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09 Jul 2017

Historical art told through stained glass (translation)
Lianhe Zaobao, Sunday, 9 Jul 2017

The three windows at the apse of St Andrew’s Cathedral are each installed with 15 colourful stained glass panels that commemorate Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, and Singapore’s two governors, John Crawfurd and William Butterworth – carrying each of their coat of arms.
 Assistant professor Yeo Kang Shua from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, who also previously worked in the then Preservation of Monuments Board, worked on the restoration of the stained glass windows with stained glass restoration expert Ms Swati Chandgadkar five-years ago. Here is a brief summary of his interview.
 An incident arose during the restoration process. The team suspected that the positions of stained glass depicting the coat of arms of the two governors, John Crawfurd and William Butterworth, were swapped. John Crawfurd, a Scotsman, was governor from 1823 to 1826, while William Butterworth an Englishman, was governor from 1843 to 1855.
 Yeo Kang Shua said that the restoration team found that the memorial panel’s text for the stained glass commemorating Butterworth pointed to the Scottish coat of arms that featured a deer’s antlers.
 The team contrasted images of the stained glass with old photographs from the beginning of the last century and the documentation from of the College of Arms, confirming that the two men's coat of arms were swapped. After reporting this to the authorities, they then corrected the mistake.
 It is almost impossible for the team to investigate how or why the coat of arms was swapped. Yeo Kang Shua said that one possibility was that the stained glass may have undergone restoration before and the person in charge of replacing the stained glass may have swapped it by accident.
 It is worth mentioning that many of the historic churches and Christian churches are concentrated in the city center. Yeo Kang Shua said that Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, during the development and town planning of the Singapore, already delineated the space around the current location of St Andrew’s Cathedral as a place of worship. He said that at that time, many people were illiterate and stained glass was used to show the biblical story as its main theme. With the decline of illiteracy, stained glass, although still thematically religious, are also appreciated by people as a form of art.
 “In addition to works of art, we can also view stained glass as part of social history. Who appointed artisans to make stained glass? What person or workshop was responsible for the project? Is the stained glass produced locally or imported? We also name stained glass after its sponsors with a memorial panel and commemorate it with some text.”
 Yeo Kang Shua added that each workshop has its own unique style. The stained glass in Singapore, were produced from workshops that were from the United Kingdom and Europe, such as Belgium and France.
 How should the general public appreciate stained glass? Yeo Kang Shua said: “Just appreciate stained glass like an art piece, like appreciating a picture, but in a different setting, as the stained glass cannot leave the building. At the start, one can observe the stained glass’ colours and scale, after which one can examine the stained glass style and try to understand the meaning behind it.”