Friday, September 23, 2011

A Glance At The Chapel - Architecturally and Aesthetically Superb!

The Newly-Refurbished Chapel. It was completed in the late 1930s. Its design was inspired by the celebrated Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. 
The touched-up antique wooden chairs
The altar. Look at the meticulously-polished candle stands. I was told the brass stands had not been polished for more than 20 years. 
The statues of John Baptist De La Salle and one of his students.
Making sure the chapel is in tip-top condition for Saturday, September 24, 2011.
Side view of the chapel. Look at its impressive artistic design.
Outstanding woodwork. Hand-crafted from one single block.

It's all system go for tomorrow, Saturday at 10.30am. Turning back the clock, the chapel was just another "room" tucked at the 2nd floor corner of the main building. No one noticed its significance and importance. In fact, nobody talked about it until a few old boys recollected their past experiences. The Centennial Committee team moved from there and today, the chapel sees the light of day again.

Little is written about the school chapel. This under-publicised heritage of SMI, located on the 2nd floor of the main building and is linked to the quarters where the Brothers stayed, has been long "abandoned", as OMA president Adrian Tsen put it. He said during the 60s' until the early 80s' the chapel was a focal point among students who congregated there to sing hymns and started the day with words of prayers before proceeded to their respective classes.

"I remember the chapel was a place students would come together after school every Friday to have fellowship together. The singing created such pleasant and sweet atmosphere within the school compound. In other words, it was a place students found solace and peace," said Adrian, who studied in SMI during the 60s.
"They brought along their guitars and others would join in to sing along. It was such a pleasant sight to see Michaelians at a place they considered a sanctuary," said Cikgu Meor Idris, who has taught in SMI for the past 30 years.
He said the chapel was a favourite place among students.

"Some would sit outside the chapel reading their books and others would just fellowship inside. Masses would also be held for Catholic students. They liked the serenity and the soothing effects in the chapel," Meor said.

Background:
During World War 2, before St Michael's was occupied by the Japanese, its soldiers machine-gunned the building and seriously damaged the school roof. Looters stole furniture and books. They even tried to wrench the tabernacle from the altar of the chapel. It was soon that the chapel was converted into the State Legislative Council Chambers. The altar was removed and used as firewood. Here, the European and the Chinese with Japanese wives had to take a promise of allegiances to the Japanese Emperor.

Interviews with former teachers and old boys reveal that serious infestation by termites on the wooden panels around the altar, walls and ceilings also attributed to the closure of the chapel. Presently, the chapel is under the care of Brother Matthew Bay, who personally looks into its posterity, upkeep and maintenance.
Currently under extensive repairs in line with the roof replacement works of the main building, the chapel is set to shine again. Plans are afoot to restore the originality of the chapel, including looking into the architectural aspects and its outstanding work of art - the paintings and stained glass windows.

School principal Mr Phoon Choong Chee and OMA president Mr Adrian Tsen have expressed their desire to see a complete restoration of the chapel, after which the great activities of yesteryear are brought back again to resonate the atmosphere long missed by the school community. Many feel that, after decades of neglect, the chapel is to be accorded the status and recognition it truly deserves.

Note: Above is our story dated July 1, 2007. After four years, things can actually happen at St Michael's. 
"Cherishing Our Past, Embracing The Future"

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