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St. Mary’s church - Tamilnadu

St. Mary’s church

The oldest edifice constructed in the British style of architecture in India is the St. Mary's church housed at Fort St. George in Chennai, the capital city of South Indian state Tamilnadu. This ancient British Anglican Church is proudly alled as “Westminster Abbey of East”. The antiquity and culture are beautifully portrayed in this famous cathedral.


Sir Streynsham master, who was representing the East India Company in Chennai, realized the need of a Chapel for the religious practices and rituals. So he started the construction of a Church on the Lady Day, that is, on 25th March 1678. The consecration ceremony was conducted on 28th October 1680. Within such a short span of time, the magnificent building was constructed in the British style of Architecture. As the building was with a bomb-proof roof, it was used as a barrack and granary between 1758 and 1759 during the Second Carnatic War.


The architect was either Edward foule- master gunner of the fort St. George or William Dixon – chief gunner. The edifice consists of two broad alleys with a focal point jutted about 12 feet that forms a sanctum. To the west of the focal point, there is a commodious gallery that rests on the wooden Burma teak pillars which was once a seating place for Governor. Two staircases were incorporated to the existed architecture in the year 1761, through which the galleries can be seen from outside.

Later in 1884, the architecture was once again revamped with gallery was lessened and a part was removed and thus raised as a new building. The tower that was constructed at the end of 18th century was not an original plan. It was built as per the order of Sir John Goldsborough. The steeple was built at the beginning of 19th century, in addition to this, two vestries were also built at the east of each alleys.

Looking at the interiors dimensions, the building is about 86feet width and 56 feet depth. The outside walls are about 4 feet thick which separates the naves from alleys. Outside thickness of the walls is to safeguard the building from attacks. One of the interesting feature that was added to the design was bomb-proof ceiling which is about 4 feet thick.

Altar and yard of the church:

An unsigned portrait of last supper, Altarpiece was said to be a pure betray of Raphaelite school where Raphael himself sketched the figures. It was brought to Chennai when it was spoiled by British troops.

No such yards existed when the church was originally constructed. Those who left the world were buried in Guava garden which is adjacent to governor's house. The petition was sent to the chief engineer of the fort, Sir John call to relocate the graveyard to north-west of an island. As per the order, the cemetery was relocated.

Ceremonies and burials:

Many happiest and saddest moments happened here. The governor of St. George and treasurer of St, Mary's church, Robert Clive was married to Elihu Yale. He offered some amount of money to Yale University which was started in USA.  Many memorial plaques and monuments exists in this church. Bird artist Elizabeth Gwillim was also buried here.

How To Reach:

By flight- the nearest airport is Chennai airport and the distance is just 21KM.

By train- the nearest is Chennai central railway station and the distance to reach the fort is just 3KM.

By road- the roads are well tied and the fort can be reached from any part of neighbouring cities.