St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia

The Shrine Of St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia

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Why I Am Writing This

I am sure most of my readers have heard of St Anne. What about St. Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia? Recently, certain events had led me to visit this church several times in a span of a few weeks. We locals are familiar with St. Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam. Bukit Mertajam is located in the northern state of Penang, Malaysia. My son is now recovering from his illness called Wegener's disease, and through his journey of medical treatments and along the path of recovery, he has decided to become a Catholic. He was baptised on St. Anne's Feast Day on 26 July 2014. As we live near the St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam, it was a convenient choice for my son to attend Sunday church service there. It was during those Sunday church visits that I took a number of photos of this spacious and beautiful church and its surrounding area. The whole church area is actually called St. Anne's Sanctuary, as it accommodates more than the main church. Realizing its rich history and interesting historical developments, I decided to write about this beautiful church and its history.

The New St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam

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St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia

It all started way back in the 1840s, when early Chinese Catholics began settling around the small remote town of Bukit Mertajam. A French Catholic priest, Fr. Adolphe Couellan decided to built a chapel on top of a hill 2 kilometers away from the town. The foundation and corner stones of this first chapel can still be seen at its original site of the St. Anne's Hill today. The earliest records found in the parish were that of baptisms in 1846, making that year the parish was established. Subsequently, with the increase in the Catholic population in the area, a bigger chapel was built in 1865 the foundation stones can still be found behind the present St. Anne's Water Fount. In 1888, another French Catholic priest, Fr. F. P. Sorin built a bigger chapel which still stands majestically today. It is now called the Shrine of St. Anne or fondly called simply the "Old Church". Fr. Sorin passed away on the auspicious St. Anne's Feast Day on 26 July 1907, and was buried in the main aisle of the Shrine of St. Anne, marked by a granite tombstone which is still intact today.

Interior Of Shrine Of St. Anne

The granite slab at bottom of the photo si the tombstone of Fr. Sorin
The granite slab at bottom of the photo si the tombstone of Fr. Sorin | Source

Chapel of the Paris Foreign Missions Society

The Shrine of St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam, bears similar structure as this Chapel.
The Shrine of St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam, bears similar structure as this Chapel. | Source

The Shrine Of St. Anne

The original Church of St. Anne built in 1888 is still in its pristine condition. If you compare the interior with that of the Chapel of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, it bears a resemblance. After all, the St. Anne's Shrine was commissioned by a French priest, Fr. Sorin who was from the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (French: Société des Missions étrangères de Paris, short M.E.P.). The original Church of St. Anne is now aptly called the Shrine of St. Anne, after the completion of the new and bigger church in 2002,. The new church thus takes over the original name, St Anne's Church.

The Shrine of St. Anne is set on a hillock with 24 granite steps leading to the Shrine. Many faithful devotees will climb the steps by kneeling down.

Devotees Climbing The Shrine Of St. Anne's Steps By Kneeling

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The New St. Anne's Church

The new St. Anne's church was built under the supervision of Fr. Michael Cheah. The construction began at the end of 1998 and was completed in the middle of 2002 in time for celebrating St. Anne's Feast Day. The Church of St. Anne was officially dedicated to St. Anne on Friday, 26 July 2002. The new St. Anne's Church is easily one of he biggest churches in the region, and can accommodate 2000 worshipers. The floor plan of the church is that of a cross, with the main alter at the top intersection. The hall is most imposing with very high ceilings and well-ventilated finned Minangkabau roofs, ideal for the local tropical climate.

The New St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam

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The Impressive And Spacious Interior Of The New Church

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Father Henry Rajoo

Father Henry, the current parish priest of BM St. Anne's Church
Father Henry, the current parish priest of BM St. Anne's Church

The St. Anne's Sanctuary

The St.Anne's Church and its surrounding structures, including the old Shrine of St. Anne are collectively called the St. Anne's Sanctuary. It is an imposing sanctuary for Catholic worship. With all the newly erected structures, alongside the iconic elegant old St. Anne's Shrine, the Penang State Government has made St. Anne's Sanctuary an official tourist attraction.

The most prominent structure within the the St. Anne's Sanctuary is the new St. Anne's Church. In front of the new church is "Dataran St. Anne" or St. Anne's Square which features the statues of St. Anne and Mary, surrounded by water fountains. There is also a new dormitory building for accommodating pilgrims especially during the St. Anne's Feast Day celebration in July every year. There are also the new parish office, parish community center and presbytery. There is also a newly erected St. Anne's Water Fount, nearby the Shrine of St. Anne, whereby devotees may collect the water for blessing.

