Ever heard of bomb proofing in the 17th century? Welcome to the serene St. Mary’s Church, located on the premises of Fort St. George, the center of power for centuries.
The church is a treasure trove of important inscriptions, marble plaques and tablets. Its registers of baptisms, marriages and funerals, the colours of the Madras European Regiment and old silverware are famous. These are now in the Fort Museum.
On the bomb-proof structure of the church, an archaeologist from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) told PTI that a unique feature of the church is its thick masonry walls.
“The masonry walls are about 4 feet wide and its ceiling is about 2 feet thick. The purpose of the design was to protect the church from bombing.” The roof is designed to withstand bullets from the sea and land. A plaque on the church premises says that “… the three aisles made of brick and stone have a bomb-proof vaulted ceiling.” The enmity between the local rulers, the British and the French, was common in those days.
Madras Day is celebrated every year on 22nd August. It is believed that on this day in 1639 the East India Company laid the foundation of the modern city by purchasing land from the local rulers for the construction of Fort St. George.
According to the ASI, St Mary’s Church, consecrated on 28 October 1680, is the oldest Protestant church to be built east of Suez, and the oldest surviving British-era building in Chennai.
The temple was built through public subscription from the English settlers during the time of the then governor Stryensham Master. Construction began in 1678 and was completed two years later, and is the oldest masonry structure inside Fort St George.
The interior of the church has commemorative plaques for veterans of the British era. The painting and artistic woodwork of the Last Supper on the altar are striking. The mausoleums are important inside and outside the church. The church organ, presented in 1894, is still in use.
According to the ASI, originally, the plan included only prayer halls and sanctuaries. In the 18th century a separate belfry tower (1701), steeple (1710), a tower attached to the main building (1760) and a curved staircase on the line providing access to the gallery were added in the 18th century. Take
This is the church where Robert Clive was married to Margaret Maskelyne. One of the leading architects of the British Empire in India, Clive (1725–1774) also tried to end his life in the then Madras.