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Friday September 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday September 13, 2013 MYT 10:32:42 AM
by our street heritage
Friends forever: The statues of Yajiro and the saint in the compound of the Church of St Francis Xavier.
IT IS called Jalan Gereja (Church Street) for obvious reasons. The back road links the side entrances to two landmark churches of Malacca — the Church of St Francis Xavier and the Dutch-built Christ Church.
Visitors to the historical city will not be able to miss the magnificent Church of St Francis Xavier along Jalan Laksamana.
Modelled after the Cathedral of St. Peter in Montpelier in Southern France, was built in honour of St Francis Xavier, the “Apostle of the East” who helped spread Catholicism to Asia in the 16th Century.
The church stands on the grounds where the ruins of the Dominican Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary, destroyed by the Dutch invasion of Malacca in 1641, used to be.
Work on the neo-Gothic-styled Catholic Church, with its twin towers and rose window, was started in 1849 by Father Peter Favre. The finishing touches were completed under another priest, Father Marie John Allard, in 1859.
Why the French connection? In 1840 Pope Gregory XV1 (1831- 1846) decreed that Malacca should come under the authority of the Paris Foreign Mission (MEP) led by Bishop Jean-Paul-Hilaire-Michel Courvezy.
The Portuguese missionaries, however, were allowed to keep their jurisdiction over
St Peter’s Church — the oldest functioning Catholic church in the country, built in 1710 and other old chapels in the state.
Two bronze statues stand inside the compound of the Church of St Francis Xavier. One of the saint and the other is that of his close aide Yajiro, a Japanese samurai who repented his sins, including murder, and became a missionary.
St Francis Xavier met Yajiro, who some historians refer to as Anjiro or Angero, in Malacca and later brought him to Goa to be baptised.
The Japanese from Kagoshima who had sought refuge on a Portuguese ship to escape punishment learned about Christianity and about Xavier from the captain of the vessel, Jorge Alvares.
A short walk away from the Church of St Francis, through Lorong Gereja (Church Lane) and Jalan Gereja is the Christ Church, the oldest Protestant church in the country.
Haunted: The Health Clinic, once known as ‘Outdoor Dispensary’ made the news for being a spooky place in the 1960s.
It started out as the Dutch Reform Church but became an Anglican church after Malacca was ceded to the British in 1824.
Like other buildings in the square, the Christ Church comes in the shade of red. But it wasn’t always so.
Originally, the exterior was brickwork but when the walls were found to leak during torrential rain, plaster was added and the church was given a white coat of paint.
Apparently, the British painted it red, or rather a pinkish hue of crimson in 1824.
Among the stories I heard as a child was that it was done out of frustration — against betel-chewing labourers who used to spit at the edge of the walls. Today, the church and other buildings are painted in a darker hue of red.
Between a row of old shophouses along Jalan Gereja and Christ Church is another interesting building.
The Health Clinic, which used to be known as the “Outdoor Dispensary” in the 1960s, has a rather spooky past.
According to a 1956 newspaper report, strange things happened when the unoccupied building was renovated to be used as a clinic.
Locked doors were reportedly flung open and mysterious items, including trousers, skirts and clogs (which were the common footwear then) appeared and disappeared without reason.
Come to think of, as an asthmatic child who often ended up being brought there for treatment, I dreaded going there.
As a teenager, though, I did spend a lot of time having fun in Church Street, mostly in the Gan family home where two cousins were my closest friends then.
It was a vibrant place then, as the courthouse was just down and the road and most of the more than 100-year-old shophouses were occupied by legal firms.
Today, the legal eagles no longer roost there but Church Street has literally gone to the birds. The row of shophouses has now been turned into swiftlet nest farming buildings.
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