Thursday, 20 November 2014

Yale and Clive married here - St.Mary's Church,Chennai


St.Mary's Church,Madras.drawn by J.W.Gantz,Vepery. 1841.credit:livestories.com
 The historical St. Mary's Church  inside the St. George fort at Chennai - formerly Madras,Tamil Nadu,S.India is the oldest Anglican church East of the Suez and also the oldest British building in India. Built between 1678 and 1680, it carries the legacy and ethos of the British Raj and is associated with two important and down-to-earth British personalities of yore who etched themselves a distinctive place in the history of the world.They are Robert Clive and Elihu Yale; the former built a strong foundation for the future British Empire, the latter helped build one of the finest educational institutions in the world. It is a great honor for the old church and the city of Chennai.
ST.Mary's church,Chennai static panoramio.com
 In 1678, when Streynsham Master was appointed the English East India Company' s Agent at Madras, religious services were conducted in the dining-room of the Factory House as there was no separate place for Christian services.  It was at Master's initiative, and without the sanction of the Directors of the Company, that a subscription was started for the construction of a church for the benefit of European Christian community.

Construction was started on 25 March 1678 - Lady Day, whereby the church acquired its name and the work was completed in the course of two years. The church was consecrated on the 28th of October, 1680 by the chaplain Rev. Richard Portman.
St.Mary's church,Ft.St.George,Chennai.www.blogs.zeenor.com.

St.Mary's church,Chennai,details of graves. credit:wikipedia.org
 The architect of the church was, it is believed, either Edward  Foule,or William Dixon  of the Fort, in 1678.
The tombstones in its graveyard are the oldest English or British tombstones in India and many of them were brought here from other sites.This is the reason why the church has a large number of Roman Catholic grave-stones, inscribed in Latin and Portuguese.
 
St.Mary's church,Chennai.baptism since 1680' credit:bp.blogspot.com
 This ancient prayer house solemnised the marriages of Robert Clive, the man who was responsible for start of the British Empire in India and Governor Elihu Yale, who later became the first benefactor of Yale University in the U.S. That time Yale was the governor of Fort St. George, and a vestryman and treasurer of St Marys Church. His later gift of money  earned in India to Cotton Mather  helped in the foundation of Yale University in the U.S. 

A unique feature of this old church was it was designed with a bomb-proof roof about four feet thick and rounded in the manner of a wagon's roof, so as to cause cannonballs to ricochet. Here it refers to  seventeenth century cannonballs. The internal dimensions of the building are 86 feet by 56 feet, with the outside walls 4 feet thick and the walls separating the nave from the aisles, 3 feet thick. The extraordinary thickness of the walls was meant to safeguard the building from external attacks and  violent storms.In the mid 1700s the church served as granary and garrison for a very short period - when the French and Hyder Ali invaded this place.If occasion demanded the church would serve as a bomb shelter for the soldiers for safety.

On 6th October, 1968, the 250th anniversary of the naming of Yale College for Elihu Yale, the classmates of Chester Bowels, then the American Ambassador to India, donated money for lasting improvements to the church and erected a plaque to commemorate the occasion. The church is popularly known as the 'Westminster Abbey of the East.' By the bye Chester Bowels was one of the best US ambassadors to India
and had a close relationship with the then Indian Government led by Pundit Nehru. He was also an great admirer of India and its democratic tradition


Ref:
"Madras 1922 Hand Book", Indian Science Congress, Madras Diocesan Press, Madras, 1921

"The Church in the Fort", St. Mary's Church, Church of South India, 2002