St. George’s Church in Penang

St. George’s Church is located in George Town on Penang Island. Built in 1818, St. George’s Church is the oldest purpose built Anglican Church in South East Asia and designated by the Malaysian Government as one of 50 National Treasures of Malaysia. St. George’s Church is an elegant white building designed to incorporate Georgian, Neo-Classical and Palladian architectural styles.

About St. George’s Church

The construction of St. George’s Church was a massive undertaking on the part of the East India Company, who held a charter to run Penang, then known as Prince of Wales Island, as a colony for the British Crown. There is a memorial to the founder of the colony, Sir Francis Light, directly in front of the Church, Sir Francis Light is credited with creating the first plan to build an Anglican Church in Penang although he died in 1794 some 24 years before the first service was held at St. George’s Church.

St George's Church in George Town, Penang
St George’s Church in George Town, Penang

In order to construct the church the East India Company sent a large ship to the colony from India containing Indian convicts and large trunks of Senegalese mahogany trees. The convicts did all the building work and the massive wooden posts were used as supports inside the Greek style columns at the front of the church.

St George's Church has twice weekly services in English
St George’s Church has twice weekly services in English

St. George’s Church was damaged by bombing in World War II and looted by the invading Japanese forces. In 1945, after recapturing the island, the British Government funded extensive repair work to the church bringing it back into use. The Church went into decline again after Malaysia became independent in 1957 as the new formed government of Malaysia stopped providing funding for maintenance. Large structures like St. George’s Church are expensive to maintain and the problem is compounded by the use of antiquated building materials and building methods in the original construction. Without a funding stream the church simply couldn’t stay open. Fortunately the Malaysian Government had a change of heart in 2007 and decided to mark the 50 year anniversary of independence by classifying a number of colonial era buildings as heritage sites and provided funding for their repair. In many ways the renewal and reopening of St. George’s Church in Penang is symbolic of Malaysia coming to terms with its past as a colony and embracing the positives of this period of its history.

  • St. George’s Church holds services in English on Wednesdays and Sundays and is open to visitors Monday to Thurday from 10:00 to 16:00

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