Karnataka

St. Philomena’s Church: Conservation norms violated?

Triggering a row: Conservation work under way at St. Philomena’s Church in Mysuru has drawn flak from heritage activists.  

St. Philomena’s Church, a classic representation of neo-Gothic architecture based on the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, that was completed in 1936, is all set to get a ‘spanking new look with a fresh coat of paint’ much to the chagrin of purists and conservation experts.

The ongoing conservation exercise is alleged to be in violation of the established norms stipulated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is a departure from convention as it entails introduction of new material in the conservation.

While manufactured sand (M-Sand) is being used instead of river sand, the building is also being given a fresh coat of dark or steel grey paint which has never been applied on the structure before, fumes N.S. Rangaraju, a member of the Mysuru Heritage Committee and former chairman of the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore.

The work is being funded by the Tourism Department which has pumped in ₹2.2 crore for the project. But it is the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, Government of Karnataka, which does not have a full-time director for a year now and is currently headed by the Deputy Director of Archives that is implementing it.

Mumbai-based firm

The conservation exercise is being carried out by a Mumbai-based private firm and a representative at the site averred that they were not using cement but instead scrapping off the cement layer applied during an earlier exercise carried out a few years ago. However, he admitted to the use of manufactured sand on the grounds that the quality of the river sand was not good.

Prof. Rangaraju said the introduction of new material in conservation amounts to compromising the heritage norms. Expressing dismay over the ongoing works, Prof. Rangaraju – who is also an archaeologist – said use of M-Sand amounts to modifying the building composition. “The original edifice was built using granite, brick and lime mortar and hence the use of M-Sand should be stopped immediately,” said Prof. Rangaraju. When completed, the building will have the appearance of a new structure constructed using modern material and will be devoid of any heritage value, he warned. The University of Mysore itself has experience in such exercises and has restored Prof. Radhakrishnan’s Bungalow and the Professor’s Quarters in the recent past and has not deviated from conservation norms, he added.

When contacted, Gavisiddaiah, Deputy Director, Archives, said he would ask the technical staff in the Archaeology Department to investigate and if found true, would push for the work to stop so as to adhere to the established norms.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 9:33:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/st-philomenas-church-conservation-norms-violated/article19656958.ece

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