A Sunday Tour of Coleman’s Singapore
As we continued our Sunday stroll in old Singapore we turned right down Coleman Street to view the famous church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, also known as the Armenian Church on Hill Street.
At the intersection of Hill Sreet and Coleman Street one finds a strategic view of Singapore’s Freemasonic Hall, ceremonial home to some 400 Singapore based Freemasons. This building dates to 1879 and is a fine structure that includes a restaurant (Indian food) and a wonderful hardwood floor pub (for members only). Singapore Freemasonry officially dates to 1845 but there is evidence of its presence before that time which we will cover in a future blog at Fort Canning where we will show tombstones with Masonic symbols dating to the 1820s.
If you are keeping track of things, it seems that the Masonic Hall is located precisely 90 degrees from both St Andrews Cathederal and the Parliament Building with the truncated pyramid (which I photographed from quite a distance). I will admit that I am different than most conspiracists and do not find this symbology to be nefarious, in fact I find it intriguing. A subtle sign-designed to make one think, rather than remain oblivious as we walk the streets in which we live. Someone went through some effort to do this….I’d like to think it was for benevolent and empowering reasons.
The Armenian Church
Master builder George Coleman designed and constructed this wonderful Eastern European styled church in 1835. It is circular on the inside (like a Templar church) and is surrounded by glorious columns that give it and almost Greek god like feel to it. Inside is a small chapel where one can light a prayer candle for a $1 donation. There is also a guest book with signatures from visitors from around the world.
The Armenian church was dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator, the first monk in the Armenian Church.
In 1909, the Church became one of the first buildings in Singapore to enjoy the benefits of electricity when it had electric lights and fans installed although the Singapore heat is no match for them these days.
By the time we made it in to view the inside of St Gregory for a few simple meditations me and my fellow tourist Leny were drenched in afternoon sweat. Ah Singapore
Further down Hill Street one finds the odd old Catholic enclave know as Chijmes, now a retail and dining centre. This old church and convent was for many years a girls school and run by French missionaries. It was deconsecrecrated(can you do that???) in the early 1980’s and the once hallowed ground is now filled with bars and restaurants. The old church is still there and used periodically for weddings but the building of interest to us at Chijmes
is one named Caldwell House.
Caldwell House was one of the last buildings designed by Coleman before he left Singapore for his native Ireland in the 1840’s. He constructed it in 1841 for magistrate’s clerk H. C. Caldwell. In 1854, 4 French nuns, led by Mother Raclot, bought over the building and conducted lessons in it.
Today Caldwell House, which has a somewhat haunting feel to
it, complete with a spiral staircase, is home to a spa and a pub filled with expats watching a big screen TV….oh well.
Singapore’s early history is interesting and largely overlooked….and look what you can discover in just a few hours on a sweltering Sunday afternoon!
…next time bring water…