Christ Church is Melaka’s number 1 tourist attraction! And the Stadthuys, otherwise known as the “Red Square” is its most visited town square! London has Trafalgar Square, Melaka has Stadthuys! To tourists who don’t know where to start their city visit, this should be your first stop!
From KL, my Delima Bus took 2 hours to reach Melaka Sentral. Upon arrival, I hopped on Town Bus no. 17 (green), and paid my 1.50 ringgit fare ($0.30 or PhP21.50). The terminal is 4 ½ kilometers east of the city center (Heritage Trail). We slid past shops and buildings until we were plying Jalan Laksamana, heading towards the Red Square. I told the bus conductor, “Stadthuys!” And he nodded with disinterest. The shops and convenience stores turned into a row of uniformly painted red buildings. I knew I was close! These newly painted “red” buildings were to harmonize with the Dutch heritage so proudly flaunted in Melaka! After all, the Dutch were their lords for 183 years!
I got the nod from the conductor so when the bus made its stop, I jumped from my bus and into the magnificent Red Square – the Stadthuys! There were multitudes of tourists, and the atmosphere invoked a festive party of anonymous strangers! In spite of myself, I gasped from the scenery before me! It was just beautiful – like trotting ever so gently back in time! And it’s not even my first time here!
To my left was Christ Church, the path leading to it was lined with trishaws gaudily decked with a kaleidoscope of plastic flowers.
Christ Church was built by the ruling Dutch empire in 1741 to commemorate the centenary (100 years) of the capture of Malacca from the Portuguese. This was to take over the Portuguese-constructed St. Paul’s Church (then called Bovenkerk) up the hill as the primary place of worship for the Dutch. Originally painted in white, the building was painted red in 1911 – the distinctive color scheme which has become a hallmark for the Dutch regime!
Photography isn’t allowed inside, but what we see isn’t as spectacular as I’d have expected. The wooden pews and frieze of “The Last Supper” were hand crafted, but the more interesting bits were the tombstones bearing inscriptions from Portuguese as well as Armenian traders. One of which we share here:
“ I, Jacob, grandson of Shamier, an Armenian of a respectable family whose name I keep, was born in Persia near Inefa, where my parents now forever sleep. Fortune brought me to distant Malacca, which my remains in bondage to keep. Separated from the world on 7th July 1774 A.D. at the age of 29, my mortal remains were deposited in this spot of the ground which I purchased.”
With the change of hand, Christ Church was later consecrated as an Anglican Church, as it is now. The weathercock atop the bell tower is a British addition!
The Stadthuys (which literally means “town hall”) – or the Red Square – was built 9 years after the Dutch started their rule in 1641. This became the office of the Dutch Governor and his deputy! These days, it is home to the Museum of History and Ethnography – the city’s premier museum. If there is a single museum worth visiting in Melaka, this would be it! However, if you only have a few hours on a day tour, would you rather spend them indoors?
The cobbled lane between Christ Church and Stadthuys have souvenir shops that cater to the wealthy tourists. This isn’t your place for souvenir items – if you’re scrimping! But it’s nevertheless a pleasant stroll to take.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
Part 1 - Overview: A Little History of Melaka - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/08/melaka-giddy-with-delight-in-new-old.html
Our first ever Melakan visit here - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2007/12/fascinating-malacca-malaysia.html
Up next: Jonker's Street and Melaka River