Inside the restored Saints Peter and Paul national monument

SINGAPORE - The once dilapidated 146-year-old Saints Peter and Paul church on Queen Street has been restored into a gleaming national monument to behold.

The stunning $8-million, year-long restoration involved fixing the Neo-Gothic structure's corroded ceiling and termite infested roof structure, restoring its 1900s teak pews and stained glass windows with the aid of Italian craftsmen, and reinstating a high altar shipped in from a church in America.

Infrastructure

1) The interior of the church now looks much brighter and more inviting compared to its previous grey, deteriorated state.


The repaired ceiling inside the church.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The repaired ceiling inside the church.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN 


The interior of Saints Peter and Paul's Church where work has started to repair the corroded ceiling and repalce the roof. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Parish priest Father John Chua consulted old photographs of the structure to return it to its former glory. 


Rev Fr John Chua, OCD, the parish priest of the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

2) To light up the church, lanterns featuring the crossed swords motif of Saint Paul and cross keys motif of Saint Peter, were installed. 


The new lanterns feature the motifs of Saint Paul (crossed swords) and Saint Peter (crossed keys). 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

3) Parish priest John Chua said a major challenge was fixing the roof according to its original style. Since no welding was allowed, about 1,000 holes were drilled into its wooden roof structure to secure it with bolts and nuts, as per the original design of the church. 


An overview of the church building.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The church steeple and bell tower.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

4) Its ceiling has also been repaired.


Part of the ceiling removed and above it is the roof structure and the corrugated roof. PHOTO: SAINTS PETER AND PAUL


The repaired ceiling of the church.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

5) The old door versus the new one. 


The old door. PHOTO: SAINTS PETER AND PAUL


The church doors were reconstructed using new Chengai wood, but the original hinges were restored and reused. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The original door hinges were preserved and reused. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

6) A new cast iron spiral staircase inside the church. 


Detail of the new cast iron spiral staircase inside the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


A new cast iron spiral staircase inside the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

7) Arches at the west end of the church building.


Arches at the West End of the church building. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

8) An air-conditioning system was incorporated discreetly into the church. 


The new air conditioning units are placed inside the window bays. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The new church windows. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Details

The restoration also meant highlighting intricate design elements of the church.

1) Italian craftsmen were brought in to repair the dirty and chipped stained glass windows of the church. The stained glass windows that were restored comprised three rosette windows  and five lance-shaped panels .


Detail of the reconstructed rosette in the West End. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The reconstructed rosette on the West End of the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


Restored stained glass in the sanctuary. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

2) Plasterwork in the form of a lotus on the exterior of the building, reflecting the church's Chinese roots. 


A lotus motif on the exterior of the building. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

3) A wooden motif featuring the 12 apostles in the centre and two doves 


A wooden motif feature the twelve apostles (centre) and two doves (lower sides). 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

4) The crossed papal keys under a triregnum, the symbol of the papacy, on one of the bells. 


Detail of the crossed papal keys under a triregnum, the symbol of the papacy, on one of the bells. 
ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN

5) Detail of the pillar capitals inside the church. 


Detail of the pillar capitals inside the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

6) An ornate cross on one of the church's bells.


Detail of an ornate cross on one of the bells. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

7) As a nod to its Chinese roots, the word "zhu" or Lord, is perched at the entrance of the church.


A Chinese motif above the entrance of the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

8) French tiles imported from Vietnam, a former French colony, feature on the floor of the nave. 


The new tiles on the floor of the nave. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


The new tiles on the floor of the nave. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

History

Early Chinese and Indian Catholics started attending mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd located at Queen Street. The Cathedral is the oldest Catholic church in Singapore. As these communities grew, a need for language-specific masses grew. This led to the establishment of Saints Peter and Paul, a sister parish of the Cathedral dedicated to the Chinese community, and the second oldest Catholic church here.

Work on the church began in 1869 and was completed the following year. The church was expanded several times throughout its history.


The men in the Chinese attire are some of the benefactors and business people of the 1930 standing at the foreground of the Church. PHOTO: SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

Pictured in this 1930 photo, with the church in the foreground, are some of Saints Peter and Paul's benefactors. A plaque listing some of the original contributors to the church, still stands today. 


A plaque in Chinese inside the church. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

2) The original high altar which was demolished in the 1970s, a few years after the Second Vatican Council. A similar looking one from the United States was brought in as part of the latest restoration effort. 


The original high altar which was demolished in the 1970s, few years after the Second Vatican Council. PHOTO:  SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

3) Prior to the recent upgrade, services were held under a tent at the church's open-air carpark.


Services are being conducted under a tent at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul’s open-air carpark) while restoration works have started for the 145-year-old Catholic church in Queen Street. PHOTO: ST FILE