Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches
Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches
~ Compilation of Churches of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
Kolkata (formally Calcutta) is home to several churches catering to different sects and sub – sects of Christianity. Apart from the well known Protestant and Catholic sects Calcutta (Kolkata) also houses churches belonging to the Orthodox sect including Armenian, Syrian and Greek orthodox sub – sets.
Armenian Church (1724)
~ Oldest Christian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
Armenians claims to be the first Europeans to settle in Calcutta. But unlike the Portuguese their relation with the English has always been friendly. The Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) built in 1724 has the distinction of being the oldest church in Calcutta (Kolkata).
Over the years the Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) has undergone several modification and extension, including the inclusion of the clock tower. Sadly Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) oldest church is nothing much spectacular in design and beauty, but it’s compound shaded with ancient mango & jamun trees serves as an oasis of peace amoungst one of Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) bussiest locality.
The Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) is surrounded by a graveyard contain a large number of graves, among which the most interesting, or rather controversial, is the grave of Rezabeebeh Sookias who departed from this world on 11th June 1630, making it the oldest Christian grave of Calcutta (Kolkata). But historian claims that the mortal remains of Mrs Sookias were removed to the Armenian Church graveyard at a later date.
More on Armenian Christmas (6 Jan. 2012) Celebration at Armenian Church
Mission Church (1770)
~ Oldest Protestant Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
Mission Church the second oldest Christian Church of Calcutta and the oldest Protestant Church of the city was founded in 1770 by Swedish Missionary Re. John Kiernander. After the construction of the St. John’s Church the Mission Church came to be known as the Old Church. Today it is erroneously known as the Old Mission Church.
The Church was also popularly known as Lal Girja, literally meaning Red Church, for its unplastered brick red finish, but sadly the exteriors have long been plastered off. The church also constructed a towering steeple which toppled during the earthquake of 1897.
Today the church is encroached by high rises on both sides and vehicles of all sort, belonging to the Kolkata Police, are parked infron of the church, blocking its views. But the interior is still grand with long colonnaded corridors leading to the stained glass decorated alter.
St. John’s Church (1787)
~ Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) first Anglical Cathedral ~
Built by architect James Agg the St. John’s church is built with a combination of brick and stone and was commonly known as the “Pathure Girja” (Stone Church). St. John’s was built in the lines of St.Martin’s in the fields, London. The St. John’s Church contains beautiful marble bass relief work. wood curving, stain glass and paintings including Zoffani’s famous Last Supper.
The land for the St. John’s Church was donated by the Maharaja Nabo Kishen Bahadur the founder of the Shovabazar Raj Family. The foundation stone was laid by the laid by Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India on 6 April 1784.
The St. John’s church compound, which was once a graveyard, contains several graves and memorials including the grave of Job Charnock, considered as the founder of the city.
Portuguese Church (1799)
~ Cathedral Church of the Calcutta (Kolkata) Catholics ~
Historical evidences indicate that the Portuguese arrived in Calcutta (Kolkata) much before Job Charnok, but the present Portuguese Church at Calcutta (Kolkata) dates back only to 1799 more than a hundred years after Charnok’s arrival.
Dedicated to Rosary Virgin Mary, the Portuguese Church serves as a Cathedral Church for the Catholic Christian’s of Calcutta (Kolkata).
Built in typical Catholic style the Portuguese Church comes in with a beautifully decorated triangular pediment, flanked on either side by two domed towers and an extended portico with arched entrance way.
The inside of the Portuguese Church in Calcutta (Kolkata) is equally well decorated with long corridors crowned with arches.
The walls contain 14 coloured tablets depicting the cross station of Christ. The Church also contains several beautiful stained glass depicting the life of Christ. It also contains a small but elegant pipe organ.
St. Andrew’s Church (1818)
~ First and Only Scottish Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
Located at the very heart of the city of Calcutta (Kolkata) the St. Andrew’s Church (or Kirk) is one of Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) most well known landmark. Located next to the red coloured Gothic building the white coloured St. Andrew’s Church creates a striking contrast.
The handsome Grecian building of the Church of Scotland was opened for public worship on March 8, 1818. Like the St. John’s Church it was designed in the lines of St.Martin’s in the fields, London.
Occupying a prominent position in Dalhousie Square, directly facing Old Court House Street, the Church with its tall massive spire formed one of the familiar features of the city.
The white spire is crowned with a black weather cock, which operates to this day. On the North and South there are elegant porticoes with lofty Doric pillars.
The Kirk Session, led by the Reverend Bryce, having decided to finish the Church in style, laid the floor with marble, completed the spire, erected a railing and improved the approaches. An organ was installed, a clock fitted in the tower in 1835 and the original organ replaced by a much finer one in 1858.
St. Stephen’s Church (1846)
~ Church with a rocket like steeple ~
The St. Stephen’s Church, located on the Diamond Harbour Road, and next to the St. Thomas School, it is best observed from the bridge over Adi Ganga (Tolly Nala) in Kiddrpore.
With its unique rocket like steeple the St. Stephen’s Church attracts the attention of even the casual passerby.
Strangely the steeple was not meant to be designed like a rocket, in fact it was designed as a ship’s lantern.
With the Kidderpore ports just a stone throw away no wonder the church had a steeple shaped as a ships lantern and the area was one thronged with seafaring people from all over the world.
