Off The Beaten Track #10: St Joseph’s Cemetery

It appear I have a “thing” for cemeteries.

I’ve blogged about the Old Christian cemetery at Fort Canning, The Japanese Cemetery Park, Bididari Memorial Garden and now the oldest Christian church remaining in Singapore at St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Upper Bukit Timah Rd.

I’m also studying a cemtery subject at university this semester.

And am planning a research project on cemeteries.

But anyhow…..

St Joseph’s Cemetery is behind St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Upper Bukit Timah and is the oldest remaining Christian cemetery in Singapore. As it is on church land it hasn’t been redeveloped (yet). The cemetery opened in the 1850s and didn’t close until 1984, which is later than every other cemetery which all closed when most burials shifted to the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery complex in the 1970s.

After the closure of St Joseph’s to burials some of the graves were exhumed but there’s still lot of old graves here and whilst I couldn’t read the epitaphs as most were in Chinese I found the variety of grave markers interesting. I had expected to see mainly Western style graves, but lots were traditional Chinese tombs where the headstone faces outward from the grave.

DSC01791 DSC01792 DSC01799The church was founded in 1846 by Father Anatole Maudoit, when this part of Singapore was still deep in the jungle. The Church’s website shares this story of the early years:

By the 1850s, the Church has grown in numbers sufficient to irritate the secret society chiefs who launched a series of attacks on the Christians in the interior, spilling the soil of Singapore with the blood of its first martyrs. Worst still, tigers roamed freely in the interior possibly devouring a coolie a day in the 1850s. When the authorities did not let the body of a poor coolie carried of by a tiger be buried, wanting to use the human corpse as bait to lure the tiger back so that it could be shot. Fr Augustine Perie protested, retrieved the coolie’s body and prepared it for a decent burial, demonstrating that a poor person should never be treated without dignity, in life and also in death.

Fr Mauduit’s tomb was originally inside the church but his gravestone now lies in the grass of the cemetery.

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Rev Fr Anatolius Mauduit was the founding priest of St Joesph’s.

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These three grave markers belong to St Joseph’s early priests.

Saint Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) is at 620 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 678116

There is free parking onsite.
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