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St. Andrew's Cathedral: A Testament to Singapore's Rich Cultural Heritage


St. Andrew's Cathedral
Photo Credits: Root.sg

Address: 11 St Andrew's Rd, Singapore 178959

Opening Hours:

Closed on Mondays | Tues - Fri: 9am-5pm | Saturday: 11:30 am-6:30 pm | Sunday: 7am-5.30pm


Tel: 6337 6104 | Website


Introduction


If you've ever walked along the Civic District in Singapore, you most likely have spotted a grand gothic structure amidst the cityscape before. This iconic landmark is none other than St. Andrew's Cathedral, a historic and cultural icon that has stood at the heart of Singapore since its construction in 1861. As the largest cathedral in Singapore, it has played a significant role in the city's religious and cultural landscape, reflecting the unique blend of Eastern and Western influences that defines Singapore's rich cultural heritage.


Join us on a journey in discovering the rich history behind St. Andrew's Cathedral, explore its unique and culturally-rooted architecture, and ultimately celebrate its status as a historic and cultural icon that is deserving of preservation for future generations.


Learning Topics 💡

  • Types of Cultural Diffusions

  • Expression of Culture: Architecture

  • Expression of Culture: Belief Systems

  • Cultural & Heritage Sustainability Efforts

The Cathedral's History


Origins


The site on which the cathedral was built was originally occupied by a smaller church, which had been constructed in the early 19th century by early British colonial settlers. The original church was demolished in the 1850s to make way for the new cathedral that is the St. Andrew’s Cathedral you see today, which was built on a much larger scale.


Early Painting of St. Andrew's Cathedral
Photo Credits: Roots.sg


Establishment & Completion


St. Andrew's Cathedral was constructed in the year 1856 and designed by Colonel Ronald MacPherson, a Scottish engineer who was also responsible for the design of many other important buildings in Singapore such as the Parliament House and the Singapore Cricket Club. Detailed works of the cathedral on the other hand were done by civil engineer John Bennet, who’s notable work included the Raffles Lighthouse, and the construction of the cathedral were done by industrially trained Indian Convict Labourers.


The design of the cathedral reflects the Gothic Revival style, which was popular in England during the 19th century. Its final completion was dated back in 1861 and was consecrated that same year.


Drawing of St Andrew's Cathedral in 1919
Photo Credit: St. Andrew's Cathedral

Learning Point 💡


Two types of cultural diffusion are shown here: Expansion and Hierarchical diffusion. Both are displayed through the influence of the cathedral’s Gothic Revival Style architecture. The design movement started in England during the late 1840s, and spread to Singapore through the construction of the St. Andrew’s Cathedral via colonial power.


Mishaps


Initially, the church, which was completed in 1837, did not have a spire. However, the governor of Singapore at that time, Governor Surveyor John T. Thomson instructed builders of the cathedral to add one to the building. The later-added spire unfortunately did not feature a lightning conductor, and was struck twice, once in years 1845 and 1849. As a result of the lightning accident, the Cathedral’s exterior was dilapidated and considered unsafe for use. The construction of the present St. Andrew’s Cathedral soon replaced the church after.


Role in World War II


When Singapore fell under Japanese Occupation in February of 1942, the church stopped its services and transformed into a temporary emergency hospital as means to manage overcrowding of casualties in actual local hospitals.


Photo credits: St Andrew’s Cathedral


Additionally, many British authorities frequently used the St. Andrews Cathedral as a place to seek solace and strengthen their faith during times of war. Many British officials led holy communions and hymns during this particular time of hardship. You can watch this mini-documentary below to learn more about the personal stories of the british soldiers and their close connection to the cathedral.


Architectural Features & Interior Design of the Cathedral


The stained glass windows at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore are not just stunning works of art, but also significant in their depictions of religious figures and biblical scenes. An example would be these stained-glass windows that depict the writers of the four gospels and Christ at the very top.


Stained Glass Windows of St Andrew Cathedral
Photo Credit: Singapore Travel Hub


Non-religious images are also featured on the stained-glass windows of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. The East Windows of the cathedral is an excellent example of this. The central light of the altar is dedicated to Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore, and the North and South Lights are dedicated to Sir John Crawford and Major General William Butterworth, respectively, both former governors of Singapore. The upper portions of the stained-glass windows showcase their coats of arms as a tribute to the early founders of Singapore.


Stained Glass Windows at St Andrew Cathedral with Sir Stamford Raffles Coat of Arms
Photo credit: Darwin Fan on Flickr

You can also find a set of crest-shaped stained-glass windows in the cathedral. In the picture below, the left window showcases the crest of the Diocese of Singapore, highlighting the close relationship it shares with St. Andrew’s Cathedral. On the other hand, the right window displays the crest of the Province of Southeast Asia, celebrating the cathedral's location in Singapore.


Stained Glass Windows in the shape of Crests
Photo credit: The Heartlander Tourist

Learning Point 💡


Stained-glass windows are a Motivated form of visual art in the purpose that it is for Narrative purposes. Images and symbols celebrate religious figures such as Christ, notable people such as Sir Stamford Raffles and organisations such as The Diocese of Singapore, all of which hold both sacred and historical significance to the Cathedral.