In 2006, the "Statues of Passion" with 15 "stations of the cross" were erected around the main church compound, enhancing its tourist image as well. A grotto dedicated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary was opened on St. Anne's Feast Day, 26 July 2008.

The current (2014) parish priest is Fr. Henry Rajoo, an Indian Malaysian, who conducts masses in English, Tamil and Mandarin. Yes, Chinese Manadrin!

Layout Plan Of St. Anne's Sanctuary, Bukit Mertajam

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Overview Of St. Anne's Sanctuary, Bukit Mertajam

The New Church on the left and the old Shrine on the far right.
The New Church on the left and the old Shrine on the far right. | Source

One Of The Stations Of The Cross

My adopted son Kenneth on the right with his Godfather.
My adopted son Kenneth on the right with his Godfather. | Source

The Water Fount

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The Annual St. Anne's Candlelight Procession

The Bukit Mertajam St. Anne's Church is famous for its annual St. Anne's candlelight procession as part of its Feast Day celebration. The actual feast day of St Anne is on 26 July, but it is celebrated for ten days at Bukit Mertajam St. Anne's Church, either on the actual day or immediately after the actual day. St. Anne's Feast Day celebrations include the famous candlelight procession along the streets of the Bukit Mertajam town, a nine-day novena and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During this period, the whole St. Anne's Sanctuary and its surrounding areas will be jammed with more than a hundred thousand local and foreign pilgrims and tourists from other countries.

St. Anne's Feast Candlelight Procession, Bukit Mertajam

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Cherok Tokun Rock Relic

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The Cherok Tokun Rock Relic

When writing about the Bukit Mertajam St. Anne's Church, it is inevitable to include a short note on this ancient rock relic located within the church compound. This ancient rock or megalith has ancient inscriptions on it, tracing back to early years of settlers from India. The inscriptions were in the Sanskrit language. From investigations, these inscriptions pointed to the ancient kingdom existing in the area around the 5th century. For its historical value, the Museum and Antiquities Department gazetted it as a protected antiquity and built a shed over the rock in 1973.

Figurine Of St.Anne With Mary

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Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpiece

St. Anne with Mary and infant Jesus
St. Anne with Mary and infant Jesus | Source

A Little Bit About St. Anne

The name "Anne" is derived from Hebrew "Hannah" meaning "grace" or "favor". "Anne" is also spelt as "Ann" or "Anna". Tradition depicts St. Anne as the mother of Virgin Mary who was the mother of Jesus. Although not written in the Bible, Anne was given credence in the non-biblical gospel of James. St. Anne was born in Bethlehem and married a shepherd, Joachim. They had no children after 20 years of marriage. One day Joachim went into the desert to plead with God to give him a child. Then an angel appeared to announce that soon Anne would give birth to a daughter and she was to name her Mary and dedicate to God. When Mary was fourteen they betrothed her to Joseph of Nazareth and so Mary's story continues with the birth of her son, Jesus, and his life on earth.


In the year 550 a church was built in honor of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It is believed to be near where Anne, Joachim and Mary lived. Since the Seventh Century the Greek and Russian Churches have celebrated feasts honoring St. Joachim and St. Anne. The Western Churches began to celebrate the feast of St. Anne in the Sixteenth Century. The feast of St. Anne is July 26th (western) or July 25th (eastern calendar).


The most prominent St. Anne's patron symbol is St. Anne wearing a red robe and green mantle, holding a book with little Mary by her side. The most famous painting of St. Anne and Mary is, of course, the oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

St. Anne is so popular that she is the patroness of so many types of persons and trades, which include childless couples, unmarried women, homemakers, housewives, pregnant women, women in labor, mothers, grandparents, equestrians, cabinet-makers, carpenters, miners and sailors.

She is also the patron saint of many locations. Some of which are Brittany, France; Quebec, Canada; Santa Ana, California; Norwich, Connecticut; Detroit, Michigan; Adjuntas, Puerto Rico; Santa Ana, El Salvador; Jucuarán, El Salvador; New Hampshire; Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain; Hagonoy, Bulacan and Santa Ana, Taguig City, Philippines; St.Anne Shrine, Malicboy, Pagbilao, Quezon, Philippines; Santana, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Saint Anne, Illinois; Sainte Anne Island, Seychelles; Baie Sainte Anne, Praslin Island, Seychelles; South Vietnam; and of course the Catholic population of Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia. The parish church of Vatican City is Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri.

A Visit To St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia

Penang's St Anne's Novena And Feast Day Celebrations

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