Posted by: rbbadger | January 6, 2009

The Armenian Church

The first Christian church in Singapore is, interestingly enough, not an Anglican church or a Catholic church.  Neither is it Presbyterian or Methodist.  It is an Armenian church belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church.  The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, one of the churches that came into being following the Council of Chalcedon in 451.  Armenia was the first Christian nation which occurred after the king was healed of his madness by St. Gregory the Illuminator, first Catholicos (Patriarch) of the Armenian Church.  Armenia adopted Christianity as its state religion and was the first country to do so. 

Much like the children of Israel, the Armenians have been scattered to the four corners of the globe.  Being a tiny nation located between Turkey and Russia, Armenia often bore the brunt of larger powers trampling through their lands.  Yet, they have managed to maintain their language, religion, and way of life in its integrity.  The Armenians have long been known as an enterprising group of people.  Many of them were merchants in the Middle East and elsewhere.  They founded in Singapore one of the most glorious hotels in the entire country, the famed Raffles Hotel.  Agnes Joaquim discovered the flower that became the national flower of Singapore, the Vanda Miss Joaquim.

Here is the exterior of the Armenian church.  It was built in 1835.  It is an exceedingly small church.  But then, the Armenian church in Singapore was never very large anyway.

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Here is the interior of the church.  Thankfully, it is open for all of the day and is a nice place for quiet reflection.  Sadly, it is not all that often that an Armenian priest is able to get to Singapore, owing to the fact that the community is quite small now and there aren’t that many of them left.

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The curtain that you see on the right is used during the celebration of the Armenian Mass.  Armenian Catholics use the same liturgy that the Armenian Apostolic Church uses.  During certain very important parts, the curtain is closed to highlight the sacredness of what is happening.

On the wall, there are a couple of plaques in Armenian commemorating the foundation of the parish.  Armenians are generally quite proud of their language.  The Armenian alphabet was devised shortly after the conversion of Armenia to Christianity to produce translations of the liturgy and the Bible into the language spoken by the people.  As far as alphabets go, it is one of the best ever devised, as it fits the language perfectly.  It was devised by St. Mesrob. 

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Here is a closer view of the altar.  Armenian churches are often quite simple in design with a minimum of iconography.  I quite like the painting attached to the altar.

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