Visiting Saint Joseph Church at Victoria Street

Visiting the restored 110-year-old Saint Joseph Church at Victoria Street.

For a few years, whenever I’m in the Bugis district, I’d stare with curiosity at a certain aged structure One that’s right opposite the ultramodern National Library and with grounds surrounded by hoardings.

The building is clearly a church, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name or anything else about it, not till checking Google Maps anyway.

For some reason, I kept assuming the building is some sort of missionary school too. (Which part of it was; see next section)

Well, that landmark is Saint Joseph Church, one of Singapore’s oldest Roman Catholic churches with over a century of history. Build in the ornate Portuguese late Gothic style, the church is also a Singapore National Monument and has been under restoration since 2017.

Those works recently ended and on June 30, 2022, the church reopened its grounds and doors to the public. When I passed by the restored monument last Monday, the majestic spires under the blue evening sky immediately caught my attention. I stood for ten minutes in the car park taking shot after shot, which making a reminder to myself that I should return for a proper “exploration.”

That exploration happened two afternoons ago. In a nutshell, my half-hour stay in the tranquil and airy nave was both spiritual and fascinating. The abundant Catholic art on display also inspired me to dig out all my old reference books about saints, the moment I’m home.

The peaceful ambience everywhere was also, how should I put it, incredibly healing and restorative.

Saint Joseph Church, Singapore
The front of the church. Definitely one of the most eye-catching structures along Victoria Street.

Brief Introduction to Saint Joseph Church

The current restored Saint Joseph Church was built between 1906 and 1912, and was part of the Portuguese Mission till 1999. For a long time, it was also informally known as the “Eurasian Church” as the congregation included Portuguese and Malaccan Eurasian Catholics in earlier days.

Before 1906, however, a smaller church long stood on the grounds. In the later part of the 19th century and all the way up to the mid-1990s, a school (Saint Anthony’s Boys’ & Girls’ School/) was also situated in the church compound. The repurposed school building is now the National Design Centre.

Architecture-wise, the main building of the church presents a classic Latin Cross, with the western front, i.e., the main entrance capped by three towers. Originally painted in white and blue, probably to reflect its Portuguese roots, the restored church is now in calming beige with bluish grey details. For all visitors, secular or religious, the church’s magnificent stained glass windows are the main attraction too.

Here’s a much more detailed introduction of the church’s history by Fr. Joe Lopez Carpio, the current rector.

My Late Afternoon Visit

Religious Architecture in Singapore
The classic architecture of the church is a curiously harmonious contrast to the modern National Library across the road.
Portuguese Church in Singapore
Reminders of the church’s Portuguese heritage. The cost of arms is that of the Bishop of Macau from 1902 to 1918. The glazed ceramic tiles on the walls are, of course, Portuguese azulejos. (The Latin motto means “Thy Kingdom Come.”)
Saint Joseph Church Nave
The nave. Spacious and serene, watched over by a host of saints too.

The following might sound sacrilegious to some, so I apologize! I had a great time going through the saints and trying to identify them all without reading the names. Sadly, though, I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve read over the years and so other than the obvious ones like Saint Sebastian, I couldn’t name many.

Catholic Saints in Singapore
Saint George (slaying the pesky dragon) and Saint Anne.
Saint Anthony
Saint Anthony, I think. The doctor of the church.
Jesus Meets His Mother
Scenes from the Way of the Cross flank the pews too. These are all historical and repainted during the five-year restoration.
Saint Joseph Church Altar
The chancel is surrounded by gorgeous stained glass windows. According to the Catholic News Website, Saint Joseph Church has the largest collection of stained glass (windows) in Singapore.
St Joseph Church Interior
The rear of the nave. So I’ve read, Saint Joseph Church has two large digital pipe organs. Unfortunately, they can’t be seen in this picture.
Catholic Stained Glass in Singapore
More magnificent stained glass religious art.
Our Lady of Fátima in Singapore
The grounds of the church are also home to a shrine to Our Lady of Fátima. Introduced in 1935, devotional processions and rosary recitations continue to happen every 13th of the month.
Beautiful Catholic Church in Singapore
To end, an evening shot. Don’t you agree this is one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Singapore?

Location and hours of Saint Joseph Church.

Read my other Home Tourist photo essays.

Visiting Saint Joseph Church at Victoria Street
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Visiting Saint Joseph Church at Victoria Street
Visiting the restored Saint Joseph Church at Victoria Street. One of Singapore’s oldest Catholic churches and a national monument.
Scribbling Geek
Scribbling Geek
Geek, gamer, writer, movie lover, photographer, and occasional graphic artist. I like to consider myself a one-stop content creator of sorts. But the truth is, I obsess over too many hobbies.

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