Ruins of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Pagar Tras. (17 July, 2015)
Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (GPS: 5.357785, 100.520310) is the ruins of a Catholic church in Pagar Tras, Sungai Lembu, in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. Built in 1882, it bears features resembling the famous Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. The church was founded for the largely Hakka Catholic community who moved to settle in the Sungai Lembu area as farmers.
According to the interpretive board on site, a Catholic mission was established by the Reverend Father Allaid from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Société des Missions étrangères de Paris) who arrived in Pagar Tras in 1866. The area was inhabited by Hakka farmers who probably arrived there due to upheavals in China brought on by famine and the Taiping Rebellion.
The sole remaining belfry of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Pagar Tras (17 July, 2015)
Close-up of the belfry. (17 July, 2015)
Remains of the nave, looking towards the chancel. (17 July, 2015)
Why was this church abandoned? In the aftermath of the Second World War, the country was gripped by Communist terrorism. The villagers of Pagar Tras lived in the crossfire between the government troops and the Communist guerrillas. To prevent the villagers from aiding the communists, the British relocated them out of Pagar Tras. 14 families were moved to Sungai Lembu, another 30 families were transferred to Machang Bubok and the rest resettled in various other places including Kulim, Bukit Mertajam and Penang Island. As a result, the Church of the Sacred Heart had to be abandoned, leaving only the cemetery in function and be visited only on festive days such as All Souls Day. The cemetery holds about a hundred graves.
Meanwhile, a new Church of the Sacred Heart was built in Kulim. Items moved from the old church include the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the stained glass windows. Today the Communist threat is a largely forgotten chapter in the country's history, but the settlement of Pagar Tras was never rebuilt. Thus the ruined Church of the Sacred Heart stands as a reminder of the Hakka farmers who once toiled the land on that site so many decades ago.
By 1965, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Pagar Tras was already abandoned. However the left belfry and roof of the nave were still standing at that time, as shown in this set of photographys by Catriona Kelly, who gives permission to show them here. From these photographs, we have an idea that the roof was supported by wooden columns.
How to go to the ruins of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Take Jalan Kulim heading east from Bukit Mertajam towards Kulim. At Machang Bubok, look out for the junction to Sungai Lembu on your right (see the street view below). Follow the road until you arrive at the turn in to the site, which is still a Catholic cemetery, on your left.
Entrance to the Sacret Heart of Jesus Catholic Cemetery, where the church is located. (17 July, 2015)
Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pagar Tras (17 July, 2015)
Location of Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on map
I have also mentioned the Paris Foreign Missions Society on other pages of my websites including:
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