The foundation stone of this Anglican church was laid on 6 January 1844 by the Governor-General along with the Venerable Archdeacon and Rev. Thomas.
St. Stephen’s Church was opened to public in 1846 and it is believed that church had been the place of worship for the Governor General, when he stayed in Belvedere, which is now the National Library.
In 1848, it was established as a Chaplaincy and in 1870 it became a Parish Church. So Anglican in origin the Parish Church, still holds on too its roots.
More on St. Stephen’s Church, Kolkata
St. Paul’s Cathedral (1847)
~ Anglican Cathedral of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
The building was initiated by Bishop Daniel Wilson in 1839 and was completed in 1847, in Gothic Revival style with stained glass windows and two frescoes in Florentine Renaissance style. A military engineer, Major William NairnForbes, designed the cathedral with the assistance of C. K. Robinson, modelling the tower and spire upon the Norwich Cathedral. The tower was rebuilt along the lines of Bell Harry Tower in Canterbury Cathedral following the 1934 Calcutta earthquake.
The cathedral conforms to the Neo-Gothic or the Gothic Revival style of architecture that was greatly patronized by the British during the days of the colonial era. The main cathedral hall is large, with beautifully carved wooden pews and chairs along with the stained glass window to the west, the intricate coloured artwork covering the eastern walls, the two marvelous Florentine frescoes. The church is 247 ft. in length and 81 ft. in width and the tower is 201 ft. high. The Cathedral is set within huge grounds with several ancient trees.
The interior of the church is a feast for the eyes, with excellent floral designs on the walls. Beautiful architecture and exquisite mural painting captivates the beholder. The life and work of St. Paul is vividly described in pictures. Bishop Wilson lies in his eternal slumber in a coffin inside an underground chamber. The commission plate conferred on him by Queen Victoria is still exhibited here.
St. James’ Church (1868)
~ Jora Girja – Church with the twin spire ~
The original St. James Church of Kolkata (Calcutta) dates back to 1823 and was located in the Nebotola Lane, near Amherst Street.
The present building, sandwiched between the St. James’ and Pratt Memorial School, of the St. James’ Church dates back to 1868 and was designed by the East Bengal Railway Architect Walter B Granville, who also designed the Kolkata High Court, GPO and Calcutta University Senate Hall (the last one no longer exists).
Built in Gothic style the St. James’ Church or the Jora Girja is one of Kolkata’s elegant churches, with pointed Gothic arches on both its exterior and interior. The twin spires, one of which contains a clock, is joined by a beautiful triangular pediment. The interior contains a long passageway leading to the alter.
But the star attraction of the St. James’ Church is the beautifully decorated black mahogany wood work at the ceiling. Something so durable, that even the termites of Kolkata have spared it for 146 years.
More on St. James’ Church (Jora Girja), Calcutta (Kolkata)
St. Mary’s Church (1887)
~ Bangali Cathedral ~
St. Mary’s Church was constructed in 1889 and is popularly known as the Bangla Cathedral, as large number of its member belong to the Bengali Protestant Christan community.
The concept of the Bengali Cathedral dates back to July 1885, when Rev. Harihar Sandel, a pioneer missionary started worshipping in the Cathedral with a few Christian employees. It was later decided to build up a separate church for their worship. He acquired the land and mobilize fund for the construction of a church for the Bengali Protestant.
Sadly Rev. Harihar Sandel (Sanyal) died on 4 Sept. 1887 when his dream church was yet to open its doors. The St. Mary’s Church (Bangali Cathedral) finally opened its door on 16 Feb. 1889, under Rev. Aghore Nath Banerjee. Rev. Aghore Nath Banerjee later became the Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was the first Indian to receive this distinction.
The interior of St. Mary’s Church contains beautiful stained glass and several marble memorial plaques written in flowing Bengali font. Today the St. Mary’s Church stands on the Elgin Road (Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani) opposite the Bhawanipur Education Society College.
More on St. Mary’s Church (Bangali Cathedral), Calcutta (Kolkata)
Greek Orthodox Church (1925)
~ Formally the only Greek Orthodox Church of India ~
The Greek Orthodox Church located next to the Kalighat Tram Depot looks more like a Greek Temple than a Church. Oficialy known as the Transfiguration of the Saviour Church, this is one of Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) newest church and was constructed only in 1925.
However the first Greek Orthodox Church of the city dates back to 1781 (some other source puts the date at 1752) and was replaced by the present structure in 1925.
The Greek Orthodox Church was closed down in 1960s due lack of Greek Orthodox Christan in the city but it was reopened in 1990s with the initiative of some Greek Orthodox priest. Today the church members consists of mainly converted Bengali Greek Orthodox Christians. In the last few decades several other Greek orthodox Churches have been opened in the districts of West Bengal.
Inside the church the floors are marble and the pews are wood and the three huge chandeliers are like brazen chrysanthemums turned upside down. The altar of polished wood with painted panels is well preserved.
These paintings on canvas depict Christ after his transfiguration, Jesus and his apostles and Virgin Mary and the archangels Gabriel and Michael wielding swords. St Catherine is painted in one corner.
More on the Greek Orthodox Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)
- This is a compilation article and is not exhaustive. It would be updated from time to time.
- The Churches of Calcutta (Kolkata) are arranged in chronological order.
- The article is restricted to historic churches only.