One of the oldest churches in Singapore, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary served the Teochew community in Hougang for more than a century. Read on to find out about the rich history behind this ancient(sic) treasure.
Along Serangoon Road, one of the earliest inland roads in colonial Singapore, a alabaster building rises in contrast to the countless high rise housing units prevalent in Singapore. The Church of the Nativity was originally an attap hut serving a congregation of mainly Teochew farmers in the 1800s. Eventually, Father Jean Casimir Saleilles, the parish priest, managed to raise money to build the present church in 1901.
Adopting a traditional cross shaped layout, the Church of the Nativity was a sign of the convention of the colonial days. The brick chapel stood throughout the Japanese Occupation, one of the few buildings to escape bombing raids due to its distance from the city center.
Today, Catholics of all races and dialect group come to the Church of the Nativity. It now serves the community as it had done almost a 150 years before. Having seen several refurbishments over the years, the church has general maintained its shape and facade. It was gazetted as a National Monument in 2005.
Lomographers would be able to appreciate the quaint chapel that is very unlike the newer churches. Many statues can be found in and around the church. Statues of saints can be found in alcoves built into the interior of the building, each one a work of art. Brass cherubims adorn each entrance as though keeping watch. The highlight would be the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is situated at the front of the church. These statues were presented to Father Saleilles by the Sultan of Johor during the church’s early year, a sign of goodwill from the monarch.