Kolkata, the capital of the Indian subcontinent in 1772, has been the focal point of some monumental architecturally rich buildings. The Dalhousie Square, then the erstwhile seat of governance for the English East India company from where the power flowed across the entire subcontinent, is a treasure-trove of some impressive grand buildings built in Georgian and Victorian schools of architecture. Here the visitor will come across the third oldest church in Bengal, known as St John Church, designed by an officer of the East Indian Company. Thus this post of mine reiterates and takes the visitor on a visual journey into the magnificence of St John Church. The post is titled Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church.
As I hesitantly stood at the main gates leading to the church grounds, the security guard looked at me quizzly as to what I wanted. The pandemic had affected all and visitors had dwindled substantially, so maybe they were not used to seeing solitary individuals lining up at the main gate asking to be let inside.
On hearing that I wanted to visit the church, he noted down my particulars, told me to follow the Covid protocols in place and let me inside. To the sounds of the birds chirping in the trees, the sounds of the city traffic muted and far away. I found myself walking in a world of calmness and serenity.
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Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church
History of St John Church
Constructed in 1787, the church was significant in those times as among the earliest churches to be built. Later was also the first cathedral on the Indian subcontinent. Designed by Lt James Agg of the Bengal Engineers, in the church’s burial ground lies the remains of Job Charnock. He is regarded as the founder of the city of Kolkata. The arches of the church and the majestic porticos greet the visitor as one enters the church grounds . As one walks around the church admiring the regal massive pillars, the stately verandahs definitely catch the eye and impart a sense of peace tranquillity and old-world charm. Indeed Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church was delightful experience for me.
The church is also called “Pathure Girija” or the stone church as brick and stone is the primary building material. The interior of the church is decorated with beautiful marble and bass relief work. While the windows are built with some lovely stained glass. There are a vast number of priceless antique artefacts including paintings and sculptures inside the Church which needs the assistance of a trained individual to be able to recite out here.
Interiors of St John Church
Sufficient to say that the visitor is awed by the regality and grandeur of the interiors. There are multiple tablets and inscriptions that have been erected during the course of the history. A lot of information can be gleaned from them. The side altar and main altar have paintings and sculptures that denote the important stages in the life of Jesus to remind the holy of his journey.
Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church
The church grounds also house the memorial built by James Holwell, then Governor of Bengal, in memory of the 123 British soldiers killed during the siege of Calcutta. This memorial is known as the Holwell Memorial and has a poignant story attached to it.
This church is part of historically significant three Anglican churches in the city, with the other two being St James Church and St Paul cathedral. These are an integral part of the Kolkata heritage. World Monuments Fund (WMF) has recognized Dalhousie Square where these are located as a significant historic centre. Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church made me aware of the various facets of History which abound in this city.
There are various other monuments on the church grounds. These include the Rohilla War Memorial, tombs of eminent personalities of the East India Company, and Begum Jhonson’s grave. The mausoleum of Job Charnock is also an important monument on the church grounds. Truly the insight into Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church was an excellent choice to make to spend my weekends.
The church’s interiors are filled with historical paintings that include the Last Supper by Johann Zoffany. An Organ which is still played even to date which dates back to the year 1746. I googled to understand how this musical instrument works. Broadly the sound of the organ is produced by the wind coming out of pipes of various sizes. The wind is generated by a motor which runs the bellow. This organ originally a part of the Fort of Madras, in those times can give you an idea of the age of this instrument.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on history, art in India, among other places of travel that I keep doing. In addition to exploring offbeat places, I am also interested in increasing my awareness of Historical institutions and places within India. Read through the posts on the Kerala folklore Museum in Kochi which showcases the cultural heritage of Kerala. Then we have the reclusive Panch Kedar Trek into the Himalayas to see a slice of timeless History and legends. I am sure, visit to them would be fascinating to anyone purely from a visitor’s inquisitive to say the least. In case interested, read about the lonely vigil of St Augustine’s Tower in Old Goa or on the churches of Goa.
Read here if it appeals to you my experiences on Kolkata titled Amar Kolkata. Then there was my visit to the unique international book fair of 2020 before the pandemic hit us all. I will always look at early 2020 as a great time for I came across so many events in Kolkata. One such beautiful example was by Art Rickshaw in Hindustan Park. The theme of Old Currency building presently is in line with acknowledging the cosmopolitan transformation of Kolkata through the links to the past two centuries of art. Before I forget how about seeing something simple yet unique, visit the Train Museum in Kolkata and of course the iconic Indian Museum, Kolkata.
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FAQ on Exploring Kolkata heritage and St John Church
- Owing to the current pandemic , confirm prior timings before visiting.
- Vehicle parking is an issue , try to avoid getting one.
- It is open till 5 in evening.
- I found the entire surroundings quiet and silent , so one needs to respect that
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