Welcome to Kolkata, the city of joy!
One of the must-visit places here is the St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you’re a history buff or an architecture aficionado, this place is perfect for you. It boasts the glory of colonial times and is the first of its kind Anglican church in the British territory outside of Great Britain.
The cathedral is a CNI of Anglican background and the first Episcopal Church in Asia. You must visit during Christmas when the cathedral is decked up in lights and looks like a dream.
The central tower was inspired by the ‘Bell Harry’ tower of Canterbury Cathedral.
The cathedral was built to provide space for the growing European community in Kolkata. The then Governor-General of Bengal, Marquess of Hastings, proposed the idea of building a bigger cathedral after the St. John’s Church became too small to accommodate all visitors.
The building process kept getting pushed for later dates due to permit delays, and Bishop Middleton passed away long before the project began. It was only during 1832, under Bishop Daniel Wilson, that the construction of the cathedral began.
The cathedral was designed by Major William Nairn Forbes and architect C. K Robinson. It took 8 years to complete and was consecrated on 8th October 1847, attended by the European community and a small number of locals. The then queen of England and Empress of British Empire in India, Queen Victoria, sent ten pieces of silver-gilt plates to mark the occasion. The total cost of the cathedral’s construction was approximately INR 4.36 lakhs during that time.
The cathedral has undergone restorations and renovations twice after it suffered damage from earthquakes. The second earthquake caused the steeple tower to collapse.
Recently, an inner vault beneath the altar of the church was discovered, which housed a crypt with an ornate coffin inside a glass enclosure that belonged to the founder of the Cathedral, Bishop Daniel Wilson. The discovery busted the claims of many historians and church authorities that Bishop Wilson was resting somewhere in the belly of the cathedral.
The St. Paul’s Cathedral boasts an exquisite gothic architectural style, with Indo-Gothic elements of Gothic Revival architecture to withstand Kolkata’s strong tropical climate. It was designed by Sir Arthur William Bloomfield of London, and the cathedral bears semblance to the Norwich Cathedral of England.
The cathedral building is built with specially made bricks that are lighter, yet with great compressional strength to withstand extreme temperatures and climatic disasters. Chunar stones were also used as dressed stones, and the interior and exterior of the building were plastered with fine lime plaster, also called chunam, similar to stucco.
The cathedral’s interior is a single hall without any side aisles, flanked with unusually high ceilings, beautifully carved pews, murals and paintings on the walls, and other pre-independence artifacts, including monuments of all bishops. The sculptures in the church were designed by some of the finest artists of the British empire.
The cathedral also has three stained glass windows on its western wall, along with frescoes represented in Florentine renaissance classic style. The stained-glass windows were designed by master designer Sir Edward Brune-Jones in memory of Lord Mayo.
The cathedral still has the Willis pipe organ with 41 stops, made by Henry Willis & Sons of London. Towards the western porch, there is a library situated in the cathedral premises. Bishop Wilson donated 8000 books and manuscripts from his personal collection, and he was the brains behind the idea of setting up a library.
So, don’t miss the chance to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral if you are ever in Kolkatta. It is near to other notable attractions like Birla Planetarium and Victoria Memorial few blocks away.
It can be reached by a large number of bus routes from both North and South Calcutta. It also falls right on the metro route and the nearest station is Rabindra Sadan or popularly referred to as Exide. You can also take a cab from any part of the city to reach here. The nearest Metro is Rabindra Sadan or locally known as Exide.