Old or Mission Church, Calcuta (Kolata)
Old or Mission Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)
~ Oldest Protestant Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
Also see my compilation of Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches
Founded by the Swedish Lutheran missionary Johann Zachariah Kiernander the Mission Church was founded in 1770 and happens to be the oldest Protestant Church in Calcutta (Kolkata) and the second oldest (only next to Armenian Church) in the city.
Johann Zachariah Kiernander arrived in India in 1740 as a missionary under the auspicious of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). After spending 18 years in South India he was invited to Bengal by Lord Clive. Kiernander established the Mission Church in the rent free house provide to him by Lord Clive.
In 1767 Kieranander purchased land and decided to built a church at his own expense. The church was completed in 1770. Kiernander himself called the church Beth Tephillah (Hebrew: House of Prayer).
But the church was popularly known as the Mission Church and locals called it the Lal Girja, literally meaning the Red Church, because of its brick red finish. According to some records Lal Dighi, formally Tank Square, got its name because of the reflection of the Lal Girja.
After the construction of the St. John’s Church the Mission Church came to be known as the Old Church but not Old Mission Church, but strangely the name stuck and even today a marble plaque and metallic lettering at the entrance of the church reads “Old Mission Church.”
Over the years the Old or Mission Church underwent several modification and extensions. Johann Zachariah Kiernander grand son George Henry Kiernander added the stained glass at the alter which can be seen to this day.
In the 1880s and 1890s the tall slender spire of the Kiernander’s Church still dominated the Calcutta skyline, but tragedy struck in 1897 when the spire was damaged during the Assam earthquake, the damage was beyond repair and the the spire had to be removed robbing the Mission Church of its glory.
Bad days of the Church continued as the elegant structure was slowly encroached upon by box like multi storied buildings and in the process blocking its reflection on the Lal Dighi.The brick red faced of the Lal Girja has long been plastered off.
Today the region around the Mission Church, included the pavement in front of it, is heavily encroached. An assortment of vehicles of Kolkata Police is perennially parked in front of the Mission Church making it almost invisible.
But the long colonnaded corridor, supported by lofty Doric pillars, remains the same and the interiors are as grand as before.
A long corridor leads to the beautifully stained glass decorated alter there are several plaques including a plaque commemorating the 225 years of the Church. There is also a beautiful marble bust of Bishop Thomas Dealtry.
Also it was at this very Mission Church the famous poet Madhusudan Dutta was baptised and came to be known as Michael Madusudan Dutt but sadly there is no plaque commemorating the historic event but its quite likely the church archive still contains the historic record.
- 10 Walks in Calcutta by Prosenjit Das Gupta
- Swasato Kolkata – Ingrej Amaler Stapotha by Nishitranjan Roy
- Kiernander Church by Aidan Kjernander
- A special thanks to my Facebook Aidan Kjernander for his wonderful blog entry on Kiernander Church. Several information have been taken from his blog including the old photo and the painting by Thomas Daniell