Our History

Discover St. Joseph’s Church history

1821
Fr Jacob Joaquim Freire Brumber Visited Singapore

Fr Jacob Joaquim Freire Brumber, assistant to the Vicar of St Peter’s Church in Malacca, visited and attended to the Catholics living in Singapore (Singapore belonged to the District of Malacca, under the Diocese of Goa).

30 June 1825
Founding of Portuguese Mission

Fr. Francisco da Silva Pinto e Maia of the Congregation of Mission, arrived in Singapore from Macao to look after the 12 or 13 Catholics in Singapore. He founded the Portuguese Mission in Singapore, and started the plans for the first Church, which was eventually completed in 1853.

By 1829
Catholics Number Grew

By 1829, the Catholics numbered 200, all under the care of Father Maia. As he had no church or chapel, he said Mass in the house of his friend, Dr. José d'Almeida, at Beach Road, where the present Raffles Hotel now stands. Dr. José d'Almeida was a surgeon in the Portuguese Navy who had settled in Singapore on 25 December 1825. He became a very rich gentleman after starting his firm, José d'Almeida & Sons, which began as shipping agents which helped sell off Portuguese and Spanish cargo. It later grew into a trading firm, importing Portuguese and Chinese merchandise, which became the biggest and most important firm in Singapore. In fact, d’Almeida Street is named after him. He died on 27 October 1850 and was buried at Fort Canning Hill.

9 June 1833
The First Chapel in Singapore was Blessed and Opened

Fr. Francisco da Silva Pinto e Maia initiated and oversaw efforts to build the first chapel, a 60 feet by 30 feet structure costing $700, on Bras Basah Road (the former site of St Joseph’s Institution, now the Singapore Art Museum). The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on 9 December 1832. At that time, the Catholics in Singapore had grown to around 300. The Church was completed on 5 May 1833.

14 December 1851
The Foundation Stone for a New Church was Laid

The foundation stone for a new church was laid by Fr. Vicente de Sta Catarina, the successor of Fr. Maia. The church was blessed and opened in 1853 [Fr. Maia died on 17 February  1850, hence the building of the new church was left in the hands of Fr. Vicente de Sta Catarina]. The new church was situated on twelve lots of land between Victoria Street and Queen Street. Six of the lots had been given to Fr. Maia by Sir Samuel George Bonham, then Governor of the Straits Settlement, and six were purchased by Fr. Maia himself, in 1833, 20 years before the completion of the church. Fr Maia was buried at Fort Canning. His remains were exhumed later and placed at the newly built Church.

23 June 1886
Concordat between Pope Leo XIII and King Louis I of Portugal was Signed

Concordat between Pope Leo XIII and King Louis I of Portugal was signed, stating that Malacca and Singapore were under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Macau. [Article IX of the Concordat stated that all Catholics of Malacca and Singapore, who had been under the jurisdiction of Goa, would pass to the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Macau.]

21 March 1891
A Meeting of the Church’s Parochial Board was Convened by the New Vicar General

A meeting of the church’s parochial board was convened by the new Vicar General of the Portuguese Mission, Fr. José Joaquim Baptista, at which a committee was formed to organise a building fund to enlarge the church.

21 August 1904
New Foundation Stone Laid
21 August 1904 New Foundation Stone Laid

The Bishop of Macau, Dom João Paulino de Azevedo e Castro, laid the foundation stone of the new church. In 1906, the original structure of the church was pulled down to make way for the construction of the new church.

Photo Credit: www.catholic.org.mo

30 June 1912
The New Church was Blessed and Opened

The new church was blessed and opened. The church was built in the form of a Latin cross measuring 66.25 m in length, with transcripts of 45 m and the nave 18.75 m wide. The construction project encompassed a parochial house and a school for girls which became St. Anthony’s Convent. The entire construction cost what was then a princely sum of $204,608.06.

1 July 1981
The Parish of St. Joseph’s was Effectively Transferred to the Archdiocese of Singapore

The Parish of St. Joseph’s was effectively transferred to the Archdiocese of Singapore. Pursuant to an agreement signed between then archbishop of Singapore, the Most Reverend Gregory Yong, and Arquiminio Rodrigues da Costa, then Bishop of Macao, on 26 July 1977, which was ratified by the Holy See on 27 May 1981, St. Joseph’s Church was transferred to the ordinary jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Singapore. With this, St Joseph’s Church ceased to be a parish church and became a church of devotion.

31 December 1999
The Final Link with the Portuguese Mission was Severed

The final link with the Portuguese Mission was severed when Fr. Benito de Sousa ended his term as rector of St. Joseph’s Church, being the last missionary sent by the Bishop of Macau to serve in St. Joseph’s Church. The Church and the Priest’s Residence were handed over to the church under the Jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Singapore. This concluded 175 years of Association with the Portuguese Mission.

14 January 2005
St. Joseph’s Church was Gazetted as a National Monument

St. Joseph’s Church was gazetted as a National Monument by the National Heritage Board of Singapore. The Church was recognised for its rich history and its social and cultural importance, especially to the Eurasian community in Singapore, who were its earliest congregants.

18 June 2005
Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo Visited Singapore

The foreign Minister of the Vatican, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, visited Singapore to launch an exhibition displaying artifacts of the Holy See at the Asian Civilisation Museum. He visited St Joseph’s Church to see for himself the rich culture of St Joseph’s Church.

30 June 2012
St. Joseph’s Church Celebrated its Centenary

St. Joseph’s Church celebrated its centenary. The Most Reverend Nicholas Chia, Archbishop of Singapore, apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli and Fr. Michael Teo, rector of the church, together with other priests concelebrated Mass before a 1,000 strong crowd in the church.

27 March 2015
The Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew Remembered

Archbishop William Goh celebrated Mass with all Catholic priests at St Joseph’s Church in memory of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Around 4,000 Catholics gathered at the church to celebrate the Prime Minister’s life and to pray for Mr Lee and his family.

16 August 2015
His Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin Celebrated Holy Mass in St Joseph’s Church

His Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State of the Holy See, and the second highest ranking official in the Holy See, after his holiness Pope Francis, celebrated Holy Mass in St Joseph’s Church. That year was the Golden Jubilee of the Modern Singapore.

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1 Aug 2017
St. Joseph’s Church was Closed for Restoration

(Credit to The Portuguese Missions in Malacca and Singapore (1511-1958) by Fr. Manuel Teixeira; The Portuguese Mission in Singapore (1825- 1999) St Joseph’s Church by James Newton Boss; Glimpses and Memories of St. Joseph’s Church and the Portuguese Mission in Singapore 1825-1999, Loader, J.W (ed)).