Churches

Churches

Kolkata [Calcutá/Calcutta], West Bengal, India

Religious Architecture

he English settled in three villages that later gave rise to the city of Calcutta in 1690. These villages were located about forty kilometres south of Hooghly and Portuguese merchants had taken up temporary residence there since the middle of the 16th century. Among those that moved to the new British trading post was a significant community of Luso-Indians or descendants of the Portuguese. Supported by Augustinian missionaries they quickly founded their first church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. This was destroyed three years later and reconstructed in 1700 in the area of Murghibatta (Chicken Bazaar), where a community of Portuguese descendants lived. The first Fort William of Calcutta was started nearby at the same time. Work was done on the church in 1720, as can be confirmed by an inscription on the façade. It was a brick construction illuminated by windows just under the roof and described as a “simple Iberian construction”. With the sack of the city by the Nabob of Bengal in 1756, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary was pillaged and with the return of the British a year later it was transformed into a Protestant church. This situation was maintained until 1760, when the missionaries of the Padroado were reinstated. The church was completely reconstructed in 1797 following the project of the English architect Thomas Sayrs. The Barreto family of Calcutta’s community of Portuguese descendants funded the work, which was concluded in November 1799. It is today known as the Cathedral of Kolkata but little or nothing remains of the 1700 structure. There are two other religious structures that were built by Portuguese missionaries in Kolkata: the Church of Our Lady of Pain at Bhoitakhana or Boitaca (1810) and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1834). These buildings, however, can hardly be considered as heritage of Portuguese origin as they reflect the dominant influence of the British colonial administration on a community that was practically disconnected from the Portuguese State of India.

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