St Joseph's Novitiate, Pulau Tikus, Penang

St Joseph's NovitiateSt Joseph's Novitiate (1 July, 2006)

The St Joseph's Novitiate is a historic building on grounds bordered to the north by Gurney Drive and south by Kelawai Road. Previously, it was part of the St Joseph's Training College that stood next to the original College General complex. College General moved to its present site on Mount Miriam in 1984; its former site on Gurney Drive is now occupied by Gurney Plaza. The premises of St Joseph's Novitiate was also occupied by the Uplands International School until the school moved to its own campus in Batu Ferringhi.

The College General as well as the St Joseph's Training College are seminaries founded by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (a.k.a. the Christian Brothers, the Lasallian Brothers, the French Christian Brothers, or the De La Salle Brothers), a Roman Catholic religious teaching order that pioneered education of the masses in Malaya as well as elsewhere in the world.

St Joseph's NovitiateThe wall of the St Joseph's Novitiate with the inscription, ANNO SANCTO MCMXXV (1 July, 2006)

The site at Pulau Tikus area which came to be associated with the order was acquired by the De La Salle Brothers in 1916 for a novitiate - quarters for novices - and a training college. The St Joseph's Training College buildings originally directly faced the sea along North Beach as Gurney Drive did not exist yet. St Joseph's functioned as a teacher's training college for those who wished to teach in the missionary schools set up by the La Salle Brothers.

Among the mission schools established are the St Xavier's Institution and Convent Light Street in Penang, St Michael's Institution in Ipoh and St Joseph's Institution (nowadays the Singapore Art Museum) in Singapore.

St Joseph's NovitiateSt Joseph's Novitiate, after restoration, and rebranded as St Joseph's Novitiate, after restoration, and rebranded as St Jo's (23 January, 2012)

The St Joseph's Novitiate building is a two-storey structure that was added in 1925. A chapel occupies the upper floor. It has lovely stained-glass windows, and the statue of Mary trampling a serpent. On the outer wall facing Gurney Drive is the inscription in Latin, ANNO SANCTO MCMXXV, meaning Holy Year 1925, the year it was completed.

After the De La Salle Brothers vacated the Gurney Drive premises in the early 1980s, the site was taken over by the International School of Penang (Uplands). In December 2004, Hunza Properties (Penang) Sdn Bhd bought this parcel of land for RM97.86mil from the De La Salle Brothers for a high rise retail and residential project known as Gurney Paragon.

The former Uplands International School siteThe former Uplands International School site (1 July, 2006)

In the middle of 2006, the international school - which had only been leasing the land and the St. Joseph's Novitiate building, as opposed to having purchased it outright - moved out of the area and relocated to Batu Ferringhi.


23 January, 2013
After a restoration project costing RM10 million, including RM3.5 million to stabilize its foundation, the St Joseph's Novitiate building was converted into a food, beverage, event and entertainment destination known as St Jo's.

St Joseph's NovitiateSt Joseph's Novitiate (1 July, 2006)

Further Reading

Learn about the early history of the Eurasians and the Roman Catholics in Penang through the following pages in Penang Travel Tips:

  1. Church of the Immaculate Conception: This is the church that began as a chapel that the Eurasians established back in 1835.
  2. St Chastan Monument: Monument to one of the two teachers at College General who was martyred in Korea, beatified in 1925 and canonised in 1984.
  3. St Joseph's Novitiate: The St Joseph Training College that was once next to College General, now the site of Gurney Paragon.
  4. Church of the Assumption: Church built by the first wave of Eurasians that came over with Father Arnaud-Antoine Garnault at the invitation of Captain Francis Light.
  5. Penang Eurasian Association: Association of the small community of Eurasians in Penang, based at their former settlement in Pulau Tikus.
  6. Pulau Tikus: District that was formerly comprised a Eurasian and a Burmese/Thai village, today an upscale suburb of George Town.

Other Related Pages

  1. St Jo's
  2. Gurney Paragon
  3. Gurney Paragon opens

St Joseph's NovitiateThe altar at St Joseph's Novitiate (1 July, 2006)

Virgin MaryStatue of Virgin Mary trampling the serpent (1 July, 2006)

St JosephStatue of St Joseph with the infant Jesus (1 July, 2006)

Stained glass, St Joseph's NovitiateStained glass, St Joseph's Novitiate (1 July, 2006)

St John Baptist de la Salle, the Patron Saint of EducationSt John Baptist de la Salle, the Patron Saint of Education (1 July, 2006)

Archangel MichaelArchangel Michael (1 July, 2006)

Angel GabrielAngel Gabriel (1 July, 2006)

Brother SolomonBrother Solomon (1 July, 2006)

National Shrine of the Boy JesusNational Shrine of the Boy Jesus (1 July, 2006)


I would like to thank Rebecca Wilkinson for arranging the photoshoot and documentation, and to Yvonne Teh of Heritage Asia for reviewing the content of this travel feature.

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