The must-visit churches of India

Published: Jul 21, 2019, 09:38 IST | A correspondent

Joanne Taylor, the Sydney-based author of The Churches of India, picks her favourite churches, in terms of history and architecture

The must-visit churches of India
Our Lady of Salvation in Mumbai

Our Lady of Salvation in Mumbai (1977)

Charles Correa's church in Dadar, Mumbai, must certainly be on the list. It is a unique building with a calm meditative atmosphere, ideal for prayer or simply quiet contemplation. The use of cones as filters for light and air creates a series of cool, restful spaces inside. Being round the spaces can seem limitless. It is special, a shame that it is not well-known or more appreciated.

St Martins, the Garrison Church in Delhi
St Martins, the Garrison Church in Delhi

St Martins, the Garrison Church in Delhi (1930)

Another unique building that should be more well known. It is enormous. Built with three-and-a-half million red bricks, its design is fortress-like. Both exterior and interior are unadorned, unusual for a British church built during the colonial period. It has been described as "one of the great buildings of the 20th century."

Church Kolkata
St John's Church in Kolkata

St John's Church in Kolkata (1787)

It is a wonderful colonial church, full of history, which can be seen on wall plaques, monuments in the gardens, tombs and many beautiful marble sculptures and paintings inside. It is all British history, of course, but it is also an important part of Kolkata’s history, and India’s story as well. It was India’s first Anglican cathedral until the much larger St Paul’s Cathedral was built.

St John Cathedral
St John's Cathedral in Thiruvalla, Kerala

St John's Cathedral in Thiruvalla, Kerala (1972)

Laurie Baker, the famous British architect who lived most of his life in India, was devoted to designing sustainable, cheap housing using mud bricks. His story is just as fascinating as the church he designed in Thiruvalla. By 1990, a new, larger cathedral was built along the lines of Baker's original. This amazing round structure is a landmark in the area, but once again, it is not well-known further afield. Its exterior appearance is certainly temple-like with many aspects of Kerala architecture. It is impressive in size, able to accommodate 2,000 people. Inside, it is somewhat more conventional. However, its incorporation of Eastern Christian and Christian traditions is unique. It is a colourful, joyous church with wonderful stained-glass windows.

Basilica of Bom Jesu
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa (1695)

This building is world-famous and a World Heritage Monument. The exterior is typically Jesuit architecture with a Baroque façade, rich with carved basalt details. Inside the building is a mass of gold carvings on every surface. An overpowering image of St Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, towers over the altar. It is truly an excess of patterns, texture, and riches. The relics of the body of St Francis Xavier are held in an elaborate silver casket, one of the most important aspects of the Basilica. Though the saint was in Goa for a relatively short time, he is much revered and is believed to have healing powers. For me, this church was fascinating. The bizarre pulpit with its many faces peering out, reminiscent of Indian temple gods or the enormous St Loyola with the tiny Jesus at his feet. It is certainly not as beautiful as the Church of St Francis of Assisi, however, it is amazing.

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