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St. Marys Church, Chennai

St. Marys Church Overview

This is the oldest Anglican Church in Asia. The imposing white edifice was consecrated in 1679 AD; and continues to be an important place of worship. It's treasures are the altar piece, a large painting of the last supper, a 1660 bible and silver plates. Visitors to St. Mary's Church will be reminded of the men who built Madras (Chennai) and also of the institutions they gave to the city. This Church, often described as the Westminster Abbey of the East, is the oldest British building in Chennai.

Interesting Facts

St. Mary's started, as a Church of the first congregation, then became the Governors congregation. Later it became a Garrison Church and today it remains a monument protected by the Archaeological Survey Of India. Rev. Richard Portman was the first Chaplain of the Church. Took charge on 28th October 1679. The French converted it into a military dormitory, in 1746, after the occupation of Fort St. George. In 1877 the Princess of Tanjore presented the altar rails to the Church. The first marriage to be celebrated here was that of Elihu Yale and Catherine Hynmers on November 4th 1680. St. Mary's Church started the first organised charity in Madras (Chennai) and also ran the first hospital in India on western lines (1664) St. Mary’s Church conjures up images of the British era. Names of bygone Englishmen are engraved on the pillars. Robert Clive was married in this church.


The Structure and the Interiors

The original building, which William Dixon built and Edward Fowle embellished, was a rectangular structure in brick and polished in lime, with a bombproof, curved roof. Later additions to the building include the Sanctuary, Steeple (1710), Tower (1701) and the Vestry. The Spire to the Church, designed by Colonel Gent was added in 1795. The interior of the Church has beautiful wooden work and stained glass arches. In 1985, artisans, from Karaikudi, undertook a major restoration work. St. Mary's Church was built largely from personal donations. Excavations for the Church building began in the Fort St. George premises, during Governor Streynsham's tenure and its construction was completed in 1679. The Church was christened St. Mary's as its foundation was laid on the Annunciation day of the Virgin Mary (the feast observed by Christians to mark the day when Mary was told of God's plan that she would be Mother of Jesus). The tombstones, memorial tablets on the six detached pillars and the Church Records bring back old memories. It also has the earliest register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in the country. The Visitors Book, dating from 1903-1947, is also an interesting piece from the past.


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