Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Metropolitan Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Kuala Lumpur

I made a very rushed one day trip to attend a friend's wedding in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Its about a 400KM journey from Penang, where is live. Left early in the morning. Some of the pics I took on the way can be found here.

Took about 5 hours to get there and another 5 hours for the festivities to be over and for me to get to the bus station to book a ticket back to Penang. It was already 5 o'clock in the evening on a very cloudy day and it had just rained when I made my way to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, seat of the Metropolican Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, currently His Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Murphy Xavier Pakiam.

The edifice was purpose built in anticipation of the elevation of His Grace, Archbishop Dominic Aloysius Vendargon to the then suffragan see of Kuala Lumpur which was attached to the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Malacca-Singapore. The late Archbishop is buried in the nave of the Cathedral, after some intense legal wrangling and the direct personal intervention of the sister-in-law of the former Prime Minister and good friend of the late Archbishop.

Its location made it very difficult to frame a shot of the facade.

At the time of its construction, its location on the top of Bukit Nanas made its soaring spires the highest point in the city. But the area surrounding the Cathedral is now heavily urbanized and the cathedral is surrounded by high rises and dwarfed by the Kuala Lumpur Tower, a telecommunications tower built on the same hill.
The Cathedral is located in a major Catholic enclave in the city. The Archbishop's residence and office, the Diocesan Youth Offices, the premier Catholic boy's school, St. John's Institution which was founded by the Christian Brothers of St. John Baptist de LaSalle and the Bukit Nanas Convent are all located here.

I arrived just after a wedding had concluded. You can still see the decorated arch and the white rose petals on the aisle.

The High Altar and the Cathedra did not always this way. When it build during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, it had a grand marble high altar and a canopied cathedra.

Renovation in the 'Spirit of Vatican II" has somewhat dimmed its splendour.The stained glass is original however and is rather modernistic.
What might seem an abstract pattern is actually a phrase. I'll say a rosary for anyone who can decipher what is written =) It took me a long hard look to decipher it myself.
The Lady Chapel in the left wing of the Cathedral.A close-up of the Statue of Our Lady.

One of the plaster Stations of the Cross.

The Marian Grotto outside the Cathedral. Kind of modern for my taste but its setting amidst the greenery and fountains fives it a pleasant and inviting feel. People can be seen praying here.

Most of the population of the city has moved into the suburbs so Masses are not as well attended as they were but its position as the seat of the Archbishop has guaranteed its place as the premier Church of the Archdiocese.
On the road leading to the Cathedral, I found this piece of graffiti.
thought it was very interesting.


The Hymn Selector said...

A priest told me it was actually the sister-in-law of the former Prime Minister who also intervened when some higher-ups in the Archdiocese wanted the remains of Archbishop Vendargon to be cremated instead! Deo Gratias, God works in mysterious ways, even via non-Catholics.

Andrew said...

Perhaps your priest friend is mistaken as this story was narrated to me by His Grace Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Soter Fernandez himself who succeeded Archbishop Vendargon in the see of Kuala Lumpur.

Permission was at once sought by the current Archbishop, His Grace Murphy Pakiam who was at Archbishop Vendargon's side and who chanted the Salve Regina as the Archbishop passed into eternity. This was denied until Tan Sri Saleha Mohd Ali obtained the approval at the eleventh hour.

Tony said...

The words set against gold mosaic altar stands for ECCE AGNUS DEI - Behold The Lamb of Gold. The elder parishioners used to kneel at the sanctuary rails which predated Vatican 2 to venerate The Blessed Sacrament . The canopy of the bishop's Cathedra (which faced sideways) has been removed for some reason . I really like this sanctuary . It was ahead of its time in terms of design . The minimalist lectern has also been replaced with a larger piece .

Andrew said...

Yes, there have been many alterations since these pictures were taken. But I've also seen pictures of the cathedral, purpose built, I might add, at it's consecration and days later, at the solemn consecration of Bishop Vendargon as bishop of KL.

It was truly glorious then and designed in such a way that stained glass could be added in time and the Church be made even more beautiful as a fitting place for God, the author of beauty, to be worshipped and glorified.

What happened after Vatican II was truly a diminution of that beauty. The removal of the old marble high altar was a particularly barbaric work of iconoclasm and vandalism against God's House.

Slowly things are being restored but these are all indictments against the brutish destruction in the years post-Vatican II.

I'm glad that the pastors have come to recognize the error and are correcting their course.