently consecrated on 10 Sep 1838 by Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta.
This unique church bell, named the "Revere Bell", was donated by Maria Revere in 1843, the wife of American Consul Joseph Balestier. | IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/@SMUCONLAW
Carved on the bell are the words “Revere Boston 1843”, which led to it being known as the Revere Bell. It is currently housed in the National Museum.
In 1842, John Turnbull Thomson added a tower and spire to the church building. Unfortunately, the spire was struck by lightning twice - once in 1845 and a second time in 1849 - as no lightning conductor had been installed. Due to the damage caused by the lightning, the building was considered unsafe and closed in 1852. It was eventually demolished in 1855.
The second and present building: Saint Andrew's Cathedral
On 4 Mar 1856, the foundation stone of the present building was laid by the Right Reverend Daniel Wilson, Lord Bishop of Calcutta. It was built between 1856 and 1861, with the first service held on 1 Oct 1861. On 25 Jan 1862, the church building was consecrated by the Right Reverend George E. L. Cotton.
In 1870, the church was consecrated as a Cathedral Church of the United Diocese, by Archdeacon John Alleyne Beckles. In 1889, the Revere Bell was replaced by a new peal of bells named St Matthew, St James, St John, St Paul, St Peter, St Thomas, St Bartholomew and St Andrew.
During the Japanese Occupation from 1942-1945, the cathedral nave was temporarily converted into a hospital to treat the wounded. Throughout most of the war years, the cathedral still remained open for services.
The arched entrance of the cathedral. | IMAGE: WIKIMEDIACOMMONS/@SENGKANG
📐 Design and architecture
Today, the 68.58m long and 35.5m wide building is one of Singapore’s few surviving examples of English Neo-Gothic architecture. Designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald MacPherson, its belfry, with lancet-shaped windows and elegant spires, resembles that of the famous Salisbury Cathedral in England. The porte-cochere (carriage porch) is located under the steeple, offering churchgoers and visitors shelter from the tropical heat.
During construction of Saint Andrew's Cathedral, MacPherson was transferred elsewhere, and hence, the completion of the building fell on three government officials: Major John F. A. McNair (who designed the Istana), John Bennett, who also designed the Town Hall (now known as Victoria Theatre) and Raffles Lighthouse; and W. D. Bayliss, Superintendent of Works and Surveys.
The structure consists of a nave (the long, central part of a church building) with north and south aisles, crossed by a transept (the part that crosses the nave at right angles to create the two arms of a cross) providing side porches. The building features Madras chunam plaster – a mixture made from shell lime, egg white, coarse sugar, and water in which coconut husks had been steeped. After drying, the plastered walls and columns were polished with rock crystal or rounded stones, and dusted with fine soapstone powder, giving the building a remarkably smooth and glossy surface.
The two-storey nave has aisle arcades surmounted by clerestory windows (the series of windows in the upper part of the nave) that illuminate the interior with natural light. In the sanctuary stands a high altar with an altarpiece depicting the Nativity of Jesus, which is flanked by the images of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew.
Sir Cecil C. Smith, then-Governor of the Straits Settlements, donated the wooden pulpit, which was carved and crafted in Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka). A cross hangs behind the pulpit; it was made with nails from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in England, which was bombed and destroyed in 1940 during the Second World War.
Along the walls of the nave are memorial plaques commemorating former members of the congregation, including the military personnel who had sacrificed their lives during the two World Wars.
The Cathedral Nave is currently closed for restoration. IMAGE: NG KAI
🕖 Opening hours
Closed on Monday and varies on other days. Find out more here.
Free. However, due to NDP 2023, vehicular access will be restricted on certain dates from 10 Jun to 29 Jul 2023. Find out more here.