Christ Church (built 1741 onward)
Christ Church is the oldest functioning Protestant church in Malaysia. Construction began in 1741 on the centennial of the Dutch occupation, and it was completed in 1753. Before this date the Dutch used the old Portuguese church atop St. Paul's hill for their religious services.
Christ Church bears all the hallmarks of 18th-century Dutch architecture: a rectangular plan, massive walls, red granite plinths, and Dutch roof tiles. The ceiling is 12.2 meters above the floor and the roof beams are each cut from a single tree. The building's footprint is a perfect 2:1 proportion: 27 meters on the long end and 13 meters on the short. The pews are original, and so are the windows, but were reduced in size by the British in the 19th century.
The church is notable for some unusual objects in the interior (regrettably, photography is not permitted). The church bell is inscribed with the date 1698, suggesting that it was used for another purpose before the completion of the church. Most bizarre are tombstones incorporated into the floor of the church. The tombstones are written in Portuguese and were originally in St. Paul's Church inside the Portuguese fortress. However, they were removed by the Dutch when they occupied Melaka in 1641. Since it is unlikely that the highly religious Dutch would have used Catholic tombstones inside a Protestant church, historians surmise that they were installed there by the British.
The author Robert Tan Sin Nyen listed some interesting translations of the tombstones in his book (see Bibliography). Two in Armenian read as follows:
"Greetings! you who are reading this tablet of my tomb in which I now sleep. Give me the news, the freedom of my countrymen, for them I did much weep. If there arose among them one good guardian to govern and keep. Vainly I expected the world to see a good shepherd came to look after the scattered sheep."
"I, Jacob, grandson of Shamier, an Armenian of a respectable family whose name I keep, was born in Persia near Inefa, where my parents now forever sleep. Fortune brought me to distant Malacca, which my remains in bondage to keep. Separated from the world on 7th July 1774 A.D. at the age of twenty-nine, my mortal remains were deposited in this spot of the ground which I purchased." (Of course, since the tombstone was moved, it is not the spot of the Armenian's grave)
A final object of note inside the church is the brass Bible stand inscribed with the first verse of St. John in Dutch.
All images 2005 Timothy M. Ciccone
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