Culture

Captivating Churches to Visit in Southeast Asia

By Irvin Hanni

Captivating Churches to Visit in Southeast Asia

1. San Sebastian Church, Manila

With its soothing mint green exterior, neo-gothic architecture, and stately twin spires, the San Sebastian Church in Manila is truly breathtaking. Well, what can you expect from the same engineer that was behind the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York? This all-steel building designed by Gustave Eiffel has been declared a Philippine Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure, a prestigious citations for historic buildings in the country.

2. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City

A landmark of the city formerly known as Saigon, the Notre-Dame Cathedral serves as a beautiful heritage of the French colonial era. It was constructed between 1863 and 1880 in Neo-Romanesque style, whereby the original building materials, including the red bricks that still retain its rust-coloured hues even after all these years, were brought in direct from France.

3. Christ Church, Melaka

Visitors to Melaka’s popular tourist area Red Square will not escape this vintage church’s pepperoni red colour that matches the neighbouring historical landmark, the Stadhuys. Construction began in 1791 to commemorate the then-100 years of Dutch occupation of pre-independence Malaya.  It was originally built as a Protestant Church but was turned into an Anglican church under the British rule, and continues to be one of the longest functioning churches in the country.

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4. Jakarta Cathedral, Jakarta

A real stunner in the heart of Indonesia’s uber bustling capital city of Jakarta, the church’s official name in Indonesian is Gereja Santa Perawan Maria Diangkat ke Syurga, which translates to Church of Our Lady at Assumption, though it is fondly known as Jakarta Cathedral by the locals. Built in neo-gothic style in 1901, the cathedral also houses a mini museum with various relics including ancient books and robes. Various works of art adorn the walls and ceiling, including an image of the cathedral painted on dried banana leaves.

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5. Phat Diem Cathedral, Ninh Binh

The unorthodox mix of east and west make this cathedral a truly unique and mesmerising place to visit. Built between 1875 and 1899, it was designed by a local priest, Father Tran Luc, which resulted in a beautiful complex that consists of a stone cathedral with traditional Vietnamese roofs, a tall statue of Jesus Christ, a serene lake, five chapels, three artificial grottoes, and a bell tower.

6. Basilica del Santo Niño, Cebu

The oldest church in the Philippines has gone through many tests including fires and earthquakes, and yet it still stands proud in the city of Cebu. Built in 1565, it is considered the cradle of Christianity in the East, as it is the home of the sacred statue of the Santo Niño which was presented to Queen Juana by Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Best to plan your journey here to coincide with the exuberant Sinulog Festival, where a parade of floats, dances, and costumes fill the streets of the city.

A photo posted by Max Lukshin (@m4xxim) on

7. Church of St Teresa, Singapore

Peace and tranquility in the high-tech city of Singapore. This Roman Catholic church was named after Saint Teresa of Lisieux, a French nun who died at the young age of 24. Its Roman-Byzantine architecture was modelled after the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris.

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GETTING THERE: AirAsia flies to Cebu and other destinations from Kuala Lumpur. For lowest fares and flight info, visit AirAsia.com.

About the Author

Irvin Hanni

Ms Hanni is happiest when cycling in a foreign destination, rubbing noses with a cat, or napping by a lake. Her goal is to touch every owl, monkey, puppy, and turtle that she meets on her travels.

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