This year, even before the prayer and festivities take centrestage, the site finds itself in the news, as the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, has in its recent recommendations, asked for it to be downgraded from a Grade I to a Grade IIA structure. One hopes that this decision doesn’t take the sheen away from this symbol of Mumbai’s cosmopolitan fabric.
The church’s origins, based on early records, date back to the 1550s when it served as a chapel for stationed Portuguese soldiers, who safeguarded the island of Salcette (of which Bandra was a part). Centuries later, the famous statue went missing after a raid, and according to legend, was recovered six months later by fishermen, off the coast.
The statue returned to the rebuilt Mount Mary’s Church in 1761. In 1902, a new chapel was designed by Shapoorjee Chandabhoy and consecrated to the public by the Bishop of Daman. It was an architectural marvel, made from local Khandki and Porbander stone, 110 feet long and 38 feet wide. Its inner gallery ran on three sides, including two new towers, each measuring 80 feet in height. Piqued to make that pilgrimage?