Even if religious sights are usually the last thing on your itinerary, you'll definitely notice St Andrew's Cathedral beside City Hall SMRT, with its steeple so high it just about contributes to the skyline.
Named after the patron saint of Scotland as a hat tip to the many Scots who filled the coffers of a mid 19th century building fund, this grand English gothic-style building was built between 1855 and 1857 by convict labour. During British times, predominantly South Asian convict labour built many of Singapore's famous period buildings, including the Istana (at the time, Government House) which now serves as the official residence of Singapore's president.
An earlier church dating back to the 1830s was built on the same spot, but after two lightning strikes it was declared unsafe and demolished to make way for St Andrew's. The cathedral was designed by Colonel Robert MacPherson of the Madras Army (to whom a memorial cross still stands within the grounds) and built by another military man, Major McNair -- who later went on to oversee the building the Istana -- again built with convict labour to keep costs down. The cathedral was consecrated in 1870.
The cathedral is well regarded for its lancet windows and stained glass and if you've "done" many churches in the United Kingdom, you'll feel right at home here. Also within the interior are plaques and memorials to congregation members who have passed on along with soldiers who fell in England's many skirmishes and wars around the world. An interesting oddity is that the bell tower's foundations are not strong enough to support the strain of the bells being traditionally rung, so, when this was discovered, the bells were fixed in place and are instead rung with hammers.
St Andrew's is an active church with regular services and a youth ministry -- see their comprehensive website for details on services and other activities. Despite being located right in the heart of downtown Singapore and almost atop one of the busiest SMRT exchanges in the city, the expansive lawn grounds are a refuge from the mayhem and all and sundry are welcome to both wander the grounds and take a look around the interior.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 21st April, 2015.