Good Shepherd cathedral regains its splendour after $40 million restoration

The overhaul of the cathedral included reintroducing a black and white checkerboard pattern for its new floor using high quality ceramic tiles. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in its original colours of white and dark yellow, will reopen soon. It
The overhaul of the cathedral included reintroducing a black and white checkerboard pattern for its new floor using high quality ceramic tiles. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in its original colours of white and dark yellow, will reopen soon. Its first mass will be presided over by Archbishop William Goh on Nov 20.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The overhaul of the cathedral included reintroducing a black and white checkerboard pattern for its new floor using high quality ceramic tiles. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in its original colours of white and dark yellow, will reopen soon. It
The overhaul of the cathedral included reintroducing a black and white checkerboard pattern for its new floor using high quality ceramic tiles. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in its original colours of white and dark yellow, will reopen soon. Its first mass will be presided over by Archbishop William Goh on Nov 20.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Gold highlights in interior among features of 3-year, $40m revamp

For decades, the seat of the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Singapore and one of the oldest buildings on the island, sat largely unnoticed in the Civic District.

Coated in layers of dust from traffic and nearby construction work, the historic 1843 Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Queen Street drew barely a glance, its dull brown and beige exterior doing little to improve its drab appearance.

But now, after a three-year-long, $40 million restoration, it gleams like a jewel at last.

Mr Ho Weng Hin of Studio Lapis, the cathedral's conservation specialist consultant, and his team dedicated months of research and laboratory work to identifying the original colour scheme of the building.

They discovered unusual combinations such as rust red columns and pale green walls painted during the 1920s.

PRESENCE RESTORED

One of the aims of the project was to give the cathedral back its civic presence and restore the sense of dignity as the main church of Singapore's Roman Catholics. We also wanted it to generate interest among the public.

MR HO WENG HIN, of Studio Lapis, the cathedral's conservation specialist consultant.

 

Eventually, the cathedral project team came to the overall consensus to return it to its original neoclassical scheme of white and dark yellow, with gold highlights in its interior.

The public will be able to see it up close soon - the cathedral is likely to reopen in the coming days and its first mass will be presided over by Archbishop William Goh on Nov 20.

Mr Ho said: "One of the aims of the project was to give the cathedral back its civic presence and restore the sense of dignity as the main church of Singapore's Roman Catholics. We also wanted it to generate interest among the public."

Other highlights of the restoration work include a new floor. Old photos and records indicated that the cathedral featured black and white stone tiles in a checkerboard pattern. This was reintroduced using high quality ceramic tiles.

A large part of the restoration work was also to build a new foundation for the national monument.

Underground works in the vicinity, such as the construction of the Circle Line and Singapore Management University, had caused its original underground boulders to shift. This led to the uneven settlement of the building, with cracks forming across the cathedral.

It took more than a year to prop up the structure and "painstakingly" instate concrete micro piles underneath, said Mr Ho.

Another highlight of the project was the restoration of the cathedral's 1912 Bevington and Sons organ, Singapore's oldest working pipe organ. Age had ravaged it and it suffered from metal fatigue. Its keys were also unreliable.

Its missing parts were replaced by a team of 12 pipe organ builders from the Filipino company Diego Cera in a project undertaken by Singaporean company Carillon Technology. Over the past four months, its 100,000 or so parts were reassembled on site.

A new basement, adjacent to the cathedral, has been constructed to house a multi-purpose space for small masses, a 24-hour Eucharistic prayer room, and a crypt for the cathedral's deceased bishops.

The cathedral initially struggled to raise money for the restoration. Eventually, funds started streaming in following efforts from within the archdiocese and the cathedral's former rector Adrian Anthony, who led the drive. This included a golf tournament held by the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2013 which collected $200,000, and large donations from individual donors.

The cathedral's leader, Monsignor Philip Heng, outlined his plans for the historic structure to The Straits Times.

He said: "We want to emphasise that the cathedral is the mother church which gave birth to all the other churches in the archdiocese. It is the church that belongs to everyone.

"So it should be a converging point, a place that people will want to call home, to come and worship and pray."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Good Shepherd cathedral regains its splendour'. Print Edition | Subscribe