CHURCHES OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA - Greek Orthodox Church
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CHURCHES AND SYNAGOGUES OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA – Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church, Kolkata

History says that the Greek connection to the city of Calcutta dates back almost to the days of Job Charnock. In fact, the Greeks emigrated to India after the Ottoman and Turkish invasions in the 16th century. During those days, Calcutta had quite a sizeable Greek community, mostly close-knit clans of noble families from the Greek island of Chios. Those brave and adventurous Greeks were lured by the prospects of making their fortunes through trade in cloth, salt, lime and native products.

At the beginning, like most of the other European communities, they flocked together in the vicinity of Lalbazar-Kolutola area and soon build a modest church in 1752, known as the Greek Church of the Transfiguration. But for reasons unknown, it was abandoned within a short time. The second Greek Orthodox Church came up in Amratala area, during the tenure of Warren Hastings. The necessary fund was raised for the construction of the building, but the bulk portion was contributed by Haji Alexios Argyree, a prominent Greek merchant of Calcutta. The new Church was opened for the public in 1781. But in 1924, the Greeks opted to shift their Church again, very near to the Kalighat Tram Depot. The foundation stone of the new proposed building was laid on 3 Nov. 1924 and the first prayer was held on 19 Nov. 1925.

Greek Orthodox Church - Entrance
Greek Orthodox Church – Entrance
Greek Orthodox Church - Main Entrance Door
Greek Orthodox Church – Main Entrance Door
Greek Orthodox Church - Doric Columns
Greek Orthodox Church – Doric Columns

The majestic and dignified building of the present Greek Orthodox Church of Calcutta looks almost like a Parthenon temple. With its four Doric columns in the portico supporting the huge pediment, the Church seems to be somewhat out of place amidst the hustle and bustle of the normally busy locality.

At the entrance of the Greek Orthodox Church, Plethora of marble plaques written in Greek welcomes the visitors to the church. The cosy and elegant interior is amazingly maintained. The colonnade corridor leads to the beautifully polished wooden altar with beautiful panels and paintings. The altar of the Church is richly decorated with a number of beautiful paintings on canvas, relating the life of Christ after his transfiguration, Jesus and his apostles, the Virgin Mary and the archangels Gabriel and Michael with their swords. A painting of St Catherine is also adorned in one corner. The door leading to the sanctum Sanctorum contains panels depicting the Annunciation with Mary and the angel. All these paintings, drawn in typical late 19th Century style, are works of D. Tsevas of Athens, 1930. The paintings contain the signature of the artist at the corner of each panel. The interior of the Church is richly adorned with huge chandeliers, shaped like brazen chrysanthemums turned upside down.

Greek Orthodox Church - Plaque above the main entrance
Greek Orthodox Church – Plaque above the main entrance

After independence of India, the thriving Greek merchant community started to leave Calcutta. As a result, due to the massive decline of the Greek population in Kolkata this church became non-functional from the late 1960s and finally it was locked. However, In 1991 Fr. Ignatios (Sennis), a hieromonk from Mount Athos, arrived in Calcutta and reopened the Greek Orthodox Church in 1991, after a lot of renovations and repairs. He also established the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church.

Unfortunately, by that time Kolkata was no more an abode for any of the pure Greek people. In the absence of pure Greek blood, today the Greek Orthodox Church in Calcutta is mainly used by Bengali converted Christians and Sunday services are held regularly in Bengali. However, since funds from abroad are drying up, the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church is now finding it extremely difficult to fund its philanthropic activities.

Greek Orthodox Church - Inside view
Greek Orthodox Church – Inside view
Greek Orthodox Church - Road Signs
Greek Orthodox Church – Road Signs

Location of Greek Orthodox Church Kolkata

Greek Orthodox Church location

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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