Church of St Joseph

Church of St Joseph (16)

At 143 Victoria Street you will find the largest Catholic church in all of Singapore: Saint Joseph's Church. Its congregation is mainly European and Asian, especially on Sundays. If you are in Singapore for Easter, do not miss the crowded and spectacular Good Friday procession. 

Built in classic Gothic style with flamboyant pinnacles in the shape of a Latin cross, it is more than 60 meters long and just under 20 meters wide and is a real architectural wonder. Admire its delicate porte-cochere and especially its stylized, pointed arched windows and the detail and workmanship on its stained glass, even more beautiful from the inside with the sun shining through. Notice the octagonal central tower, crowned by a cupola and flanked by two smaller towers, creating an interesting harmonious whole. Its big bell was brought here from England in 1912 and bears the inscription "Sancte Joseph, ora pro nobis", or "Saint Joseph, pray for us."

Inside the church are 5 shrines, several statues of saints and angels and other interesting relics. Besides the main altar, we would like to spotlight the altar of Our Lady of Fatima, very beloved by the faithful. It is interesting to note that on 13 May, 1948, there was a very important procession through the city to celebrate the solemn coronation of this virgin with a golden crown.

To learn about the history of this church we must go back to 1825 when Father Francisco da Silva Pinto e Maia, born in Oporto, founded the Portuguese Mission in Singapore. A few years later, in 1829, there were only 200 Catholics in the city and Masses were celebrated at the home of his friend Dr. Jose d'Almeida on Beach Road, today the site of the Raffles Hotel. That same year he erected a small chapel while raising money to build a church. Unfortunately Father Maia fell ill and was succeeded by Father Vicente de Santa Catarina in 1848. Two years later, Father Maia died and donated all his possessions to build the first church in Singapore, which also received financial assistance from the King of Portugal. His remains were buried at Fort Caning but were later exhumed and relocated here. 

The groundbreaking for the Church of São José took place on 14 December 1851 with construction finishing in 1853 at which time it was consecrated and finally opened to the faithful.

Years later it was knocked down to erect a newer and better church. On 21 August, 1904, Bishop Dom Joao Paulino laid the inaugural cornerstone of what is now Saint Joseph's Church, although the old church was not demolished until 1906. Construction of the present church took 6 years and was carried out by the renowned firm Swan & MacLaren, the oldest building company in Singapore, active since colonial times. It was this company that built the Raffles Hotel. Finally on 30 June 1912 the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Macau, Dom João Paulino de Azevedo e Castro and opened to Singapore’s Catholic community.

In this century, the church was declared a national monument on 14 January 2005.  It was even home to a modern art exhibit for the acclaimed Singapore Biennale in 2006. 

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