300-year old St. Thomas Cathedral in Bombay gets new look on Christmas Eve

"This is the first time renovation and restoration work has been undertaken on such a large scale"
( [email protected] ) Jan 05, 2004 11:41 AM EST

Bombay, Maharashtra, India., Jan. 4 - An oasis of peace set amid the cacophonic Fort area, the St Thomas Cathedral, is getting a much-needed facelift.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, the 300-year-old cathedral — the oldest church built by the British in the city — was rededicated in an impressive mass.

The Victorian Gothic-style cathedral — a Grade I heritage structure founded in 1676 and completed in 1718 — is a witness to the history of the Raj in the city.

"It is a spectacular testament of faith and workmanship," said Father K I Dyvasirvadam.

The marble sculptures on the walls recount unknown tales of ordinary soldiers, sailors and civilians who crossed the seven seas to make the city their home. The cathedral is most famous for its ornamental and iconic stained glass windows that were shipped all the way from London.

Till the 19th century, the 146-foot tower was visible to travellers who arrived by steamships in Mumbai. A part of the church was almost blown off during the 1944 dock explosion.

"Though renovation was done from time to time, it was in parts," said Father Dyvasirvadam. "The years and the monsoon had taken their toll. This is the first time renovation and restoration work has been undertaken on such a large scale," he added.

One of the first tasks the restoration team undertook was to demolish the flat slab over the roof of the altar and replace it with a tiled pyramid roof the way it was built in 1865. The four-sided clock on the tower took 14 months to repair. Besides intensive rewiring of the electric cables, the church has also had a paint job.

With the church’s fortunes inextricably linked to the city, there are plans for building a museum inside the church. "The museum will come up in the enclosure that was once the organ room. It will house photographs, models and documents of historic interest," said Father Dyvasirvadam.