Carmelite Monastery

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Carmelite Monastery, which sits atop a hill at Bukit Teresa Road, has come a long way since it was established in 1938. During the Second World War, it was converted to become part of an anti-aircraft base by the British and later occupied by the Japanese.
Block 98 Bukit Teresa Road 099750
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Humble Beginnings

Carmelite Monastery’s beginnings trace back to 1934, when Bishop Adrien Devals sent an invitation through the Vicar Apostolic of Bangkok, Monsignor René Perros, to the Carmel of Bangkok, requesting the establishment of a Carmelite monastery in Singapore.

Mother Anne of Jesus, the Foundress and Prioress of the Carmel of Bangkok, agreed to this and the first Carmelite sisters— Mother Therese des Anges (originally from the Carmel of Floreffe in Belgium) and Sister Theresita of the Child Jesus—boarded a boat from Bangkok and arrived two days later in Singapore where they were hosted by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus. A second batch of sisters arrived on the shores of Singapore two weeks later.

Bishop Devals then provided the sisters with a small monastery on top of a hill called Bukit Teresa in Kampong Bahru. The monastery, Carmel of Christ the King was officially established on 11 May 1938, and Mother Therese des Anges was appointed Prioress and Mistress of Novices.

Second World War

The sisters’ lives at the monastery were disrupted shortly after, due to the Second World War. Because the British converted their monastery to become part of an anti-aircraft base, the sisters had to took refuge at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. The monastery was later occupied by the Japanese.

After the war, the sisters came home to a monastery that was looted and decrepit. Along with their chaplain Father Stephen Lee, they sought to rebuild the monastery.

After years of fundraising and community efforts, the sisters added three new wings and a chapel. The Chapel of Christ the King was consecrated by Archbishop Olcomendy in December 1949.

Architectural Design and Features

Carmelite Monastery is made up of several connecting blocks. This includes the monastery complex, the Carmel of Christ the King, and the columbarium. A courtyard that doubles as a garden is at the centre of the monastery.

The buildings are one to two storeyed modern reinforced concrete buildings that are sheltered under hip-roofs with extended eaves for extra protection from the tropical sun and rain.

The Carmel of Christ the King building is often regarded as the focal point of the monastery. Its symmetrical front façade is designed with classical features such as a gable façade topped with a cross, pinnacles at both sides, semi-circular arch windows as well as some geometrical ornaments on wall. The prayer hall of the building is a double-volume-space with multiple large windows at both sides.

Standing the Test of Time

In February 1984, a columbarium was built and the remains of some of the late sisters were cremated and placed in the niches.

At the time of writing, the monastery is home to 20 nuns, ranging from novices and postulants to those who have made their final vows.

The monastery has also grown beyond the shores of Singapore. The Carmelites set up monasteries in Seremban, Malaysia, in 1981, and in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2005.

Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of September 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.