Entering its sesquicentennial year, St. Andrew’s Church is still a symbol of the spirit of the people of Bangalore – enduring, strong and rooted in tradition amid modernisation
A lot has changed in Bangalore over the years. But, one prominent edifice in the city’s landscape that has retained its old glory is St. Andrew’s Church. Surrounded by a canopy of trees on the lush Cubbon Road, you may breeze past this massive monolith without much ado, only catching a fleeting glimpse of its magnificent clock tower amid the trees, but nestled in the heart of this church is a history as vibrant as the city itself.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the foundation stone for St. Andrew’s Kirk (as it was called back then) was laid on November 22, 1864 by Lady Grant, the wife of Lieutenant-General Sir Hope Grant, the then Quartermaster-General of Her Majesty’s Forces. Designed by engineers Major Sankey and R.C. Dobbs, the building was completed and opened for worship on November 18, 1866, within a period of two years at an overall cost of Rs. 45,000, including the land.
Named after the patron saint of Scotland – St. Andrew – the church was originally home to the Scottish regiment in the cantonment area with Scottish customs, classical Scottish square dancing, western music and other traditions. After the complete independence of the churches with the formation of Church of South India, St. Andrew’s Church joined the C.S.I. in September 1959.
Walking into the compound, you will discover one of Bangalore’s most well-preserved structures in true classic gothic architectural style with brick red finish and long windows. The ambience gives the vibe of entering a Victorian era, reflecting the Scottish Presbyterian roots the church has. The first thing that catches your eye is the 90-foot belfry tower that houses the church bell that has been ringing at 9.30 a.m. every Sunday for 149 years and the clock, installed in 1893, that chimes every quarter hour.
A botanical paradise, Andrew’s harbours over 30 species of trees, including the Nile Tulip, Jacaranda, Ashok Tree, Rain Tree among others and also shelters a host of migratory birds that can be spotted perched on the tree top canopy surrounding the church. The real breath-taker is the massive 25-foot stain glass painting that welcomes you behind the altar.
Hand-painted by artist Alex Ballantine from Scotland and set up in the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, the magnificent creation depicts Abraham, Moses, Kind David and Prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament, the Apostles Andrew, Peter, Paul and John, a burning bush, the symbol of the Church of Kirk with alpha and omega, above which is Lord Jesus Christ.
Presbyter-in-charge Reverend Sanjay Samuel Ayer says St. Andrew’s has an identity of its own. “The structure of the building and the worship format has not changed. Some of the original Presbyterian traditions have been upheld while some are intertwined into the C.S.I. Despite the modernization in Bangalore, Andrew’s is still maintaining its heritage value. The challenge for Andrew’s is to hold on to its strong foundation in tradition and adapt to modern times.”
Another hard-to-miss part of the church is the 800-odd pipes-fitted pipe organ. Built by Peter Gonacher in 1864, the pipe organ was installed at the church in 1881 and is one of the few well-maintained pipe organs in the country.
When St. Mark’s Cathedral was damaged by fire in 1923, it was St. Andrew’s Church which accommodated the congregation till the cathedral was rebuilt in 1927. Known to many as a giving church, Andrew’s, even today, supports several socio-development projects with a congregation that believes in reaching out to the needy.
The church runs a school for slum children, supports mission fields and has in the offing the setting up of a senior citizens’ home and a pre-school on its premises.
Andrew’s has had a series of celebrations heralding in its sesquicentennial year, including concerts and special services and will have more programmes and a carnival soon. “We are privileged to have enjoyed this building for the last 150 years. The congregation members are highly committed to the church and love to maintain its tradition. We hope to carry this legacy forward and ensure the church and its heritage continue to flourish and endure for generations to come,” adds Rev. Sanjay.
The church has English and Kannada services and special prayers and meetings all through the week.
Call 25591874 or visit St. Andrew's Church for more details.