Friday, 27 April 2018

The New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar. second earliest Protestant church in India

Royal Danish missionary Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg in the coastal town of Tranquebar (Tharangampadi, Nagapatnam District), built The New Jerusalem in 1718. At that point of time, this area was a Danish colony and  Ziegenbalg  landed here on a mission to propagate Christianity.
The New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar, wikipedia
 Above image:The New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar. built between 1707 and 1718.  Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, first Protestant Missionary in India and first person to introduce printing press in India,  after his death was buried here in the graveyard. ................................

Located on King Street this church and adjacent building in this historical site were affected during the December 26 2004 Tsunami. Repair and restoration work was done  at  the Tranquebar Mission at a cost of Rs, 70 lakhs plus. Re-dedication ans consecration was done during July, 2006.
Foundation Stone New Jerusalem Church.en.wikipedia. org
 Above image: New Jesusalem Church, Tharagampadi, Nagapatnam distt., Tamil Nadu. Foundation Stone in Danish (1717). Credit to
 Rev. Ziegenbalg who built it for the native converts  ........................

The Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde, on behalf of Denmark ruler in 1620 signed  an agreement with the Raghunatha Nayak of the Tanjore Nayak Kingdom and  acquired the village of Tranquebar. In 1707, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg founded the New  Jerusalem Church here for the Lutheran congregation, as the existing Zion Church was not open to native worshipers. As for the natives, they were not comfortable with the white  settlers who used the church for themselves.

Royal Monogram of Danish rulerNew Jerusalem Church, Wikipedia
From  October 1706 onward Ziegenbalg conducted the Tamil congregation on Sundays at his house, rest of the days it was functioning as a school. There was a need to build a church soon  Gov. Hassius donated 20000 bricks towards the  construction work on a land allotted at the Sollingar quarter of the colony. The foundation for the new Church was laid on 14 June 1707 and it  was named as Jerusalem Church, after the Francke Foundations in Halle which was considered as the New Jerusalem. A perusal of the registers (commenced on 12 May 1707) of the church revealed most of the congregation were Europeans, former converts from Roman Catholicism, many children and women; also included were  the natives - lowest of Tamil society at that time. With the congregation on the increase in a short period,  a need for a larger church arose. On 27 November 1715, giant waves destroyed  the city walls and many buildings, fortunately,  Jesusalem Church remained untouched. 

 In view of the vulnerability of the church to the violent sea, a new spacious church  became a necessity.  The needed additional space for the proposed church was secured through purchase from the property of the widow of Commissioner Heinrich Bonsack (died 1711) and later from Gov. C B Lundegaard's empty lands there. Christian Brun laid the foundations of the New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebar.  A copper plate with inscription in Danish is on display there.  The New Jerusalem Church was consecrated on 11 October 1718, the birthday of King Frederick IV. The sermons during the consecration were preached in Tamil and Portuguese. The credit goes to Ziegenbalg for his untiring work since his arrival here on July 9, 1706

 The New Jerusalem Church follows  the Danish architecture style,blending  few Indian elements in the design. The church carries the royal monogram of Frederick IV of Denmark, with the year of consecration 1718 written below the monogram.
Royal Monogram of Frederick IV of Denmark
Built in the shape of a cross, the church used  teak wood from the Jaffna Dutch Ceylon, the glass windows done by artisans from Nagapattinam and the building  stones quarried  near Madras. The the high roof is made using lime and mortar. The church has a pulpit and baptism font as in other churches. On account of financial crunch the church has neither a church bell nor  an organ, or an altar table. Even fine chandeliers are absent. .


A feature worthy of note is the  baptism font that has a pictorial motif by Pastor Jonas Smit, depicting a Brahmin bathing in a river, emerging clean thereafter. The altar of the church is facing east, just like in Hindu temples, where the holiest place was in the east. The church building  has a blend of both European and Indian features. The church has many old memorials - mostly for Europeans.  There are also inscriptions in Tamil, German and Danish


The church records of the New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebar from 1707 to 1888 are kept  at the Danish National Archives in Copenhagen. The records are initially in German, then in English during the British period.
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg youtube.com



Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg was the first Protestant missionary to land in India, sent as a royal missionary by King Frederick IV, from the Kingdom of Denmark. Besides,  Ziegenbalg  in 1715,  translated the Bible into Tamil and helped set up India's first printing press at Tranquebar, with Tamil being the first Indian language to be printed. He also worked hard for the abolition of caste system and woman's education.
Ziegenbalg established the very first school for girls in India at Tranquebar in 1707.

He established the New Jerusalem Church at Tranquebar  mainly for the use of the native people, conducting services in Tamil. He died on 23 February 1719, when he was just 37, and is buried in the New Jerusalem Church. In a short period, he had achieved what other people could just dream of.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jerusalem_Church,_Tranqueba