St. Paul’s Cathedral (A famous indo-gothic style building in Kolkata)
Kolkata being home to a broad range of cultural groups has a harmonious mingling of cuisines and glorious structures. Ever since the 17th century, Christianity has made significant development in Kolkata, and the city now boasts a plethora of Christian architectural treasures. Among them, one of the most beautiful churches that one has to visit during the time of Christmas is Kolkata’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s an illustrious island of attractions that stands as a symbol of the European heritage in Kolkata.
History of Cathedral
The cornerstone of the cathedral was set in the year 1839, and it took several years to construct its gigantic edifice. First, the church was erected to replace the St. John’s Church as the primary site of worship for Calcutta’s Christian community, which had grown to over 4,000 members and could no longer be accommodated in a single church. Even though ideas and talks for St Paul’s Cathedral began in the year 1819, during the reign of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, the then Governor-General of Bengal, the project could not be completed until 1832, during the time of Bishop Daniel Wilson.
The church was designed by Major William Nairn Forbes and architected by C.K. Robinson, and Bishop Wilson oversaw its construction. The spire, altar, and towering tower were heavily influenced by and largely modeled Norwich Cathedral of the Hold and Undivided Trinity in Norwich, England. From the time of foundation on October 8, 1839, till the consecrated ceremony on October 8, 1847, it took exactly eight years to get it completed. The Empress of the British Empire, Queen Victoria, had donated ten silver-gilt plates as a present of honor to commemorate the church’s inauguration.
After the first completion of the project in 1897, the church was again renovated for the second time in 1934 after the earthquake that took place in Calcutta. The church’s old tower fell in the natural catastrophe in the style of Canterbury Cathedral’s central Belly Harry Tower. After the church construction got completed, it was declared as the new cathedral of Calcutta.
Primarily the cathedral was constructed in the Gothic style. However, it was later adapted to withstand Kolkata’s tropical climate, resulting in an Indo-Gothic architectural style known as the Gothic Revival. In terms of construction, the architectural design, ornamentation, and style recalled the magnificent churches of the European towns.
The Major General of Bengal, William Nairn Forbes was the design engineer of this Indo-Gothic style and also planned the whole thing. The cathedral is 75 meters (247 feet) long and 25 meters (81 feet) wide and surrounded by vast grounds with numerous ancient trees. This Eton-Gothic style had a beautiful thin Gothic spire suited to the Indian climate.
Rather than being cruciform, the form that the church has is of Basilica. It is considered to be the first Episcopal Cathedral Church built in the Eastern Hemisphere. The architecture of the cathedral, both inside and exterior, is acknowledged to be of the best ‘Yorkminster’ style. The western side of St Paul’s Cathedral has a very long nave fitted with wooden seats, with two murals in the classical style of the Florentine Renaissance era, and three stained glass windows.
Features the Church holds
The church’s Chancel and Sanctuary are capped by a 200-foot-high spire that soars into Calcutta’s sky. Apart from that, there is a magnificent variety of plastic art forms on exhibit within the church, as well as presents from past worshipers. There is also a library on the site for which Bishop Wilson had given a lot of books. Next, the William Prentice Memorial Gate that serves as the main entrance is well-kept with a beautiful landscape surrounding the cathedral. The cathedral also houses the tombs of Bishop Daniel Wilson, the church’s founder, and Chief Justice John Paxton Norman, who was killed. A reredos, which dates from 1879, can be located to the extreme south of the church altar.
Dating from the year 1879, a reredos can be found to the extreme south of the church altar. Sir Arthur Blomfield sculpted this reredos based on St Paul’s life, the Flight into Egypt, the Annunciation, and the Adoration of the Magi. The work of the same artist may be found on several of the building’s walls. This wall also houses the ornate episcopal throne, or bishop’s seat of authority, which gives the church its cathedral status.
How to reach?
St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the center of the city, just a few blocks away from other significant sites in Kolkata like the Victoria Memorial and the Birla Planetarium. A vast number of bus lines connect this site to both North and South Calcutta. It can also be reached by using the metro line, with Rabindra Sadan, being the closest stop. Or else, getting a cab can help you to get here from any area around the city.
Anyone interested in seeing the rich Christian architectural richness with an Indo-Gothic style might pay a visit to this place, especially during the Christmas season.
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