Discover with Timothy Tye
Church of St Anne, Bukit Mertajam

Start here

Church of St. Anne, Bukit MertajamChurch of St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam (25 November, 2007)

The Church of St. Anne (GPS: 5.352454, 100.477285) in Cherok Tokun, Bukit Mertajam is quite likely the biggest church complex in the country. The present church building, completed in 2002, sits on sprawling grounds that includes the Old Church, the Stations of the Cross, the residential facility and other sites, collectively known as the Sanctuary of St Anne.

The St Anne Church of Bukit Mertajam traces its beginning to early Chinese and Indian Catholics from Batu Kawan who settled in the foothills of Bukit Mertajam. The early Catholics were peasants who first settled in Batu Kawan in 1833, but circumstances forced them to move on to various locations, among them Permatang Tinggi and Machang Bubok, in their search for suitable land for cultivation, before establishing themselves in Bukit Mertajam.

The interior of the Church of St AnneThe interior of the Church of St Anne (25 November, 2007)

The Church of St. Anne was started by French missionaries from the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris, or simply M.E.P), an organisation of secular priests and lay persons who have been active in missionary work in the Far East since the 17th century. The missionaries visited the believers in Batu Kawan, and from there continued to Bukit Mertajam. Even in those early days, there were already Catholic converts among the Hakka and Indian farmers of the area.

St. Anne is regarded as the mother of Mary, the virgin who gave birth to Jesus Christ. Catholics observe her feast day on 26 July every year. St. Anne is believed to have been born around 50BC in either Nazareth or Bethlehem. The Catholics revere St. Anne as the patroness of cabinet makers and miners, as well as those engaged in the craft of spinning, weaving, embroidery, sewing and other such skills.

The ceiling design of the Church of St AnneThe ceiling design of the Church of St Anne (25 November, 2007)

The earliest Catholic chapel in Bukit Mertajam was erected on top of a hillock in 1846 by visiting priest Father Adolphe Couellan, considering the was no proper place for the parishioners to worship. The chapel was called the Chapel of St Anne, as St Anne is a popular saint among the French missionaries. This chapel is no longer standing today. Its site is marked by the 15th and final Station of the Cross which Catholic devotees make on their pilgrimage circuit.

The growth of Catholic believers in Bukit Mertajam eventually necessitated the building of a larger chapel, which was completed in 1865. This second chapel, also no longer extant, is just behind the present wall of taps of Saint Anne's Water, a flow of spring water that is naturally filtered by the soil, and can be taken by all. St. Anne's Water is said to be cleaner than tap water.

The Shrine of St Anne, popularly called the Old ChurchThe Shrine of St Anne, popularly called the Old Church (25 November, 2007)

The landmark Old Church of St Anne, which is still standing today, was built in 1888, under the leadership of Father F.P. Sorin. He died in 1907, right on the day of the St. Anne Feast, and was buried at the entrance to the Old Church. Now called the "Shrine of St Anne", the Old Church remains the main focus of the annual Feast of St Anne. It has beautiful stained glass above its altar which dates back to 1896.

In the aftermath of the Second World War in 1948, communist activities threatened the political stability of the then Malaya. Due to Communist activities in the surrounding hills and forests, the grounds of the Church of St Anne became a prohibited area. Fearful that the Chinese community in Bukit Mertajam would be sympathetic to the Communist movement, the British Government relocated them to new villages.

The interior of the Shrine of St AnneThe interior of the Shrine of St Anne (25 November, 2007)

Being in a "black area", the site of the Old Church was out-of-bounds. For a while, church services had to be conducted at the Convent a distance away. In 1957, Father Thomas Chin had an interim church building erected to serve the relocated congregation. This new church (the fourth St Anne's Church) is located next to Kim Sen School, and served out the Emergency years. For the next forty-eight years, it was regarded as the "new St Anne's church". Today the building is still standing, and is now regarded as the St Joachim Hall.

In 1977, Father Peter Pang became the priest of the Parish of St Anne. By then the prohibition over the Old Church site has been lifted. This enabled Father Peter to lay the ground work for the congregation to return to the grounds of the Old Church. To begin, he had an altar shed built in front of the Old Church. Restoration work was carried out on the Old Church. The stained glass windows which were dismantled when the congregation moved out, were reinstalled, as was the church bell - originally the church had two but, but lost one of them during the Japanese Occupation.

