The Armenian Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator on Hill Street is Singapore’s oldest Christian Church and one of its finest architectural landmarks.
The Government donated the land for the church of St Gregory the Illuminator in 1833. Half of the 5,000 Spanish dollars for the building was raised from within the Singapore’s small, but wealthy and influential, Armenian community. The rest was donated by Armenians in Java and India and by local Chinese and European merchants. The building was completed in 1835. In 1836 it was consecrated by Reverend Eleaza Ingergolie and dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator, Patriarch of the Armenian Church.
St Gregory’s is the masterpiece of architect George Dromgoole Coleman, overseer of Convicts and Superintendent of Public Works. It is built in the British Neo-Classical style and is modelled on the original St Gregory’s church in Echmiadzin in Northern Armenia.
Although St Gregory’s incorporates influences from the classical architecture of Rome and Tuscany, with suggestions of some of the old British churches (London’s St Martin in the Fields and Cambridge’s Round Church), it is also uniquely Singapore. The wide porticos provide shelter from both sun and rain, the louvred windows allow ventilation and diffuse the sunlight and lastly the pews are backed with cool, light local rattan.
The beautiful two storey parsonage in the church grounds was built by Nanajan Sarkies in memory of her husband. Beside it is the Memorial Garden to Singapore’s Armenians. Among those remembered here are Agnes Joachim, mother of the Singapore orchid and the Sarkies brothers who built Raffles Hotel.
Sadly, St Gregory’s last Parish Priest died decades ago and was never replaced, the congregation has diminished and the Armenian orthodox services have ceased.
The Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator was gazetted as a national monument on July 6, 1973.