Friday, September 28, 2018

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Trichy

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Trichy
Our Lady of Lourdes Church is a Roman Catholic Church devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes located near Thayumanavar Swamy Temple Teppakulam in Trichy City in Trichy District of Tamilnadu. The Church was built in the 1895 in the Gallo-Catholic design. The Catholic church is a replica of our Lady of Lourdes church in France. 

According to an article by Fr. A. Joseph S.J. in the Tamil souvenir magazine (available online) published to celebrate the church’s centennial (1896-1998), the rector Reverend Father Leo Barbier S.J., (1893-1903) was the first person to moot the idea of the church. He also credits St. Joseph’s College principal Joseph Pei (1884-93), with encouraging the Tirunelveli-born master mason Dhanam Savaritmuthu to take charge of constructing the Our Lady of Lourdes church.

The building work started after around two years of preparation, when Savarimuthu is thought to have first learned from the fathers how to read the plans and also incorporate Christian symbolism in the building. As an acknowledgement of his services, Savarimuthu has been buried in the crypt below the altar of the church. This honour is usually reserved for the priests who have served the Jesuit college and mission in the area.

In 1838, French Jesuit missionaries came to Madurai. The missionary Fr. Ferdinand Celle S.J. built the Gothic Sacred Heart church in Idaikattur, Sivaganga district in 1894, and is also thought to have had a role in the Trichy church. Some other nuggets of information from the article indicate that the church site was marshy and water-logged as it was situated in an ‘Agazhi’ (moat) meant to encircle the old Trichy fort.

The foundation was reinforced and raised by pumping concrete into granite-lined holes of 15-20 ft depth (also known as the open caisson technique). The 8 ft cross atop the steeple weighs 73 kilos, and also acts as a lightning conductor for the building. As many as 50 sharp nails on the cross prevent birds from soiling it. It was brought down and gilded in 1996 and reinstalled after three months.

A further search for the science behind the church’s construction leads us to the National Institute of Technology Trichy(NITT), where third-year students of the Department of Architecture had researched the building in 2002. Detailed hand-drawn pen-and-ink plates describe how the Our Lady of Lourdes church was built to reflect both the Gothic style of European structures and suit the local requirements for daily worship.

“Our Lady of Lourdes church shows the talent of Indian craftsmen; it shows that they could build any structure, no matter what the style, using local materials,”

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, a hundred years old, is built within the St. Joseph’s College complex, in gothic architectural style (it is said that a Maistry from Tirunelveli, one Savarimuthu, was given intensive training in such construction by the missionaries so that he could supervise the building), the Church’s 200 ft tall spire is visible from a radius of 8 kms around it. The Church has not been a repainted outside as the administrators wish to preserve its antiquity.

The stained-glass panels depicting stories from the Bible are truly beautiful. This hallowed church that forms an important land mark in this sprawling city was built in 1895 AD on the model of our Lady of Lourdes church – France. The church is decked out in Gallo-Catholic design, from neo-Gothic spires to anguished scenes of crucifixion and martyrdom painted inside. In a note of cross-religious pollination, icons of Virgin Mary are garlanded in flower necklaces.

The main tower is 220 feet in height, and the small tower is 120 feet in height. The statues of St. Sacred heart, along with St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St. Britto is placed at the center of the tower. The church bell is set at a height of 90 feet. This Gothic styled structure with pointed arch rises to a height of 62 feet above the nave right across the Main Guard Gate, which once formed the rampart of 'Trichinopoly' fort.

Inside this gate there is an old building called Clive hostel where Robert Clive of East India company stayed for a brief period. Massive walls, round pillars and topped arches are typical of the Norman style of architecture. The Church is a fine example of the blend of European and Indian sensibilities within the framework of Gothic architecture.

The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is held annually on 11 February.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church is located near to the famous St. Joseph College, Trichy Rockfort and Thayumanavar Swamy Temple Theppakulam in Trichy City. The Church is located at about 100 meters from Teppakulam Bus Stop, 400 meters from Trichy Fort Railway Station, 400 meters from Rockfort Bus Stop, 800 meters from Trichy Chatiram Bus Station, 5 Kms from Trichy Railway Station, 2 Kms from Trichy Town Railway Station, 5 Kms from Trichy Central Bus Stand and 9 Kms from Trichy Airport.

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