Cathedral Bells


St. Andrew’s Cathedral has been using bells since 1843, with its first bell being the Revere Bell. This bell was created specifically for the cathedral and was the only bell made by the Revere Copper Company for clients outside of the United States. Back then, the bell was used to signal curfews and remind residents to be cautious at night. Today, the Revere Bell has been retired and is on display at the National Museum of Singapore as a historical artefact.


The Revere Bell
Photo credit: National Museum of Singapore on Facebook


Around 40 years later in 1889, the family of Captain J. S. H. Fraser donated a set of eight bells to St Andrew’s Cathedral in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the founding of Singapore. Manufactured at the John Taylor & Co. Foundry in Loughborough, England, the bells are made of bronze and are each named after an apostle of Christ. They are rung every Sunday for services, weddings, funerals, Easter and Christmas, and are an integral part of the Civic District’s daily soundscape.


Fast forward to 2018, 4 new bells were added to make it a peal of 12. These bells were made by the same bell foundry that made the first 8 bells centuries ago. Located in the cathedral’s bell tower, the biggest of the 12 is named Andrew and weighs 1,297kg whereas the smallest is named Simon and weighs 198.5kg. The other names of the bells are Peter, Bartholomew, Paul, John, Philip, James, Matthew, Thomas, James the Less, Thaddeus and Matthias.

Photo credit: Roots.sg

Learning Point 💡


Cathedral bells are a Motivated form of architecture in the purpose that it is for Ceremonial purposes. These bells are typically rung to signify the call for prayer for devotees. Bells are also rung to commemorate worship services, weddings, funerals, and festive events such as Easter and Christmas.


Pews


The pews in St. Andrew's Cathedral are a significant part of the church's interior design. Each pew has a small shelf located at the back, where books of praise and Bibles in English and Chinese are available for worshippers to use during services. These books allow for a more interactive and participatory experience during worship. Kneelers can also be found tucked below the shelves of the pews for devotees to use during worship.


Additionally, the pews' location, which faces the altar, provides a clear and unobstructed view of the chancel area. This feature allows for a more immersive experience during services. The pews' solid construction and rattan-weaved seating make them perfect for extended periods of sitting and prayer.


Photo credit: Cristian Bortes on Flickr

Learning Point 💡


Cathedral bells are a Motivated form of architecture in the purpose that it is for Ceremonial purposes. These bells are typically rung to signify the call for prayer for devotees. Bells are also rung to commemorate worship services, weddings, funerals, and festive events such as Easter and Christmas.


Organ


The Nave Organ is a significant feature of St Andrew’s Cathedral, located at the heart of the worship space. The organist plays from a console located at the chancel, just above the entrance of the cathedral. The sound of the music is then projected from pipes and speakers at the west gallery.


The organ in the cathedral is a Rodgers Trillium Masterpiece Model 1058 combination organ, which is well-known for producing grand and majestic sounds. It usually accompanies the choir and leads the congregation in worship. The instrument is a source of pride for the cathedral, as it has played a significant role in enhancing the musical and holy experience of worship during church services and other events held at the cathedral.


Photo credit: St. Andrew's Cathedral

Learning Point 💡


Organ-playing is a Performance Art in the form of Music often observed in Cathedrals. Choirs and organists go hand-in-hand in the cathedral to produce hymns and songs of worship to lead congregants during service.


The Graham-White Library


The Graham White Library is a hidden gem located within St Andrew's Cathedral, specifically the North Transept Hall. Established in 1952, the library was named after Chaplain Graham White, the Archdeacon of Singapore during that time. It houses the Book of Remembrance, which contains a list of over 27,00 names of men and women who had died fighting for Singapore between 1941 to 1945.


Graham White’s notable work included the establishment of two churches in the heartlands of Singapore, of which are St Paul’s Church in Upper Serangoon and St Hilda’s Church in Katong. He was also a medic during World War II, attending to wounded soldiers and civilians in makeshift hospital wards in the cathedral.


The Graham-White Library
Photo credit: the girl at the traffic light junction

Learning Point 💡


The Graham-White library is a form of Motivated architecture serving Commemorative purposes, specifically in remembrance of Chaplain Graham White and his noble contributions to St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Christian community in Singapore.


Events & Services


As the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, St. Andrew's Cathedral is an important religious site that hosts regular worship services, baptisms and festive events. The cathedral is also an exceptionally popular venue for weddings.


Worship Services


St. Andrews Cathedral usually holds holy communions on weekends at different areas of the Cathedral such as at the pavilion and prayer halls. Services are held in multiple languages such as English, Hokkien and Burmese to accommodate to multi-racial devotees and are typically live streamed on the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Youtube Channel so that devotees can join in at their own convenience anytime and anywhere. If you’re interested in joining a service session, be sure to look out on the Cathedral’s website, Facebook and Instagram page.


