Armenian Church, Singapore

The Armenian Church is one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Singapore. In a city where skyscrapers dominate and new mega structures like the Marina Bay Sands spring up overnight, it is rare, remarkable and to the credit of the local authorities that some (too few) of such icons still remain, in arguably one of the most valuable pieces of land in the country, if not in Asia or the world. The Armenian Church is located at Armenian Street / Stamford Road which borders the major shopping belt of Orchard Road, and the business / shopping districts of Robinson Road and Marina / Suntec – it sits on VERY valuable land.

I’ve never ever taken pictures here before on any format which is pretty incredible given that I’ve always wanted to. But as an addition to the previous paragraph you’ll notice how I’ve had to intentionally frame the pictures such that they mostly avoid all the surrounding tall buildings located beside it. The church is protected by conservation and is in a very good state.

Much of the following information below is taken from the wikipedia entry for the Armenian Church.

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The government granted the land on which the church stands to the Armenian community in 1834. By 1835, the building was completed. It was the second church to be built in Singapore.

The existing Armenian Church, built in the British Neo-Classical style, is modelled after St Gregory’s Church in Echmiadzin, the mother church in northern Armenia. Nevertheless, with all the eclectic references, Coleman produced a design which is adapted to suit Singapore’s tropical climate. For instance, the wide verandahs give essential shade and protect the timberlouvred windows on the ground floor from heavy downpours. The windows, in turn, diffuse the sunlight and induce cross ventilation. The pews, which would normally be entirely in wood, are backed with woven rattan, a much lighter and cooler material.

On the church grounds are the parsonage and the Memorial Garden to Armenians. A number of tombstones of prominent Armenians, such as Agnes Joaquim who bred Singapore’s national flower and Catchik Moses who founded the Straits Times newspaper lie here. The Memorial Garden was never used as a burial ground. The tombstones that lie there were all transported from the Christian cemetery in Bukit Timah when it was exhumed in 1978.

The last Armenian parish priest left in the late 1930s, and with the dwindling Armenian population in Singapore, a successor was never appointed. Armenian Church was gazetted as a national monument on 6 July 1973.

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I spent around an hour combing the church compound for some nice photo opportunities in the fading sun. It was unexpectedly tricky given the beautiful subject and hot golden light and I really felt the pressure of capturing some nice images in order to do this monument justice. It is a beautiful place, with a wonderful church building exquisitely crafted (from another time in history), surrounded by failing tombstones and hand crafted statues.

Ironically I tried to compose one photo of a statue with the Free Mason Building towering over in the background. But the nature of the evening light and film exposure actually just highlighted the Free Mason’s Hall, perhaps symbolically indicating that the prime of this place has long since passed.

I still wanted to end on a positive note and my very last snap was one of this beautiful picture of the statue of Jesus, a child and a lamb. A beautiful serene message of love, youth and peace – something I’m sure very much in line with what this beautiful church’s founders, architects and former members’ would have wanted to convey.

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