SINGAPORE - Exactly 110 years to the day it was consecrated in 1912, St Joseph's Church in Victoria Street reopened its doors on Thursday (June 30), celebrating the end of a five-year-long restoration with a dedication mass led by the head of the Roman Catholic church in Singapore.
Under the newly revealed splendour in the columns, features and statues that adorn the church, parishioners and invited guests - including inter-faith representatives and MPs - listened while Cardinal-elect, Archbishop William Goh, led the mass which was live-streamed online.
In his address, Archbishop Goh said that during the restoration process, hidden treasures were found in the church.
What was originally meant to be just a paint job became a much more ambitious project when workers removing paint from the church's facade in 2017 uncovered intricate ornamental plasterwork dating to the early 1900s.
Design features such as floral and foliage motifs wrapped round the church's column capital had for years been hidden by thick coats of paint applied during previous renovations.
"We have discovered, so to speak, the history of faith of this community," said Archbishop Goh on Thursday. "And that is why we are rejoicing - because to know our history is to know our faith and appreciate what we have."
Restoration works for the church's main building, a national monument gazetted in 2005, and its Parochial House, a conserved building, cost about $25 million.
Of this sum, more than $1 million came from the National Heritage Board's National Monuments Fund, a co-funding scheme supporting the maintenance and restoration of monuments.
Reverend Joe Lopez, the church's rector, said experts from around the world were involved in the delicate and intricate restoration work.
They included Ms Filipa Machado, a Portuguese art restorer living in Singapore, who undertook work on the 29 plaster statues from the early 20th century that are placed around the church's sanctuary.
Now that the church's physical structure has been restored, said Father Lopez, the church "will focus on building the spirit of the church, a place which is inclusive, not only of Catholics, but of anyone seeking solace and comfort from the harshness and difficulties of life".
He added that activities to benefit the greater community in the civic district and surrounding areas are in the pipeline.
As minor rectification works are still ongoing in the church, its regular masses will continue to be held at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd just down the road until further notice.
Mr Dominic Peters, 58, a parishioner who has attended mass at the church since he was young, said: "It is awesome to see the church restored to its former glory. It's beautiful."
He added that with the sanctuary now air-conditioned following restoration works, weekly masses will be a lot more comfortable for parishioners.