Melaka Heritage Tip :: St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone @ Town Square

St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone

St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone has always been the seat of the governing bodies from the time Melaka was founded to very recently. The establishment of a kingdom at the locality was due to its commanding position facing the river mouth and the Straits of Malacca and protected from the interior by a vast swampy area. Known as Bukit Melaka during the Malay Sultanate era, it’s been a royal abode as well as the seat of power of the Sultans. The Portuguese simply called the area as ‘Oiteiro’ or Hill. They built a fortress around this hill, which was completed in 1548 and stayed within the walls. On top of it, they also built among other things a church. The Dutch, who took over the church, turned it into a Protestant church and named it St. Paul’s Church. The hill was renamed St. Paul’s Hill and remained so ever since. The hill also continued to be the seat of power of the British-Melaka government and the state government of independent Melaka.

Within the St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone there are many historical buildings and monuments around the Hill and urban square established and built either by the Portuguese, the Dutch or the British that have been preserved and remain unchanged. Mainly located on Kota Road (Jalan Kota), Laxamana Road (Jalan Laksamana), on St. Paul’s Hill or around the Town Square, these buildings are fine evidence of long established colonial powers in Melaka.

The more important buildings in the St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone are:

A’Farmosa, Jalan Kota
Bastion House, Jalan Kota
1963 Building, Jalan Kota
Department of Museum and Antiquity, Jalan Kota
Islamic Museum, Jalan Kota
St. Francis Institution, Jalan Kota
Banda Hilir Primary School, Jalan Kota
Sacred Heart Canossian Convent, Jalan Kota
Literature Museum, Jalan Kota
Architecture Museum, Jalan Kota Democratic Museum, Jalan Kota
Governor’s Museum, St. Paul’s Hill
Ruin of St. Paul’s Church, St. Paul’s Hill
Replica of Malay Sultanate Palaca, St. Paul’s Hill
Stadthuys, Town Square
Christ Church, Town Square
Clock Tower, Town Square
Fountain, Town Square
St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Jalan Laksamana
Several shophouses, Jalan Laksamana

The Town Square

The Town Square or locally referred to as the Dutch Square used to be the hub of the town since its earliest foundation. It housed the key buildings during the Dutch period in the form of the Stadthuys and the Christ Church with a fountain and clock tower at the center.

The strategic location of the town square with its adjacent important public buildings such as Stadthuys, reflects the significance of this area as the centre of the town. Since the beginning, the town started at the river mouth due to its port activities.

The Malacca Clock Tower was built in 1886 in honour of a successful Chinese tycoon named Tan Beng Swee. While the green colour Queen Victoria’s Fountain of Melaka was built in 1904 by the British to commemorate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.

Therefore, the hub of the town centre was at the site of the square due to its close proximity to the river mouth. This square has not been altered since the Dutch period except for the resurfacing of its roads. The composition of the buildings in the square reflects the character of the townscape typical of a European town, where the civic ambience of the place was heightened by the presence of major civic buildings.

Leading to the Town Square is a parallel street to the river known as Jalan Laksamana. This narrow street creates a strong sense of enclosure, with many of the buildings consisting of the traditional shop houses. The historical building located on the street is St. Francis Xavier Church, which is designed to resemble a Portuguese Church. The presence of a large church in the strategic part of the town center suggests the strong influence of the colonial rulers in the development of the city in the past.

The nearby Tan Kim Seng Bridge across the Melaka River marks the site of the original 14th century timber bridge, which was attacked and occupied by the Portuguese before they conquered the palace ground.

The bridge was also the original location of the Portuguese’ bridge, the Dutch drawbridge and the British cast iron bridge before it was replaced by the present concrete bridge. The view from the bridge towards the city resembles that of a fishing village with the buildings built close to the water’s edge.

This bridge symbolized the link between the two sides of the city that brought together the citizens and the rulers. This is reminiscent of the humble beginnings of Melaka as a fishing village prior to the Melaka Sultanate rule and way before its peak as a major trading port in the world. The buildings along the river were built close to the water’s edge and in the past the buildings used to front the river when the river was a lifeline to the city.

Category: Heritage @ Melaka