- 2008/08/23 The mystery of the cross on Malim Hill

The quaint 19th-century Chapel of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) on top of Malim Hill along the old Malacca-Alor Gajah trunk road has been shrouded in a mix of mystery and legend for over a hundred years.

The chapel's origins has been laced in uncertainty since the discovery of a wooden cross on the spot where the present chapel stands.

A small wooden chapel was built on the site between 1870 and 1880 after the discovery of the cross. This chapel was replaced by the present brick building.

Image: Rev. Fr. Moses Lui presiding over the religious service in front of the chapel.
Rev. Fr. Moses Lui presiding over the religious service in front of the chapel.

Over the years, the cross has attracted thousands of pilgrims to mark the Feast of Santa Cruz on September 14 (or the Sunday closest to the date).

More than 12,000 people from Malaysia and Singapore thronged the hill over three nights before spending the morning observing the feast this year.

For many, making the trip to Malim Hill is an annual pilgrimage borne out of favours granted through the intercession of the old cross or the Almighty in their lives.

In their own way, Catholics and non-Christians offered prayers, gave donations and lit candles for prayers answered and grace received.

The original cross is said to have been chipped away by eager pilgrims seeking a piece of the religious relic.

Image: Pilgrims singing hymns while holding lit candles.
Pilgrims singing hymns while holding lit candles.

Located between a rubber estate and a Chinese cemetery, the chapel under the jurisdiction of Malacca's St. Peter's Church is only open during the feast, which was initiated over 150 years ago.

The story of the origins of the Feast of Santa Cruz is interesting, and there are different versions depending on the source.

Some accounts tell of a devout Catholic lady from Kubu who fell ill. All possible medical aid was given to her to no avail.

One night in her dream, an old man appeared and told her that a cross would be found on top of Malim Hill.

A couple of days later, with the assistance of neighbours, the woman's family found a 46cm cross on the hill partially covered by a termite nest.

Another version attributes the finding of the cross to a child of Joanna Sta Maria from the Portuguese community in Kubu.

Image: Christians following the religious service with the use of prayer books.
Christians following the religious service with the use of prayer books.

The child supposedly dreamt on three consecutive nights about a cross to be found on Malim Hill.

Other stories are more prosaic about the feast's origins.

According to the book Survival Through Human Values by the late Father M.J. Pintado, a former parish priest of St. Peter's, Malacca was a Catholic town during Portuguese rule from 1511 to 1641 and there was a church or chapel on every street and hill.

The cross may well have been a grave marker or affixed to a place of worship which went into ruin during the 154-year Dutch occupation of Malacca, noted Father Pintado.

There is another account noted in J.V. Mills translation of Eredias 1613 description of Malacca.

It stated that Malays in the vicinity were curious about lights emanating from the hill and located the wooden cross upon inspection. They then informed St. Peter's Church of the discovery.

Mystery was added when lights or an apparition of the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared when the chapel was rebuilt and consecrated by the church.

Whatever the origins, the Feast of Santa Cruz will continue to draw pilgrims to Malacca.

The feast has become well known like the Good Friday celebrations at St. Peter's Church in late March or early April and the Feast of St. Francis Xavier at St. Paul's Hill in early December.

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