Singapore’s second oldest Catholic Church undergoes restoration works

After years in disrepair, the crumbling 145-year-old Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Queen Street is finally being given an $8 million restoration.

Parish priest John Chua said the year-long restoration is to update the building to meet safety standards, while maintaining the original essence of the space.

The national monument, built in the tropical Gothic style, will have its corroded ceiling repaired and its roof replaced.

Other works include restoring its pews and lance-shaped stained glass windows, and reinstating a high altar.

The 1,700 parishioners of Singapore’s second-oldest Roman Catholic church, after the nearby Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, will also get facilities such as air-conditioning, a garden and a new audio system.

Mr Lawrence Seet, 68, a sacristan who has been attending the church since he was nine, said: “The last restoration was more than 20 years ago. It has been in dire need of a facelift.”

Father Chua said most of the money will be used to fix the roof, which reflects a hodge-podge of additions and alterations.

Chemicals will also be pumped into the perimeter of the church’s walls, which will infuse into its bricks over time to address years of water seepage.

Although restoration has started, the church is still waiting for the approval of a work permit for a skilled Italian craftsman to fix its stained glass windows. These five windows are extremely dirty and require expertise to replace missing and broken pieces.

Father Chua hopes the application can be processed quickly.

The Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division under the National Heritage Board, said it has been working with the church to review its restoration proposal.

In 2009, it awarded the church a grant of $53,350 for repairs to its belfry.

Father Chua said the church now needs “slightly more than a million” to meet its $8 million target.

Donations have been pouring in from the Catholic community over the past four years, he said.

Saints Peter and Paul, which has been credited with the growth of the Chinese Catholic community in Singapore, was gazetted as a national monument in 2003.

Father Chua believes it is important to restore it to its original glory as post-French Gothic architecture is rare here.

“By fixing this church, we hope new generations of Singaporeans will continue to have fond memories of it while paying tribute to the French missionaries and early Chinese Catholic businessmen who contributed to it in the past.”

In the meantime, services are being conducted under a tent at the church’s open-air carpark.

Housewife Helen R., 72, who attends mass there, said she is looking forward to the new building. “I want it to return to its original, beautiful state. It’s a beautiful church that makes you feel warm, comforted and at home.”

The church is appealing for old photos of the building and its nearby area for a coffee-table book.

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