Church of the Assumption (Penang)

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Church of the Assumption
Cathedral Of The Assumption.jpg
Church of the Assumption (Penang) is located in central George Town, Penang
Church of the Assumption (Penang)
Location within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site (purple)
5°25′14.7426″N 100°20′16.1412″E / 5.420761833°N 100.337817000°E / 5.420761833; 100.337817000Coordinates: 5°25′14.7426″N 100°20′16.1412″E / 5.420761833°N 100.337817000°E / 5.420761833; 100.337817000
Location 3 Farquhar Street
George Town, Penang
Country Malaysia
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website assumptionchurchpenang.org
History
Former name(s) Cathedral of the Assumption
Founded August 1786
Founder(s) Captain Francis Light and friends
Dedicated 1955 (cathedral status)
Architecture
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Style Colonial
Completed 1787
Specifications
Number of towers 2
Administration
Parish City Parish
Diocese Penang
Province Kuala Lumpur
Clergy
Priest(s) Fr. Nelson Chitty
Assistant priest(s) Fr. Joachim Robert
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Designated 2008 (32nd session)
Reference no. 1223
Region Asia-Pacific

The Church of the Assumption was founded in 1786, when Captain Francis Light first came to Penang, Malaysia. It is located in Farquhar Street, George Town, within the heritage core zone of the city. The church is the third oldest Catholic church in Malaysia.[1]

This church was the seat of the bishop of Penang from 1955 to 2003 and it is also a World Heritage Church.

History[edit]

In 1786, Captain Francis Light landed on Penang Island and named it Prince of Wales Island. He set up the Fort Cornwallis. In conjunction with their landing in Penang which coincides with the feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Mary on 15 August that year, he and his companions built a church and named it Church of the Assumption. It was the first Roman Catholic church in the northern region of Malaysia, as well as the first church built after the British landed in Penang. They went on to control Malaya later on.

As the population of Penang Island continues to increase, there was a need for a bigger church. In 1860, the present crucifix shaped church, was constructed. It was completed in 1861 and opened. It consists of 2 bell towers and a huge altar. The pipe organ, which can still be found in the church, was installed in 1916 and the choir gallery was extended.

In December 1941, when the Japanese conquered Penang, the church was closed except for a few masses. It was said that during one day, when the bells of the church were tolled, a Japanese soldier went into the church to cut off the ropes, saying that the bells were noisy. Life went back to normal when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

In 1954, in conjunction with the Marian Year, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried on a long procession through the streets of George Town. It was replaced with a shrine built in front of the church.[2] The need for a diocese was raised up after the Japanese occupation. After much discussion, finally on 25 February 1955, the Penang Diocese was established together with the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, Bishop Francis Chan and Bishop Dominic Vendargon were elected as bishops of Penang and Kuala Lumpur respectively. They were both ordained at this church. This church, together with St. John's Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur were given the cathedral status.

At that period of time, Cathedral of the Assumption served as the main church of the northern region of Malaysia. A lot of diocesan activities were held there. It was in the mid-1970s, when the cathedral and 3 other churches in George Town suffered a major setback. The Catholic population there started to dwindle until only about 1,500 Catholics were left in the city. Since the number of the priests were shrinking, in 1988 Bishop Antony Selvanayagam decided to merge the 4 parishes into 1 parish, named City Parish.

In the 1990s, main functions of the diocese were moved to other churches. That was also the time when the Bishop of Penang had a meeting with the priests to discuss about moving the cathedral to some other places. In 2001, Bishop Antony Selvanayagam announced that in January 2003, the status of the cathedral will be moved to the Cathedral of The Holy Spirit in Green Lane, Penang. This parish emerged as the new cathedral because it has a high number of parishioners and was also a very active parish in the diocese.

On 20 January 2003, the cathedral status and bishop's seat were officially moved to the new Cathedral of The Holy Spirit, thus lowering the status of the cathedral to Church of The Assumption. In 2008, when George Town and Malacca Town became UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the church was named as world heritage church. The church building was over 160 years old and has historical means.

In 2011, the church marked a year-long celebration of its 225th anniversary and also fund-raising for the restoration of the pipe organ and also church building.[3][4] Also at the same time, the Assumption Formation Centre was opened to cater for visitors and also spiritual formations and church activities.[5] In 2013, the church successfully restored its pipe organ after receiving generous contributions by donors. A concert was held in June 2014, and various choirs were invited to sing and celebrate the restoration of The Old Lady.[6]

Current status[edit]

Church of the Assumption (Penang) 2016

The Church of the Assumption has been under City Parish since 1988. Today there are 2 priests administrating the church, namely Fr. Nelson Chitty and Fr. Joachim Robert. It is a World Heritage Church and the oldest church in Penang. It also has a 1914 Morton & Moody pipe organ and is one of seven pipe organs still in use in Malaysia today. The pipe organ is usually played for Saturday sunset masses and also during festivities like Easter and Christmas.[7][8] The church also has a choir, accompanying the pipe organ singing in both Latin and English. Every year, on 15 August, the feast day of this church, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated.

The Church will be closed for 14 months beginning 15 August 2016 to undergo a RM 2.5 million restoration project which will see the building and sanctuary being brought back to her former glory.[1]

Mass times[edit]

Saturday Mass
Novena: 6:00pm English
Sunset Mass: 6:30pm English

Sunday Mass
10:00am English

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Malaysia's third oldest Catholic Church to get RM2.5m facelift". 28 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Iconic 'twin towers' of Penang". 5 December 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Antique organ going out of kilter". 13 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Assumption Penang celebrates 225 years". 12 September 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Formation centre in Penang opened". 29 August 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Music to uplift spirits". 25 October 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "An organ to crow about". 11 November 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  8. ^ "Penang's pipe organ sounds through the ages". 8 November 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 

External links[edit]