Saturday, December 24, 2016

Irish history and a touch of Correa at St Patrick’s Cathedral

The St Patrick's Cathedral is deceptively young in appearance. 

Few would know, from the impeccably painted and maintained facade, that the church — located near Bhairobha Nala junction on the Prince of Wales Drive — was born out of a history of sectarian divide, a little over 166 years ago.
In the 1800s, the British Isles were divided on religion. England, Wales, Scotland, and the northern part of Ireland — then under the crown — were adherents of the Church of England, a Protestant institution. 


The rest of Ireland was predominantly Roman Catholic, and this led to armed conflict until very recently.
When the Irish soldiers of the East India Company settled in the area now known as Pune Cantonment, they had no places of worship, except for the City Church outside the garrison limits.

The first proper garrison church in the area was the St Mary's Church which serviced the Protestants. Lacking a similar facility, the soldiers of the Roman Catholic persuasion made do with a one-room chapel, in what is now known as the Right Flank Lines in Wanowrie.

The Archdiocese of Bombay, one of the leaders of the Catholics in India, decided to change that in 1849. James Carry was appointed a chaplain, and immediately drew up plans for a church to serve Irish Catholic soldiers.

The problem of gathering funds to construct the church was resolved when its future parishioners — the soldiers — donated a month's salary each.

And so it was on December 8, 1850, that the first service was held here for the Irish Catholic soldiers.

The church is a remnant of the architectural style which dominated Europe before the 20th century. It was built in phases.

It is a known fact that James Carry built just the part which faces Wanowrie — the extension towards the Bhairobha Nala would not take shape until a few decades later.

Like most churches, it also had a pointed and slanting roof covering the whole prayer hall. And it was this very roof that came crashing down in July of 1984, and the church was shut for a few years.

Once again, donations from longtime parishioners came to the rescue, as did one of the most famous Catholics from this part of the country — the celebrated architect Charles Correa.

Correa made it his task to restore the church, and began by replacing the tiled roof with a solid concrete roof.

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