St. Paul’s Church is a historic church building in Melaka that was originally built in 1521, making it the oldest church building in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
It is located at the summit of St. Paul’s Hill and is today part of the Melaka Museum Complex comprising the A Famosa ruins, the Stadthuys and other historical buildings.
The original structure was a simple chapel built in 1521 dedicated to the Virgin Mary and known as the Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of the Annunciation). The chapel was built by a Portuguese fidalgo or nobleman, Duarte Coelho, as an act of gratitude following his escape from a storm in the South China Sea.
The chapel was deeded to the Society of Jesus in 1548 by the Bishop of Goa, João Afonso de Albuquerque, with the title deeds received by St. Francis Xavier. The chapel was then further enlarged in 1556 with the addition of a second floor, and a belfry tower was added in 1590. The chapel was then renamed the Igreja de Madre de Deus (Church of the Mother of God).
With the conquest of Melaka by the Dutch in 1641, the church was reconsecrated for Dutch Reformed use as St. Paul’s Church also known as the Bovernkerk or High Church. The church remained in use as the main church of the Dutch community until the new Bovenkerk (better known today as Christ Church Melaka) was completed in 1753.
When the British occupied Melaka in 1824, the church was used as a powder magazine and was allowed to deteriorate further.
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