A Christmas inside the century-old Medak cathedral 

The Medak Cathedral owes its existence to Rev Charles Walker Posnett, who reached the village of Medak in 1896. He brought down the mud and thatch church built in 1889 and built a small chapel where 250 parishioners could pray in its stead

December 25, 2023 01:57 pm | Updated December 30, 2023 07:51 am IST - MEDAK

The cathedral, built in stone, soars to a height of 175 feet. It is not just a centre for pilgrimage for Protestant Christians but has become a tourist draw. Visitors walk in all hours of the day to see the church. 

The cathedral, built in stone, soars to a height of 175 feet. It is not just a centre for pilgrimage for Protestant Christians but has become a tourist draw. Visitors walk in all hours of the day to see the church.  | Photo Credit: Serish Nanisetti

99 years ago to the day, Rev Charles Walker Posnett rode an elephant with his brother at the head of a long procession to reach the Medak Cathedral. On December 25, 1924, surrounded by about 3000 villagers and fellow parishioners under one of the grandest cathedral he helped execute, Posnett heard the Christmas sermon by Rev Daniel Napoleon. 

Now, the parishioners and Church of South India officials are drawing up plans to celebrate 100 years of the church. The legacy of the church is now carried forward by the Presbyter Incharge Rev. T. Shanthiah.

In Pictures | Celebrating Christmas in Telangana’s Medak Church

“On weekends, we have about 50,000 people coming here to pray. Some of them crawl on all fours from the entrance arch to the pulpit. Some others do 100 perambulations as per their belief,” says Rev. David Richards. 

The cathedral, built in stone, soars to a height of 175 feet. It is not just a centre for pilgrimage for Protestant Christians but has become a tourist draw. Visitors walk in all hours of the day to see the church. The vast vault with gothic ribbed ceiling and a span of 40 feet runs the length of a 200 foot nave. At the end of it is the chancel stained-glass panel showing the Ascension of Jesus Christ, installed in 1927, three years after the consecration of the church. The morning light illuminates the Nativity panel, which was installed nearly 20 years later, in 1947. “In 1958 when the final Crucifixion panel was being installed, Vijayalakshmi Pandit intervened and asked for inclusion of elements from Indian culture. The words ‘Yehudion ka Raja’ (King of Jews was added in Hindi language above the thorny crown,” informs a parishioner. Below the panel is a phrase in Telugu: “Nenu bhoomi meeda nundi paiketha badinappudu andarini naa yoddaku cherchukondu (When I ascend to heaven, I will gather all people into my fold)”. The stained glass designs were executed by Mr. F. Salisbury. The chancel tiles were shipped by J. H. Patteson of Manchester. 

“On July 19, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited the cathedral and I explained to her about the church and its features for nearly 20 minutes,” says Rev. Samuel Reddimalla who was the Presbyter Incharge when Indira Gandhi visited the church. She left behind a note on the visitors’ register: “Prime Minister of India visited the cathedral and took blessings on July 19, 1984 at 2pm.” It was the same day that Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone for the Infantry Combat Vehicles factory at Yeddumailaram. 

The Medak Cathedral owes its existence to Rev Charles Walker Posnett, who reached the village of Medak in 1896. He brought down the mud and thatch church built in 1889 and built a small chapel where 250 parishioners could pray in its stead. As a famine swept the land, Posnett drew up plans to build a grand church and create work for the residents of Medak. The farmers and workers of the villages surrounding the area turned up for work. He roped in Bradshaw Gass & Hope architectural firm from Bolton, UK in 1915. Three plans were ready by 1919. The grand cathedral was ready but not complete by 1924. On the day of the first sermon, a chronicle records: “The scenes at the giving of thanksgiving have not been paralleled since. Calves, sheep, goats and chicken were brought forward in what seemed an unending stream. Hindus and Muslims also gave their offerings, some of them travelling scores of miles to be present.”  

“That tradition has continued. People come from different parts of the state and even Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra come here camp and cook here for a day or two and pray at the church,” says inform Rev. David. On Christmas, the sermon preached inside the church can be heard across the town and even up on the ancient Medak Fort.

Two years later, in July 1926, Posnett was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind medal for public service. 

The bare landscape that Posnett saw in 1896 is now bustling township. A new bus stand has been built right in from of the arch of the church. 

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