St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata
|St. Paul's Cathedral|
|Location||1A, Cathedral Road, Kolkata|
|Denomination||Church of North India (Anglican)|
|Architect(s)||Major William Nairn Forbes, C. K. Robinson|
|Construction cost||Rs. 4,35,669|
|Length||247 feet (75 m)|
|Width||81 feet (25 m)|
|Spire height||201 feet (61 m)|
|Materials||Special bricks, steel trusses, and fine lime plaster|
|Bishop(s)||Rt. Rev. Ashoke Biswas|
|Priest(s)||Reverend Nigel Pope|
|Assistant priest||Reverend James Gomez|
St. Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, noted for its Gothic architecture. It is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta. The cornerstone was laid in 1839; the building was completed in 1847. It is said to be the largest cathedral in Kolkata and the first Episcopal Church in Asia. It was also the first cathedral built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. The edifice stands on Cathedral Road on the "island of attractions" to provide for more space for the growing population of the European community in Calcutta in the 1800s.
Following the 1897 earthquake and the subsequent massive earthquake of 1934, when Calcutta suffered substantial damage, the cathedral was reconstructed to a revised design. The architectural design of the cathedral is "Indo-Gothic", a Gothic architectural style designed to meet the climatic conditions of India. The cathedral complex has a library, situated over the western porch, and a display of Plastic art forms and memorabilia.
The cathedral is across from the Bishop's Palace on Chowringhee Road, in a direct line of sight from the Victoria Memorial. The cathedral is located to the east of the Victoria Memorial and at the southern edge of the maidan, a park.
In 1819, at the request of Marquess of Hastings, then Governor-General of Bengal, architect William Nairn Forbes produced a design for the proposed cathedral; however, it was not accepted as it was deemed too expensive to build. Bishop Middleton suggested as a site for the new cathedral the part of the city now known as "Fives Court", where the cathedral now stands. In 1762 the area had been described as a forest so wild that it harbored tigers, and, at first, it was regarded as "too far south" to serve as a location for the cathedral. Middleton died in 1822 before building plans took shape. The next three bishops, Heber, James and Turner, all died after brief tenures, and it was not until 1832, under Bishop Daniel Wilson, that the project to build the cathedral was revived.
Following acquisition of 7 acres (3 ha) of land to build the cathedral, a Cathedral Committee was set up to build it. The military engineer, Major William Nairn Forbes (1796–1855) (who later became a Major General of the Bengal Engineers), at the request of Bishop Wilson, designed the cathedral with the assistance of architect C. K. Robinson, modelling the tower and spire upon the Norwich Cathedral. On 8 October 1839, construction was initiated by laying the cornerstone. The cathedral was completed after eight years and consecrated on 8 October 1847. The consecration ceremony, to mark which Queen Victoria had sent "ten pieces of silver-gilt plate" for the cathedral, was largely attended by Europeans and local people. The cathedral was built in Gothic revival style, but with modern construction elements, including an iron framework. It was built with a chancel, a sanctuary, chapels and a 201 feet (61 m) tall spire; the cost of construction of the edifice was then Rs. 4,35,669. The cathedral can accommodate 800 to 1,000 people.
In the 1897 earthquake the cathedral suffered damage and was refurbished. In the subsequent massive earthquake of 1934, when Calcutta was devastated, the cathedral's steeple tower collapsed. It was reconstructed to a revised design. Following the 1934 Calcutta earthquake, the tower was rebuilt along the lines of the central Bell Harry tower of Canterbury Cathedral. On its completion, St. Paul's replaced St. John's Church as the cathedral. The cathedral also has a statue of Bishop Heber (1783–1826), who was the Second Bishop of Calcutta; the statue was sculpted by Francis Leggatt Chantrey. The Bishop's House across the street is also architecturally notable.
The cathedral is well maintained in a serene and peaceful atmosphere. People of all religious denominations can visit the church. Service is held regularly. Christmas is a special occasion when a large number of people assemble to participate in the festivities.
The Imperial Gazetteer defined the architectural design of the cathedral as "Indo-Gothic", to mean a Gothic architectural style built to meet the climatic conditions of India. It was also called a "spurious gothic adapted to the exigencies of the Indian climate." The cathedral's design, otherwise known as Gothic Revival style, includes three stained glass windows and two frescoes in the Florentine Renaissance style; the West Window was designed in 1880 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The nave of the cathedral is very long at 247 feet (75 m), and its width is 81 feet (25 m). The nave is fitted with well-crafted wooden pews and chairs. The central spire rises to a height of 201 feet (61 m), and the tower on which it stands is square in shape and was patterned on the lines of the 12th-century Canterbury Cathedral, England. The tower was fitted with five clocks, each of which weighed about three tons. The stained glass windows on the western side were the creation of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a pre-Raphaelite master, which were fitted in half-sunk arches; these were designed in 1880 in memory of Lord Mayo who was assassinated in the Andaman Islands. When completed in 1847, the cathedral as a whole was compared to the Norwich Cathedral of England. The East window, which had original stained glass, was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964. It was replaced with a new one in 1968. The roof of the cathedral is in the shape of a "shallow curve" arching over iron trusses decorated with "Gothic tracery" (it was the largest span when built). The hall of the cathedral is built spaciously without any aisles on its flanks. The materials used in the construction of the cathedral consisted of special bricks, light in weight and with good compression strength. The dressed stones used were Chunar stones. The external and internal surfaces of the cathedral were plastered with fine chunam (lime plaster) in the form of a stucco.
The cathedral's interior has a display of many plastic art forms and memorabilia. There is an "episcopal throne" on the southern flank of the altar and a decorative reredo or wall on its back side dated to 1879; it has carvings of episodes related to the life of St. Paul, the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Flight into Egypt, all the work of Sir Arthur Blomfield. The parish hall within the premises of the cathedral is the venue for holding social functions. The eastern wall in the cathedral has paintings of the life of St. Paul, painted by Blomfield in 1886. Also notable is the font, with its sculpture of Bishop Heber in a kneeling posture. The cathedral's organ, with 41 stops, made by Joseph Willis and Sons of London, is still in use.
The cathedral complex also has a library, situated over the western porch, to dimensions of 61 by 22 feet (19 m × 7 m) with a height of 35 feet (11 m). It was built at the initiative of Bishop Wilson, who donated 8,000 of his books and manuscripts. Further donations of books to the library were from W. Gordon and Rev. J. Nath of the University of Oxford and the Calcutta Bible Society. The library also has a sculpture of Bishop Wilson made in marble.
Entry to the cathedral is from the north through a large gate made of wrought iron called the Sir William Prentice Memorial Gate, which is named after Sir William Prentice, who was a member of cathedral's congregation for many years. The cathedral is surrounded by a well-tended garden. In 1847, 63 species of trees had been planted in this garden.
Bishop Daniel Wilson, who had requested burial in the cathedral and also that memorial tablets be placed at St. Pauls' Cathedral, in Bishop's College Chapel at Calcutta, and in the St Mary's Church, Islington. lies in an underground chamber of the cathedral, where a plaque conferred on him by Queen Victoria is also on display. John Paxton Norman, an acting Chief Justice who was assassinated, is memorialized by a large, decorated plaque, surmounted by a cross, with an engraving depicting Justice with her scales against a background of tilework flowere evoking Judge Norman's interest in botany. Arthur William Garnett, an English engineer who died in India in 1861, and T. F. Middleton, first Bishop of Calcutta (1814 1822), are also buried here.
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