Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), General > Old or Mission Church, Calcuta (Kolata)

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.

Mission Church Interior, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Mission Church Interior, Calcutta (Kolkata)

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.

Left: Mission Church (1880s photo). Right: Mission Church with Lal Dighi (Thomas Daniell, 1786)

Left: Mission Church (1880s photo). Right: Mission Church with Lal Dighi (Thomas Daniell, 1786)

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).

Mission Church, Calcutta (Ko;kata)

Mission Church, Calcutta (Ko;kata)

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.”

Stained Glass, Old or Mission Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Stained Glass, Old or Mission Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

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.

225 years of Mission Church, Calcutta

225 years of Mission Church, Calcutta

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.

Interior, Mission Church, Calcutta

Interior, Mission Church, Calcutta

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

Special Thanks:

  • 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

  1. May 29, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    Very good & informative presentation.

  2. Rachel Ann Williams
    November 10, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    hi, I just wanted to ask u… are u callin it d Old or Mission church or is that a caption to ur pic.

    • November 10, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Dear Rachel, I have mentioned it as the “Old or Mission Church”, because after St. Jhones came up it came to be known as the Old Church and it was also called the Mission Church as it was started by a Swedish Missionary. So the name is either Mission Church or Old Church.

      Some how the Old Mission Church name became more popular and it came to be known as the “Old Mission Church.”

  3. February 9, 2015 at 2:41 PM

    Madhusudan Dutta Mission Row Church embraced Christtianity 9th February 1843, after Michael Madhusudan

    • February 19, 2015 at 1:01 PM

      Thanks Mr Ardhendu Mukherje for the exact date of baptism, I will try to get a digital copy of the baptism certificate.

  4. Richard Holladay, Devon UK
    June 4, 2016 at 3:52 PM

    Dr Charles Newton Lovely is referred to in the link above. He is my Maternal Grandfather and I am creating a Powerpoint presentation on his life. He was the son of Rev George Lovely and was born in Calcutta in 1864. Hi father was appinted Chaplain at the Old / Mission Church imn about 1863 and “George Lovely left India in January 1869 after a total service of 13 years at the Old Church. He was very popular at the Old Church, and a portrait of him was hung in the Old Church Room.”
    Does the Portrait still exist and might I have a colour image of it if this is possible.
    Many thanks,
    Richard Holladay, Chudleigh, Devon, UK

    • June 4, 2016 at 6:54 PM

      Dear Richard, thanks for the interesting link and the info. Its really interesting. I don’t remember seeing any portrait on the wall of the Mission Church but there may be a few portraits in the church office, I will check up and let you know.

      • Richard Holladay, Devon UK
        June 4, 2016 at 7:40 PM

        Thanks for getting back to me – hopefully you’ll find something!

      • Richard Holladay, Devon UK
        June 19, 2016 at 10:59 PM

        I have also tried ashoke.biswas@vsnl.net which I think is the Bishop of Calcutta (I may be wrong) but haven’t had anythink back from him or his office – have you had any luck yet??

      • Richard Holladay, Devon UK
        January 4, 2017 at 8:37 PM

        Some time has passed – were you able to – or would you – check up on the image – the matter is a ‘loose end’ which I,m hopeful of resolving – Richard H

    • January 4, 2017 at 9:13 PM

      Dear Richard, its true some time have passed and since I live in the other part of the city I have not been able to visit the Mission Church. If I get to know about the Potrait, I will definitely get back to you.

      Thanks and do keep in touch

      • Richard Holladay, Devon UK
        January 4, 2017 at 9:20 PM

        Thanks – will keep my fingers crossed. R

      • Samikshan
        May 19, 2017 at 12:15 AM

        I am eagerly following this conversation….:-)

      November 27, 2019 at 6:09 PM

      Dear Richard, you are right. Earlier, portraits of Chaplains would be hung in the small Hall adjacent to the Parish Hall, But, about 25 years back, if I can recall, the portraits were removed. I was born and brought up on the premises and so I know. Though we have moved out, I am very much a part of the Church and a Vestry member too. I shall try and find out. Incidentally, Old Mission Church will be celebrating 250th year and on 29th December 2019 we will be having our Inaugural program. We will have a year long program which will end on 20th December 2020. Please send me any pictures or write up which can go into the brochure. Thanks & warm regards, ANJALI SIKDER. My email – anjali_sikder@rediffmail.com

      • Richard Holladay
        November 27, 2019 at 7:04 PM

        I have sent an email to you- thank you for your post and maybe, just maybe the portrait may reappear in this 250th Anniversary Year! Richard H

  5. May 19, 2017 at 4:42 AM

    Perhaps there is someone who is nearer to the location who will take up the challenge on my behalf ? I am a UK resident and unfamiliar with the city but thought the old Mission Church was in or near the City Centre ??

  6. October 25, 2017 at 12:56 PM

    Hello Mr Datta, I am an architectural historian based in Sydney and the author of a number of books on Kolkata. I am working on an all-India book at the moment and would like to include the image ‘Mission Church Interior’ of the Old Mission Church in Kolkata if you will allow it. Of course I will reference your work.
    I look forward to your reply

    Joanne Taylor

    • October 28, 2017 at 10:01 AM

      Dear Joanne, thanks for your comment and its an immense pleasure as I am familiar with your books on Calcutta. Your book Forgotten Palaces of Kolkata has been a great source of inspiration.

      Regarding the photo we can communicate over the mail.

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