Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Schwartz Church & Serfoji Maharajah,Thanjavur

Schwartz-church, thanjavur, tamil Nadu.  hotelsinthanjavur.com

The Schwartz Church, adjacent to the Sivaganga park in the prime area of Thanjavur  city, Tamil Nadu  was built by Raja  Serfoji, the great Maratha King in 1779 AD to show his admiration, gratitude and respect for the Danish Missionary, Rev. Friedrich Christian Schwartz who was born at Sonnenburg,Prussia. Schwartz Church, a Protestant place of worship, is still seen as a sign of open-mindedness and secular attitude of the then  Maratha rulers of Thanjavur kingdom  towards various religious beliefs. Fr. Schwartz was Raja Serfoji's tutor and mentor. His saintly approach and integrity left a good impression on the young Raja. Schwartz was instrumental in getting the kingdom back from the British who were about to take over Thanjavur region as there was no legal heir in the Maratha royal family.  The young ruler was not happy with the British rule and frequently complained about their lack of integrity  and and honest dealings.  The avarice of the British angered the Maratha ruler.. 

In the Church, there is a monument or tablet made by John Flaxman on the orders of the Raja of Thanjavur that shows the King holding the hand of the dying Lutheran missionary-evangelist whilst receiving his blessing. The monument is in white marble and is a popular attraction for  the tourists.

A legacy of Thanjavur’s colonial past, Schwartz Church continues to be cited as an important shrine by believers of the Christian Faith of the God’s work being carried across the seas by those entrusted with it. Rev. Schwartz was an early pioneer in the field of education and was responsible for founding many Christian mission schools in this area to impart education to the natives. He was the first to introduce the English language in St. Peter's school of Thanjavur which is considered   one  among the oldest schools in India.

Fr. Schwartz used to live on the church premises in the north-west part.of the church and  in his capacity as a Danish priest, he  had a close relationship with the British East India company  and was quite familiar with higher officials at Madras. There is a monument to Rev. Schwarz by John Bacon arranged by  the British East India Company in St Mary's church at Chennai (formerly Madras). There is a well-known school named after Rev. Schwartz  in  Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu and  Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, was an old student of that school.

Ref:

http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/schwartz/schwartz

https://en.wikipedia.org wiki/Christian_Friedrich_Schwartz

            (Minor modifications made: June 11,2015)