Not a single day passes without Trevor Alexander lighting a candle at the altar of the Armenian Church in Chennai (Madras) India.
As caretaker, Alexander lives in the premises of the church in the busy streets of George Town in the city.
Unfortunately, the church is left without a priest and there has been no Sunday service in the last six decades as there are no Armenians in the city. Alexander, however, makes it a point to ring the church’s huge bells every Sunday.
The Armenian Church is funded by the Armenian Apostolic Church and maintained by the Armenian Church Committee of Kolkata. Also called the Armenian Church of Virgin Mary, it was built by Armenians from Persia and is considered to be one of the oldest churches in India.
The church was built in 1712 by Armenians who arrived in India as traders. It was reconstructed in 1772.
The bodies of 350 Armenians are buried at the church’s cemetery. Reverend Haroutiun Shmavonian who founded the world's first Armenian periodical "Azdarar", is buried here.
The church is famous for its belfry adjacent to the main church. The six large bells are rung every Sunday at 9:30 am by the caretaker. The bells are of different sizes, from 21 to 26 inches, and weigh around 150 kg each. Believed to be the largest and heaviest bells of Chennai, they were manufactured and brought from London at different dates.
Alexander said, “We do not allow people to climb the stairs to see the six bells as the wooden stairs are three centuries old.”
The pictures on the walls are works of former caretaker of the church, George Gregorian, who lived in India for 50 years.
Mr. Alexander said, “Visiting hours are from 9:30 am to 2:30 every day. So please do come and visit the church. This is a heritage place that should be seen by everyone.”
June 24, 2012
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