Saturday, August 15, 2009
Malacca - St Paul's Church
The Church was originally a small chapel built by a Portuguese Captain called Duarto Coelho in 1521 and called " Nosa Senhora" or "Our Lady Of The Hill". The chapel was handed over to the "Society of Jesus" in 1548 and enlarged it 1556 with the addition of a second storey and renamed "Annunciation". A tower was added.
When the Dutch took over Malacca from the Portuguese, they changed its name to St Paul Church and used for 112 years until their own church, The Christ Church was completed in 1753 and St. Paul's Church was then abandoned.
There a few old tomb stones inside the ruins bear the silent testimony to the final resting place of several Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
When the British took over Malacca in 1824, the St. Paul's Church has lost its tower. However, the British added a lighthouse in front of it. And instead of being used it as a place of worship, the Church became a convenient storehouse for British gun powder.
The Statue of St. Francis Xavier today stands in front of the ruins of St. Paul's Church. It was quite a recent addition, completed only in 1952, to commemorate the saint who passed there on several occasions from 1545 to 1552, on his way to the Far East. When he died in China in 1553, his body was sent back to Malacca, where it was interred here for nine months. When a decision was made to transfer it to Goa, the exhumers were astounded to learn that his body showed little sign of decay, even though it had been buried for nine months. This led to request for the missionary to be made a saint. Now, in order to be canonized, the Catholic church needed a relic. When the arm of Francis Xavier was severed, it still dripped blood.
If you take a look at Francis Xavier's statue, you will see that his right arm is also missing. However, this is not part of the original design of the statue. A day after the statue was consecrated, a large casuarina tree fell on it, breaking off its right arm. And so it stands today without one limb.
I later found out that A Famosa was just below St Paul Church...