May 17, 2017

St. Thomas Garrison Church

Do you know which building bears the door no. 1 of the postal address in the famous GST Road of Chennai? It is the most elegant Garrison Church of St. Thomas Mount.

If you enter inside the Cantonment area where this church is located, you would never believe that this is located in the highly congested St. Thomas locality. The location is calm and serene with wide and neat roads having trees on both sides and less traffic.

Towards the end of the 18th century CE, the East India Company stationed troops along with their families in St. Thomas area. They felt the need for a separate church in their locality. Their request was represented to the Company by Rev. Atwood in 1804 CE. In 1817 CE, Rev. C. Ball represented this case with the Company once again. At last, in 1820 CE, the order was sanctioned to construct the church.

The building was raised in 1825-26 CE and the Church was consecrated in 1830 CE by Bishop Turner of Kolkata (Calcutta in those days). The Church is said to be designed after St. Clement Danes of London.

This beautiful church has bomb proof roof and rust proof iron railings. It is said that the iron used in the construction of the church was imported from England. Originally, the top of the tower had the bell cast in England. Now, it has been replaced by a smaller bell.

One of the highlights of the church was the multi level spire, which should have been one of the tallest structures in and around Chennai in those days. Unfortunately, it was shortened to accommodate the passage of flights, as the Chennai airport is located near this site. In Chennai, many heritage sites have suffered a lot due to various reasons, starting from Pallavaram cave temple in the beginning to the British period monuments due to Metro rail project in the recent time. This is perhaps the only monument which suffered due to the height rule of the airport.

The beautiful painting of Jesus appearing to St. Thomas adorns the altar in the church. There are many tablets around the walls that mention about various people who were buried here. Few busts of some Britishers are also found.

The attractive paintings of the other eleven Apostles are also found in the hall. The interior of the church and the ceiling look awesome and the devotees would definitely feel a positive vibration on entering inside. The exterior is also equally attractive with four giant pillars adorning the front side.

The vast golf ground located adjacent to the Church was a battle field. As part of series of wars between the British and the French, Yusuf Khan (Marudanayagam) marched St. Thomas Mount on 27th December 1758 CE. It appears that the battle was fought for three days in this site. Khan's soldiers were defeated by Count Lally's men. However, Achilles Preston's unit came to help Khan and it caused heavy losses to the French army.

Happy travelling.

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