Bengaluru has over 200 churches and some of them date to even a couple of centuries old. Locals and tourists alike are drawn to these majestic old houses of prayer. While some seek it to find solace, some others pay a visit to simply take in the grandeur of these buildings. And come Christmas, one can be sure to find these churches lit up, thronging with crowds who have come to attend mass or just to take in the spirit of the festival.
There are several organisations like INTACH, Bengaluru Walks, Unhurried, Bengaluru By Foot and others that take you on guided walks through these churches. For those of you looking to explore on your own and make a day of it, here a DIY guide for walking through the churches in the Cantonment area. And what better time to take a stroll than on Christmas.
Starting off: Walk 1
Start off at the oldest church in Bengaluru, St. Mary’s Basilica. The church had humble origins at the turn of the 18th century, and the spacious gothic Church we see today was rebuilt in the form of a Cross only in 1882.
St Mary's Basilica in Shivaji Nagar. Pic: Tinu Cherian, Wikimedia Commons*
It is 172 feet long and 50 feet wide, with the imposing tower forming the façade, 160 feet high, surmounted by a huge cross. The colossal pillars, beautiful masonry and the light shining through the stained glass windows are unforgettable.The church has two shrines dedicated to St. Mary outside, which are huge attractions to devotees, drawing hordes of people during St. Mary’s Feast in September. It is quite busy throughout the year.
Head down Lady Curzon road and walk on the left side until you spot the 176 year old St. Paul’s Church. The English Baroque style church was the first Tamil Anglican church in the Mysore state. It has undergone several periods of alteration and extension. To delve into the rich history of this church adjacent to the Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, visit this site.
The stained glass windows at St Andrew's Chruch. Pic: WestCoastMusketeer, Wikimedia Commons*
As you walk down Central Street, you get closer to the cheery-looking St Andrew’s Church on Cubbon road. Built following orthodoxical Presbyterian Scottish architecture, with a tall belfry and chiming clock at the apex of its tower, it is named after the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew. The red-brick exterior with its white highlights make the church look very bright. The gothic structure has a 90 foot tall tower and beautiful stained glass windows, considered some of the best in Bengaluru. The impressive old pipe organ adds to the charm of the church. To learn more about the Presbyterian Church, click here.
After spending some time at St. Andrew’s, head over to St. Mark’s Cathedral on MG road to have your breath taken away. The exquisite ceiling with graceful domes, the marble altar, the stained glass work, one of the best-maintained external bells and the entrance with elaborate woodwork are all worth seeing. Though located centrally on one of Bengaluru’s busiest roads, the gardens surrounding the cathedral provide a nice buffer and make visiting the church a very peaceful experience.This cathedral was modelled along the lines of the 17th-century St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Like many of Bengaluru’s oldest churches, after its construction in 1808, it has been enlarged (1901) and rebuilt (1927) after tragic damages to the structure.
A breather before the next walk
With a good walk through four churches under your belt, it might be the right time to stop for a meal, or you can head home and return another day.
The next leg includes the option of continuing on to Trinity Church via Namma Metro and seeing the church whose foundation was laid in 1848 or walking to it. Though it would be a long walk, it would allow you to take a detour onto Dickenson road to see the East Parade Church.
The church was built in 1865, the first built by Wesleyan Methodist missionaries in the Mysore State. The eight massive Corinthian columns are striking sentinels to the entrance. The columns are arguably the greatest feature of the church, lending the whole structure its character. Today it is the domain of the East Parade Malayalam and Tamil Pastorates.
A picture of Trinity Church from 1922. Pic: Rev Frank Penny, Wikimedia Commons*
Return to MG road and head to the east end at Trinity Circle. Consecrated in 1851, Trinity Church is built in the English Renaissance style, with Corinthian Columns that create a passage to enter the church. The bell tower vies for attention as you approach the structure, imposing and elegant. The bell was cast in 1847 by the Mears Foundry of London, and a few of the statues in the church were brought all the way from England.
St Patricks Church on Brigade Road. Pic: Rahul Ravi
Hop on the Metro to return to the MG road stop and walk down Brigade road to St. Patrick’s Church. The windows of the building and the twin spires at the front make the church unique and welcoming. The original structure was completed in 1844, but over the years a lot of remodeling and additions have been made to make the structure that is standing today. The addition of the shrine to St. Anthony has brought even more people to the church. One of the most popular churches in Bengaluru, people are drawn to its calm and the beautiful architecture.
Sacred Hearts Church on Richmond Road. Pic: Rahul Ravi
Walk down Brigade road and Castle street to Sacred Hearts Church off General KS Thimayya road. Built in 1893, the church’s beautiful masonry and impressive architecture will appeal to any visitor. To find out more about the church, click here.
All Saint's Church in Richmond Town. Pic: Rahul Ravi
A few steps from Sacred Hearts is All Saints Church. The foundation stone for the structure was laid in 1869 and the church was consecrated in October 1870. It is a structure with a lovely low ceiling and looks almost like a fairytale cottage. The tiled roof lets in plenty of light through the skylights and makes the church warm and welcoming.
Another part of the Cantonment: Walk 3
St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral is well-known to everyone who passes by it. Inaugurated in 1854, it had to be rebuilt in 1911, a process which was only completed in 1932. The church is palatial and the masonry emphases it in the beholder’s eye. The grand stained glass windows, swirling staircases and massive domes can leave you awestruck.
St John's Church. Pic: Rev Frank Penny, Wikimedia Commons*
From St. Francis Xavier’s Church, St John’s is just a few feet away, so head on over there. St. John's Church, as it exists today was consecrated in the year 1858 and looks like something you might see in the British countryside. The perfect spire, the clock, the fantastic pipe organ and large white edged stained-glass windows make it an interesting building. Some more information can be found here.
You could also add Hudson Memorial Church, built in 1904 to this leg of you walk. With its charming tower and windows, this church at Corporation circle, is one not to be missed.
Things to remember
Plan in advance if you are looking to visit on a weekday or your trip may be restricted to views of only the exterior of these churches. Mornings between 8 and 10 am would be best time for the walk. Wear comfortable footwear, carry a water bottle, and other gear to protect you from the sun.
While you may be on a fun outing, do keep in mind that there will be numerous folks who are visiting to pray, so do not disturb the peace. If the churches have a cemetery attached to the premises, do pay a visit as well. You could spot some beautiful graves and tombstones, with messages from loved ones from a time long forgotten.
The churches of the cantonment are numerous, but the ones that are replete with fascinating history and architecture have been included here to give you a glimpse into Old Bangalore. Here’s to a lovely walk through Bengaluru’s majestic churches. From all of us at Citizen Matters, wish you a very Merry Christmas!
St Mary's Basilica - Tinucherian at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
St Andrew's Church - By WestCoastMusketeer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Trinity Church - By Rev. Frank Penny [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
St John's Church - By Rev. Frank Penny [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons