St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata

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St. Paul's Cathedral
Location 1A, Cathedral Road, Kolkata
Country India
Denomination Church of North India (Anglican)
Dedication St. Paul
Status Cathedral
Functional status Active
Designated 1847
Architect(s) Major William Nairn Forbes, C.K. Robinson
Architectural type Indo-Gothic
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1839
Completed 1847
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
Diocese Calcutta
Bishop(s) Rt. Rev. Ashoke Biswas
Priest(s) Reverend Nigel Pope
Assistant priest Reverend James Gomez

St. Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral of the Victorian age, of the Church of North India – a united church which is part of the Anglican Communion – in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. It is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta, and the incumbent bishop since June 2008 is the Rt. Revd. Ashoke Biswas. It was completed in 1847 after Bishop of Calcutta laid the foundation in 1839.[1] It is said to be the largest cathedral in Kolkata and the first Episcopal Church of Asia. It was also the first cathedral that was built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. The edifice stands on the 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 that was built to meet the climatic conditions of India. The cathedral complex has a library, built over the western porch. The cathedral has a display of many Plastic art forms and memorabilia.

Apart from Bishop Daniel Wilson, the founder of the cathedral, the other notable burial in the church is that of John Paxton Norman, an acting Chief Justice who was assassinated.


The cathedral is in front of the Bishop's Palace on Chowringhee Road, in direct line of vision of the edifice of the Victoria Memorial.[2] It is to east of the Victoria Memorial and at the southern extremity of the maidan, a park.[3]

The building itself stands on the Cathedral Road,[4] on the "island of attractions" in Kolkata - beside the Victoria Memorial, Nandan, Rabindra Sadan theatre complex, and the Birla Planetarium.[5]


The objective of building the cathedral was to ensure more space for the growing population of the European community in Calcutta (4000 men and 300 women in Bengal in 1810), as the existing old "James Agg's St John's Church" built in 1787 did not have adequate space to accommodate the rising Christian population in the city.[4]

Before a decision was taken in 1832 to build a cathedral at the location, the area was in 1762 infested with wild life, with tigers roaming about. Later the area had developed and was known as "Fives Court" but this location was considered "too far south". Even before this decision was taken, in 1819 Bishop Middleton had mooted the idea of building the cathedral. However, he died in 1822 without realizing his dream, and the Bishops such as Heber, James and Turner who came after him also died with out the cathedral coming into shape.[6] The first design for the cathedral had been conceived in 1819 by William Nairn Forbes at the request of Marquess of Hastings, then Governor-General of Bengal but was not accepted as it was very expensive to build.[4] It was only in 1832 when Bishop Daniel Wilson came to Calcutta that the project was revived. Land to build the cathedral was identified and an area of 7 acres (2.8 ha) was acquired. Forbes designed the present cathedral at the request of Bishop Daniel Wilson, which could accommodate about 800 to 1,000 people of Christian community.[4] A Cathedral Committee was set up and designs to build the cathedral were drawn up. On 8 October 1839, construction was initiated by laying the cornerstone. The cathedral was completed after eight years and consecrated on 8 October 1847. It consisted of the chancel, the sanctuary, the chapels and the 201 feet (61 m) tall spire; the cost of construction of the edifice was then Rs. 4,35,669.[1][4][6] On this occasion, which was very largely attended by Europeans and local people, Queen Victoria had sent "ten pieces of silver-gilt plate" for the cathedral.[4] The military engineer, Major William Nairn Forbes (1796–1855) (who later became a Major General of the Bengal Engineers), designed the cathedral with the assistance of architect C. K. Robinson, modelling the tower and spire upon the Norwich Cathedral. It was a blend of Classical and Gothic design. In spite of building the cathedral in Neo-Gothic style, it was a modern edifice for its time as its framework consisted of iron and steel.[2][7][8][9][10]

In the 1897 earthquake and the subsequent massive earthquake of 1934 when Calcutta was devastated, the cathedral's steeple collapsed.[clarification needed] It was reconstructed to a revised design.[3] The tower was rebuilt along the lines of the central Bell Harry tower of Canterbury Cathedral, following the 1934 Calcutta earthquake.[3][10] The Bishop's House across the street is also architecturally notable. On its completion, St Paul's replaced St. John's Church, Kolkata as the cathedral.[3] 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.[7]

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 here to participate in the festivities.[10]


On its completion, St. Paul's church replaced St. John's Church, Kolkata as the cathedral.

