Churches of DelhiShagun Khandelwal
Delhi’s Christian link goes back to the times of Jahangir when he built two Armenian Catholic churches near the old sabzi mandi and slaughterhouse. These churches were destroyed by Nadir Shah during his invasion in 1739. The early Christian communities were based in Sabzi Mandi, Civil Lines, Kashmere Gate, Mori Gate, Turkman Gate, Daryaganj, Paharganj and of course Chandni Chowk. Shahjahanabad houses some of the most famous and historically valuable Churches which have served as socio-religious centres to Christian communities residing in and around the area.
- Central Baptist Church
The Central Baptist Church is the oldest Mission in entire Delhi and also probably in entire North India. After the capturing of Delhi by Lord Lake, the church was founded under the protection of the Baptist Mission in 1814, near the Red Fort. It was later moved to Chandni Chowk. The church showcases the finest example of European architecture of that time. Presently, it can be located just opposite to Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib.
- St. James Chruch
Situated near Kashmiri Gate, at the intersection of Church Road and Lothian Road is the St. James Church which was built in 1836 by Colonel James Skinner. This Protestant Church was the one that the Viceroy of India attended until the Cathedral Church of the Redemption, near Gurudwara Rakab Ganj was built in 1931. The church is designed in a cruciform plan, combining the styles of Greek and Roman architecture. Its dome resembles that of Florence Cathedral in Venice, Italy. The church boasts of relics such as; “original European stained-glass windows depicting the crucifixion, ascension of Christ and his resurrection, a painting titled ‘The Prodigal Son’, original work of Italian painter Pompeo Batoni, a processional cross gifted by Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, a rare pipe organ gifted by Ralph T. Coe in 1899, and the church bell.” It also houses several graves including the graves of William Fraser and Thomas Metcalf.
- St. Stephen’s Church
Located on Church Mission Road is St. Stephen’s Church which was built in 1862 by Anglican missionaries in Italian Gothic style. The circular rose stained glass window overlooking the main hall is unique to this church and is claimed to be one of its kind in Delhi. The interiors are well maintained with motifs, pictures, carvings and beautiful furniture. The red colour of the Church is said to symbolize the blood of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and patron saint of the city and also the blood of Christians who lost their lives in 1857 revolt. The St. Stephen’s Church, Delhi compound also has the famous St. Stephen’s College and St Stephen’s Hospital, Delhi.
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Built by William Keegan in the year 1865, St. Mary’s Catholic Church is believed to be one of the oldest churches in Delhi. A church was built here in 1723 when Delhi was ruled by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. It was destroyed sixteen years later during the invasion led by Nadir Shah. The next structure was destroyed in the mutiny of 1857. The church that we now see, came up in 1865. In total, the entire church complex occupies a massive land of 4.25 acres. St. Mary’s Church is also counted amongst the biggest Christian shrines in Delhi.
- Holy Trinity Church
Missionary work around Turkman Gate had been active since the early 19th century because this area was inhabited by the ‘lower class’ population. The Holy Trinity Church, near Turkman Gate, was built in 1905 to serve the local Christians. It is a beautiful Byzantine church, built by Anglican missionaries to settle some of their ‘lower class’ converts, creating a close-knit relation between the basti surrounding it and their “new” religion. Situated a small distance from the church but in the same compound, is Holy Trinity Primary School, built between 1913-20. Today, the parishioners of the church mostly include workers of various occupations and professions.
- St. Antony’s Church Complex
A couple of minutes walk from New Delhi railway station will take one to St. Anthony’s Church Complex. Also known as the Paharganj Church, it is the third church that came up in Delhi after St. Mary’s Church, Old Delhi and Sacred Heart Cathedral. Initiated in 1917 by Rev. Fr. James, the project was completed 1949 by an Irish Capuchin Rev. Fr. R. P. Angelo. The church is built in a circular form, without any pillars in between and has the priest facing the congregation, in a first of its kind design.
Christ Methodist Church at Tis Hazari and Idgah Baptist Church near Sadar Bazaar are some of the other churches which too can be visited with family and friends this Christmas and New Year.