A cloister corridor featuring restored floors and a variation of Corinthian columns.
Photo © JE Nilsson and Cheryl M. Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010
Singapore’s night life is a vibrant one and CHIJMES, located in the heart of the city center that’s a short walk from the river banks of Boat Quay, is one of the coziest places to visit by night. The scene of people mingling, moving to the beat and generally having a good time is a familiar one.
But walking through the early 1900s built CHIJMES (now brilliantly restored) in the morning has a different feel than being there at night. The entire place alive with people, good food and music just the night before, is absolutely still of activity. You witness tables and chairs arranged in good effort after the spoils of the night before and the mynahs true to their Sanskrit etymology, bright and cheerful, hardly minding the disarrayed furniture, walk the lawns with you and bid you good morning as if welcoming you to their turf.
Along Bras Basah Road.
A view of the Chapel.
View from a corridor of the Chapel.
At the heart of CHIJMES is the Chapel or what is known today as CHIJMES Hall in neo-classical gothic architecture, replete with restored stained glass art works. It serves as a popular event hall these days, catering from weddings and solemnisations to corporate functions.
Looking down into the courtyard of CHIJMES.
What you see as you walk through CHIJMES in the quiet hours of the morning, is how this place was once what it was many years ago – a warm, playful and comforting environment for a group of girls growing up and studying under the care of Catholic missionary nuns that formed part of a group of schools belonging to the Convent of the Holy Infant of Jesus (CHIJ). CHIJMES was formerly an IJ-School, if not the earliest established in Singapore in the mid-1800s.
I grew up in one of these IJ-Schools in Singapore, and while the IJ spirit and the girlish laughter was reminiscent in the echoes of the corridors, the architecture of CHIJMES reminds me rather more of another de La Salle school I spent a lot of time at when young. The strong pillars, the tiled floors and the twirling staircases leading up to the second story of the building called to mind a time of my life when everything was simpler, everything was new and unexplained and waiting to be discovered. Just beautiful.