Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Slowly collapsing heritage church - St. Stephen’s (1846), Kolkata


St. Stephen’s Church, Kolkata. cnicalcutta.org
 India, being an ancient country with a hoary past, has thousands of monuments that connect us with our past history. As matter of fact, historical heritage structures, buildings, temples, etc are the mute spectators of our early historical events and form a link with the bygone era. In many places, for many reasons, such heritage structures are slowly crumbling and may get lost  over a period of time.  No  one can  do anything about the ravages of time and vagaries of weather that may impact such old structures. However, we can take precautions to prevent further damages to the structures and restore them back to past glory. The crux of the matter is,  in many case of slowly dying monuments, no action  whatsoever is forth coming for two reasons: one is lack of funds for restoration, the other is sheer negligence on the part of the government and lack of awareness of the value of such heritage sites. An old heritage church in Kolkata - St. Stephen's church is in ruins and soon may disappear like will-o-the-wisp, if the government, church authorities and the public  don't come forward and do something about it.

St. Stephen’s Church, Kolkata is an old Anglican church  built in Gothic style  and was consecrated in 1846 There are numerous plaques inside the church that commemorate the former parishioners who died at sea. It's foundation was laid on 6th January by the Governor General along with Rev. Thomas, the Archdeacon. Because  the port and wharves on the Hooghly were close to this place of worship, numerous seafarers used to come here for prayer and blessing. Besides, this church was frequented by the British residents, Angelo-Indians, employees of companies like Garden and Reach co., and Nagpur Bengal Railway.  Being a parish church, it served all kinds of people, including the staff and students from Khiderpore.

Though built in Gothic style, church's inside is different. One unique feature is the presence of a closet on either side in the high altar. In the olden days, the Anglican nuns used to sit through the worship service and later receive the Holy Sacrament through the window in the closet. The tower of the church is designed to look like a ship’s lantern of those days

Originally (since 1848) a chapel, it was  in 1870 it became a parish church to receive more people. . For unknown reasons, since1960 this church has lost its popularity and  patronage and consequently the number of regular patrons has come down drastically. Now, the building and the structures are in bad shape because of poor maintenance, lack of funds and above all ravages of time and harsh climate. 

This historical Church built long before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 during the East India Company rule ought to be preserved for our posterity. This church, a heritage structure and  legacy left behind by the British will be lost for ever unless steps are taken on a war-footing. Leaking roof and water seepage problems in the rainy season will further weaken the structure and it  portends the collapse of a historical structure  along with its embedded history in the near future.  
 

Ref:
http://cnicalcutta.org/church_st_stephens_church.html