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.[8] It was then called a "spurious gothic adapted to the exigencies of the Indian climate."[4] The cathedral's design, otherwise known as Gothic Revival style, is built with stained glass windows, two frescoes in Florentine Renaissance style and the West Window designed in 1880 by Burn-Jones. Its nave is very long at 247 feet (75 m) and the width of the cathedral is 81 feet (25 m). The nave is fitted with well crafted wooden pews and chairs. The central spire raises to a height of 201 feet (61 m)t 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 West stained glass windows 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.[2][4][6][11] When completed in 1847 the cathedral as a whole was compared to the Norwich Cathedral of England.[8] The East window, which had original stained glass, was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964. This was substituted with a new one in 1968.[12] The roof of the cathedral is in the shape of a "shallow curve" spanning (was the largest span when built) over iron trusses decorated with "Gothic tracery". The hall of the cathedral was built spaciously without any aisles on its flanks.[4] The materials used in the construction of the cathedral building 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.[4]

The cathedral complex also has a library, built over the western porch, to dimensions of 61 by 22 feet (18.6 m × 6.7 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 made of marble of Bishop Wilson.[6][13]

Entry to the cathedral is from the north through a large gate made of wrought iron called the Sir William Prentice Memorai Gate, which is named after Sir William Prentice who was member of cathedral's congregation for many years. The cathedral is surrounded by a well tended garden.[6][8] In 1847, sixty three species of trees were planted in the garden.[6]

The cathedral has a display of many Plastic art forms and memorabilia. There is an "episcopal throne", on the southern flank of the altar and also a decorative reredo or wall on its backside dated to 1879; it has carvings of episodes related to the life of St. Paul, annunciation, adoration of the Magi, and Flight into Egypt all credited to Sir Arthur Blomfield. The parish hall within the premises of the cathedral is the venue for holding social functions.[14][4] The eastern wall in the cathedral has paintings of life of St. Paul painted by Blomfield in 1886. Also notable is the font with the sculpture of Bishop Heber in a posture of obeisance.[4] The cathedral has an organ with 41 stops made by Joseph Willis and Sons of London, still in use.[15]


Bishop Daniel Wilson had desired that his body be interred in a vault placed under communion-table of the cathedral if he died in Calcutta. He had also expressed a desire that a plain mural tablet, without ornamentation, be placed on the walls of the communion-table not only at St. Pauls Cathedral but also in Bishop's College Chapel at Calcutta and in the Saint Mary's Church, Islington.[16] There is a memorial to John Paxton Norman, an acting Chief Justice who was assassinated. It is large and decorated, which was established by the government which is surmounted by a cross at the top, with a carving of "justice with her scales seated against a background of tiles inlaid with a bright floral pattern" denoting Judge Norman's interest in botany.[4] Arthur William Garnett, the English engineer who died in India in 1861 is also buried here.[17] T. F. Middleton, the first Bishop of Calcutta (1814–1822) is buried here.

Picture gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bishops of our Diocese". Ashoke Biswas (Bishop of Calcutta, CNI 2008 – till date. Diocese of Calcutta CNI. 
  2. ^ a b c Chakraborti, Manish. "The Historic Anglican Churches of Kolkata" (pdf). 
  3. ^ a b c d "St. Pauls Cathedral". Official website of Westengal Toiursim Department. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Banerjee, Jacqueline. "St Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata, India, by William Nairn Forbes: The First Victorian Cathedral". The Victorian Web. 
  5. ^ "Place". St. Paul's Cathedral. Kednriya Vidya Sangathan:An autonomous organizatiomn of theGovernment of India. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "St. Pauls Cathedral". The Diocese of Calcutta, CNI. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Riddick 2006, p. 175.
  8. ^ a b c d Earth 2011, p. 64.
  9. ^ 100 Cities of the World. Parragon Pubishing India. 2010. pp. 57–. ISBN 978-1-4454-0665-7. 
  10. ^ a b c Saran 2014, p. 252.
  11. ^ "St Paul's Cathedral". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Betts & McCulloch 2013, p. 145.
  13. ^ Earth 2011, pp. 63–64.
  14. ^ Earth 2011, p. 63-64.
  15. ^ Dutta 2011, p. 90.
  16. ^ Bateman 1860, p. 727.
  17. ^  Garnett, Frederick Brooksbank (1890). "Garnett, Arthur William". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 21. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 


External links[edit]

Kolkata/Maidan travel guide from Wikivoyage

Coordinates: 22°32′39″N 88°20′48″E / 22.54417°N 88.34667°E / 22.54417; 88.34667