Saturday, 2 July 2016

Heavenly finds in the most unlikely places

Update 15 Feb 2017: New chapter begins for 173-year-old Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Altar boys walking out during the closing procession of a special dedication mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd yesterday, which saw a gathering of 2,700 people.ST FOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Grand music filled the 173-yr-old Cathedral of the Good Shepherd yesterday evening as Singapore's oldest pipe organ played for 2,700 people gathered on the cathedral grounds in Queen Street.

The people, mostly worshippers, were there to witness a special dedication mass to mark the completion of the cathedral's 3-year restoration.

The audience spilled out into a large tent outside the cathedral, while more peered in through the windows and glass doors along the sides of the church building. Another 1,100 watched it live on YouTube.

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Time capsule and corner stone found at cathedral here
RARE DISCOVERY: The rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Monsignor Philip Heng, with a part of the base of the pillar in which the foundation stone is embedded.ST FOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A 173-YR-OLD time capsule and granite foundation stone of the country's oldest Catholic church have been unearthed, in what experts describe as a "rare discovery".

Contractors found the hitherto missing capsule and foundation stone earlier this year while restoring the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd along Queen Street.

The time capsule - possibly the oldest one found here - comprises publications such as a prayer booklet and newspapers from 1843, as well as 24 international 18th & 19th century coins and tokens.

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173-yr-old time capsule unearthed at Singapore's oldest Catholic church
They were buried by one of Singapore's early founding communities - French Catholic missionary priests of the church, among others

The time capsule pit, about the size of a shoe box, was found under a column base on a series of granite steps along the cathedral's Victoria Street facade on Jan 29. It had been sealed shut by the foundation stone.

The currencies from places such as Vietnam, Britain, France, Spain, and the British East India Company drive home the point that Singapore was an important place for trade, said Mr Ho.

The present-day find corroborates a Jun 22, 1843 news report in the Singapore Free Press, which said the church's foundation stone was laid above the pit in an early morning procession on Jun 18 that year.

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Time capsule and corner stone found at cathedral here
The rector of the Cathedral, Monsignor Philip Heng, examines a segment of the base of the pillar in which the foundation stone of the Cathedral is embedded

They were buried by one of Singapore's early founding communities - French Catholic missionary priests of the church, among others.

Highlighting the significance, archaeologist Lim Chen Sian said: "A church being erected in mid-19th century is a major event for the nascent European community - remember, it's just about 24 years since Singapore's founding."

It was also 1 of the largest and monumental buildings of its time, experts said.

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Heavenly finds in the most unlikely places
This exquisite gilded chalice belonged to the Right Reverend Edouard Gasnier, the 1st bishop of the Diocese of Malacca when it was revived in 1888. The chalice was still in use for more solemn masses prior to the restoration of the cathedral in 2013.ST FOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

In the dim light of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd's sacristy - the room where items used for church services are kept - Mr Jevon Liew was examining a brass crucifix and a matching pair of candlesticks.

That morning in 2013, he noticed that they bore identical French inscriptions around their bases.

Translated, the words proclaimed a significant milestone in the history of the Catholic Church in Singapore: They were gifts from France to the cathedral in 1897, the year of its official consecration.

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