Greek Orthodox Church ~ Calcutta (Kolkata)
Transfiguration of the Saviour Church
Greek Orthodox Church of Calcutta (Kolkata)
Also see my compilation of Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches
The Transfiguration of Saviour Church, belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church is located next to the Kalighat Tram Depot.
The Greek Orthodox Church, looks more like a Greek Temple than a church, with its four Doric columns in the portico supporting the giant triangular pediment. The smart whitewashed facade the Greek Orthodox Greek church stands out amidst the chaos of Kalighat.
Although the Greek Orthodox Church has an antique look but it is among the newest of the Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches and was constructed only in 1925. But the Greek connection to the city to the city dates back almost to the days of Job Charnock, the controversial founder of the city of Calcutta (Kolkata).
According to some sources the first Greek Orthodox Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) came up in 1752, but it was soon abandoned. During the time of Warren Hastings the second Greek Orthodox Church came up in Amratala area.
Haji Alexios Argyree, a prominent Greek merchant of Calcutta, had borne a large part of the cost of the building and the balance was raised by public subscription. It was opened to public in 1781.
In 1924 the Greek shifted their church for the second time. Kalighat was the new location for the new Greek Orthodox Church. The foundation stone was laid in 3 Nov. 1924 and the first prayer was held on 19 Nov. 1925.
Once a thriving business community in Calcutta (Kolkata) the Greeks merchants started leaving the city after independence. In 1960s the Greek Orthodox Church was forced to closed down due to lack of members.
In the 1980s an Orthodox mission to the Indians was established by Fr. Athanasios (Antheles), a Greek hieromonk from Egypt. He established a Greek Orthodox Church, dedicated to Apostle Thomas, in Arambagh Hooghly.
In 1991 Fr. Ignatios (Sennis), a hieromonk from Mount Athos, arrived in West Bengal to continue Fr. Athanasios’ work. It was Fr. Ignatios (Sennis) who reopened the Greek Orthodox Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1991. He also established the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church.
Today the members of the Greek Orthodox Church in Calcutta (Kolkata) consists mainly of Bengali converted Christians and Sunday services are held regularly in Bengali.
Several plaques written in Greek, at the Greek Orthodox Church entrance, welcomes the visitors to the church. The small but elegant interior is amazingly well maintained. The lone corridor leads to the beautifully polished wooden alter with beautiful panels and paintings.
The alter contains several 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.
The alter also contains three doors leading to the sanctum sanctorum, containing panels depicting the Annunciation with Mary and angel. These paintings in typical late 19th Century style are by D. Tsevas of Athens, 1930. His signature at the corner of each panel says so.
A printed copy of an ancient icon is displayed in front of the altar which parishioners kiss in the course of the service, followed by consecration. The only new paintings are the four on the walls in the severe Byzantine style. These are likenesses of saints sent from Greece.
Three huge chandeliers, shaped like brazen chrysanthemums turned upside down, hung from the celling. Sadly the age old tungsten bulbs have been replaced by florescent lamps, in a attempt to save electricity but in the process rubbing the church of its beauty and grace.
Presently the debt crisis of the Greek Government has affected the upkeep and functioning of the Greek Orthodox Church in Calcutta (Kolkata). As funds are drying up the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church, is finding it extremely difficult to fund its philanthropic activities.
- Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Kolkata Chapter. This photos were shot during the Kolkata Chapter meeting of INTACH.
- Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church
- To my friend and fellow Calcutta (Kolkata) enthusiast Anurag Mitra, for suppling valuable inputs.
- Swasata Kolkata by Nisitranjan Roy
- More Bengali than Byzantine by Soumitra Das, The Telegraph, 8 June 2007
- Crisis in Greece hits City Orthodox Church by Subhro Niyogi, The Times of India, 19 Nov. 1012
- Orthodox Church in West Bengal