Five of Singapore's oldest places of worship

The Yueh Hai Ching temple on Phillip Street in 2010. The temple, which has been given a $7.5-million makeover, is one of a handful of century-old places of worship in Singapore. -- PHOTOS: ST FILE, BERITA HARIAN, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SIN
The Yueh Hai Ching temple on Phillip Street in 2010. The temple, which has been given a $7.5-million makeover, is one of a handful of century-old places of worship in Singapore. -- PHOTOS: ST FILE, BERITA HARIAN, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE HOKKIEN HUAY KUAN

The Yueh Hai Ching temple on Phillip Street, which has been given a $7.5-million makeover, dates from 1895. It is one of a handful of century-old places of worship in Singapore. We look at some of the other places of worship which have survived Singapore's rapid urban changes.

1. Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka

This is the oldest mosque, and first place of worship, in Singapore, built in 1820 at Keng Cheow Road off Havelock Road.

Philanthropist Syed Omar Ali Aljunied helped fund the building of a surau, or prayer house, on the land designated by the Raffles Town Plan for Kampong Melaka, which was meant for the Muslim community. The original building was a simple attap roof hut. It was replaced by a brick building in 1855, built with funding from Mr Syed Omar's son, Syed Abdullah Omar Aljunied.

Located in the middle of a Chinese community, the building was unscathed during the 1960s race riots. In 1982 and 1985, the building was reconstructed and an office block and a dome-shaped minaret were added. There was also a $936,000 renovation in 2009 which replaced the roof and added new classrooms and a women's prayer area.

It was declared a historic site by the National Heritage Board in 2001.

2. Sri Mariamman Temple

The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, built in 1827, is familiar to all Singaporeans for its striking gopuram, or entrance tower.

Located in the middle of Chinatown, the temple's iconic entrance was the inspiration for the name of Pagoda Street because it reminded the Chinese community of a Chinese pagoda.

Mr Naraina Pillai, a clerk with the British East India Company in Penang who accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles to Singapore in 1819, was the driving force in the establishment of the temple.

The first temple was a modest wood and attap building, and housed a small deity, Sinna Amman, which can still be found in the main sanctum of the temple today. The original building was replaced by a plaster and brick building in 1843, and the distinctive gopuram was developed from the late 1800 and elaborated upon over the years till the 1960s when it became the ornate landmark it is today.

The temple was the only place where Hindus in Singapore could get married in the early years and is now commonly associated with Theemithi, the fire-walking festival which is held in October/November.

3. Thian Hock Keng Temple

This Hokkien temple was often the first destination for Chinese immigrants fresh off the boat from China. There, they would give thanks to Ma Cho Po, the goddess of seafarers, for a safe journey.

Hokkien philanthropist Tan Tock Seng bought the land in Telok Ayer from the British East India Company in 1828 to build the temple.

In 2012, the temple was subject to major rescue work as damp threatened the leaky ceiling as well as the wood floors. The National Monuments Fund contributed $172,400 but the Hokkien Huay Kuan which runs the place also raised funds to preserve the building.

Built in the traditional southern Chinese architectural style, its pillars of iron wood and granite, and carved stonework have been assembled without any nails.

The temple was also home to other treasures, chief among which is a scroll, written by Qing emperor Guang Xu and presented to the temple in 1907 as a gift. The scroll was presented to the National Heritage Board after restoration in 2010.

4. Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator Singapore

This modest church located on Hill Street is the first Christian church in Singapore. Built in 1835 at a cost of $5,000, it was designed by Irish architect George Drumgold Coleman, after whom Coleman Street was named. Funds were raised from the Armenian communities in Singapore, India and Java, as well as from local European and Chinese residents.

The original building had a dome and a bell turret which were demolished after being deemed unsafe. The spire was added around 1850 and the building was the first to be electrified in 1909.

It was gazetted a national monument in 1973 and was restored in 1994, which allowed its church bell to ring out for the first time in years on Christmas Eve.

5. Nagore Dargah

Also located in Telok Ayer street is this shrine, built by the Muslims of South India in 1830. The brick and plaster building, which blends classical and Indian Muslim motifs, was said to have been built by brothers Mohammed and Haja Mohideen as a memorial to a holy man, Shahul Hamid (also Shahul Hameed) of Nagore in southern India.

It was gazetted a national monument in 1974. Despite minor repairs in 1991 to correct structural issues, the building was boarded up in the 1990s as it was deemed unsafe. There were major renovation works but the building remained closed till 2011, when it was finally reopened to the public as an Indian Muslim heritage centre, with four galleries of artefacts.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.