Grave of Father F.P. Sorin, at the entrance of the Old ChurchGrave of Father F.P. Sorin, at the entrance of the Old Church (25 November, 2007)

Gravestone of Father F.P. SorinGravestone of Father F.P. Sorin (25 November, 2007)

As the number of pilgrims attending the Feast of St Anne continued to grow, it soon became necessary to construct an even larger church complex. Construction of the new church complex began on May 2000. It was completed and ready for dedication on the St Anne's Feast Day of 26 July, 2002. This new church structure blends Minangkabau roof design with Gothic architecture, establishing itself as one of the most imposing structures in Penang. The church has a floor plan of a cross. The spacious interior has a seating capacity of 1800, easily making it the biggest church building in the northern region of Malaysia.

With the opening of the new church, which is henceforth called the Church of St. Anne, the Old Church is renamed the Shrine of St Anne. It continues to be the focus point of the celebration of St. Anne Feast today.

St Anne SquareSt Anne Square, with statue of St Anne and a young virgin Mary (25 November, 2007)

The St. Anne Feast of Bukit Mertajam remains one of the 20 biggest Catholic pilgrimages in the world. It draw between 40,000 to 60,000 devotees every year. Within its sprawling grounds is the site of the Cherok Tokun Relics, boulders carved with ancient Sanskrit inscriptions said to be 1500 years old.

The Roman Catholic Cemetery of the St Anne's Parish is separated from the St Anne's Sanctuary. It is located a short distance away, on Jalan Kubor, off Jalan Kulim.

Getting there by public transport

From the Penang Sentral Bus Terminal, take Rapid Penang bus 709. The Church of St Anne is on the left side of Jalan Kulim, the main road.

St Anne's WaterSt Anne's Water (25 November, 2007)

Stations of the Cross: Station 14, Jesus laid in a tombStations of the Cross: Station 14, Jesus laid in a tomb (25 November, 2007)

Location of the St Anne Church on the map

List of Penang Tourist Attractions, Churches in Penang and Churches in Malaysia

Add your shop/business to this website

The Penang Travel Tips website is a huge website that documents everything in Penang. On top of the hundreds of streets and tourist attractions, I also add in hundreds of shops and businesses.

If you operate a shop business in Penang, or anywhere in Malaysia or Singapore, contact me to add your business/shop into my website. It only a one-time fee, and your shop/business will be listed by location and category, helping your would-be customers find you. To find out more, CONTACT ME

Visiting Penang? Find the lowest hotel room rates here!

Use our search engine to compare room rates from different hotel booking websites, to find the one that's lowest.

Travelling somewhere?

If you're travelling somewhere, use our online engine to find the online booking site that offers you the best room rates.

Book your hotel room here

If you're coming to Penang, book your hotel room online with Agoda. Agoda offers the best prices on 2,000,000+ properties worldwide. Start here.

Local Guided Tours of Penang

If you are coming to Penang and need someone to show you around, I can arrange for you a licensed tour guide to take you around. Guides charge a fixed fee of RM360 for taking a small group of up to 10 people on 4-hour walking tours. Walking tours exceeding 4 hours is charged an additional RM90 per hour. Tours are tailored to guest requirement. For more details, contact tour coordinator. Other types of tours also available. For details, click here.

Looking for a book? Get it from Book Depository with free delivery worldwide!

I have just discovered Book Depository, a subsidiary of, and I love it. This is where you can buy books and have them sent to you. But unlike Amazon, when you purchase using Book Depository, you enjoy free delivery worldwide. Give it a try today!

 Latest Pages on my websites

Here's a list of the latest pages I have added or updated on my website.

My YouTube Videos

Timothy Tye YouTube Channel

Check out my YouTube Channel and don't forget to subscribe!

Take the CAT Free Feeder Bus

What's the best way to see Penang on a budget? Take the bus! In Penang, there are at least 12 absolutely FREE bus routes which cover almost every major neighbourhood on Penang Island and Penang Mainland. All you need to do is hop aboard!


 List of 797 Streets in Penang

 Vital Links

Book Your Express Bus Ticket | Hire a car | Our Recipes | Facebook Posts | Just Curious | Not In The Dictionary | Our Flowering Garden

 List of 3623 Sights in Penang

 Vital Links

Book Your Express Bus Ticket | Engage a Tour Guide for Penang | What's Up at Penang Hotels | Hire a car | Facebook Posts | Our Recipes | Our Flowering Garden | Guide Book on Penang Durians

 Discover the World

About Me

Thank you for visiting my website. I started it in 2003, and today it has over twenty thousand pages of information. My name is . I would be very pleased if you enjoy the information I have put together.

As a Christian, I hope that through this website, I am able to deliver God's message to all who need it, anywhere in the world. If you are open to hearing it, please read God's Good News to You.

If you wish to contact me, please use this contact form. And don't forget to follow me on Facebook. See you!

Copyright © 2003-2019 Timothy Tye. All Rights Reserved.