19 kms north-west of Meerut lies the charming town of Sardhana with a romantic and historically important past. In the late 18th century, the french adventurer Walter Reinhardt came to India and soon became popular as 'Samru'. He received Sardhana from Najaf Khan of Delhi for successfully supporting his troops and in 1773; the principality of Sardhana was formally established.
After his death in 1778, he was succeeded by his formidable widow Begum Samru, who converted to Roman Catholic Faith in 1781. The Roman Catholic Church she built in Sardhana is an imposing structure that exhibits the subtle mixture of architectural styles. Designed by the Italian architect Anthony Reghelini, this church cost Rs. 4 lakhs in 1822, which was truly astronomical at that time.
Two huge lakes near the church are the result of the mud that was removed to supply the building materials for the church facing the west; this church has its entrance from the north side. The verandah is lined by 18 Doric pillars. At the back side rises two lofty spires, and the steeple and the left has two large bells. The octagonal lantern above the central dome is made up of finely chiseled and perforated slates and capped with black and white marble.
This reflects an obvious Muslim architectural influence. On the top of the three domes and two spires, there are heavily glided metal balls surmounted by metal crosses. On either side of the sanctuary there are two long wings- the left wing has the well-known monument over the tomb of the Begum.
This eighteen feet carrara marble monument consists of eleven life size figures and three panels in bas-relief. Right on top, the Begum sits in state dressed in Muslim style. Immediately below her stands four figures- David Dyce Samru, Innayat-ullah, Diwan Rae Singh and Julius Ceasar Scotti Six symbolic figures stand right below representing fearlessness, wisdom, fulfillment, prosperity that prevailed during the tenure of the Begum.
The beauty and fame of the Sardhana church was enhanced when the sacred image of Lady of Graces was enshrined in 1957. The church was further honored when Pope John XXIII designed to raise it to the dignity of Minor Basilica, in 1961.
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