Holy Communion in St Andrew's Cathedral
Photo credit: St. Andrew's Cathedral


Baptism and Confirmation


St. Andrew’s Cathedral offers baptism and confirmation courses for both youths and adults. These courses are conducted on site and aim to provide individuals with the knowledge and needed to make informed decisions about their faith. Interested individuals can check the St. Andrew’s Cathedral website for more information on when these courses are conducted. The cathedral believes that baptism and confirmation are important steps in an individual’s faith journey, and they strive to make these experiences both informative and meaningful for all who participate.


Baptism in St Andrew's Cathedral
Photo credit: St. Andrew's Cathedral

Learning Point 💡


The Graham-White library is a form of Motivated architecture serving Commemorative purposes, specifically in remembrance of Chaplain Graham White and his noble contributions to St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Christian community in Singapore.


Festive Events


St. Andrew's Cathedral holds various festive events throughout the year that attract visitors from all over Singapore. Recently during Easter, the cathedral held a special Holy Communion service and live-streamed it for those who are unable to attend in person.


Worship Livestream at St Andrew Cathedral
Photo credit: St. Andrew's Cathedral YouTube Channel


Additionally, the cathedral also holds a Christmas carol service bicentennial. The carol service is a highly anticipated event jointly organised by the National Council of Churches of Singapore, the Diocese of Singapore, and the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore. The service features a choir singing traditional carols and is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season. The carol event is open to people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion and promotes greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures and religions.


Visitors are encouraged to check the cathedral's website or social media pages for updates on upcoming festive events.


Christmas Carols at St Andrew Cathedral
Photo Credit: salt&light

Learning Point 💡


Events such as Easter and Christmas are religious holidays that Christians observe as part of their belief. They are typically celebrated in the form of ceremonies to celebrate Christ or holy events in Christianity.


Weddings


The St. Andrew’s Cathedral is a beautiful and historic venue for couples to solemnise their marriage. However, there are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled for the wedding to take place. Firstly, both parties must be baptised Christians and at least 21 years old. Additionally, at least one of the parties has to be a confirmed member and regular worshiper at the cathedral. The couple is also required to attend a marriage preparation course before their wedding.


St. Andrew’s Cathedral offers a picturesque backdrop for memorable wedding pictures with its beautiful architecture and scenic nave. Couples can visit the cathedral's website to learn more about the wedding particulars and make arrangements for their special day.


Photo credit: Synchronal Photography

Learning Point 💡


Worship services, baptism and confirmation are all part of the many Religious Rites that Christians follow. These religious rites reflect sacred meaning according to Christian beliefs.


Outreach Programs


The cathedral also plays an important role in promoting social justice and community outreach. The cathedral's outreach programs provide assistance to those in need in local communities, especially the elderly.


One of these programs is the "Care for the Elderly" initiative, which aims to provide care and support to the elderly through home visits, phone calls, chats, tech help, music therapy, and dog therapy. Another program is "Adopt a Block," which involves a long-term commitment to minister to the people living in Bukit Merah, in collaboration with Lifehouse SG.


These programs demonstrate the church's commitment to serving and caring for the wider community, and more information about them can be found on their respective pages.


Restoration Efforts


St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore has ongoing restoration projects to maintain and preserve its historical beauty. The cathedral undergoes cyclical repainting and yearly maintenance and repair to ensure that it stays in good condition.


In 2019, a major restoration of the nave was approved, which involves covering plaster and painting of external and internal walls of the main building and transepts, various repairs, and electrical works. The restoration project aims to maintain the structural integrity of the building and enhance its aesthetic appeal. The project cost is estimated to be over 5 million dollars, and fundraising efforts have been successful in raising the necessary funds. Watch the video below to learn more about the Cathedral's restoration efforts.


Learning Point 💡


St. Andrew’s Cathedral's restoration efforts serve as an excellent example of preserving the site's Historical Authenticity and Cultural Significance. These projects are crucial to prevent potential dangers to the heritage site, such as the Significant Deterioration of Architectural Materials over time. By investing in restoration, the cathedral can continue to stand as a testament to its rich history and cultural importance, while ensuring the safety and longevity of the site for generations to come.


Conclusion


St. Andrew's Cathedral is a cultural icon that reflects the unique blend of Eastern and Western influences that defines Singapore's rich cultural heritage. Its stunning architecture and intricate details are a testament to the skill and artistry of the noble early british authorities and humble convicts who built it, and its religious and cultural significance have made it an important center of worship and cultural activity in Singapore.


As a symbol of Singapore's colonial past and cultural diversity, St. Andrew's Cathedral is a site that deserves to be celebrated and preserved. Its rich history and cultural significance serve as a reminder of the importance of embracing diversity and promoting understanding and unity in our communities. If you’re a local Christian, a visit to St. Andrew's Cathedral is a must. With its stunning architecture, beautiful stained-glass windows, rich cultural heritage, and tight-knit community, the cathedral is a site that is sure to impart knowledge and peace to you.


Did this article pique your interest in learning more about Singapore’s Civic District and its heritage? Take a look at our Civic District Interactive Adventure Trail or our National Education Tours focused on Singapore’s Total Defence and past under the Japanese Occupation for a more comprehensive understanding of Singapore during World War II in relation to St. Andrew’s Cathedral. We welcome you with open arms on our tours!



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