Churches in India You Must Visit

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Christianity came to India in the 1st century when Saint Thomas and Saint Bartholomew, two of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ reached here by boat. Bartholomew stayed on the West Coast in the Konkan region and converted the locals here to Syriac Christianity (before moving on further and reaching Armenia), while Thomas went to Kerala and converted locals there. Isn’t it amazing that while Europe was still in the dark ages, Asians had already received the light of Christ?

Anyway, European colonisers and missionaries also came in the later centuries and built churches across India. Some of them are still standing and are magnificent to look at. From small chapels to towering cathedrals, here are some of the unique and old churches you must visit in India.

1. Our lady of Remedy Church, Poisar, Mumbai

By Sarah from The Winged Fork

Inside Poisar Church.
Poisar Church

Our Lady of Remedy Church is a Padroado church built by the Portuguese way back in 1555 and it is now 466 years old. It should technically have a heritage status as one of the oldest churches of Bombay, but it doesn’t yet. Apparently, this is a newer structure, and there was an even older church that it replaced in the 15th century.

I grew up in Poinsur and went to this church all my life till I moved to Pune, but we come back quite often to visit. When we were kids, we’d love to read the Portuguese sounding names on all of the old gravestones from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some even older than that. Of course, sadly, after recent renovations most of this is gone, but the church is usually open to visit.

2. Church of St. John the Evangelist, Colaba, Mumbai

By Abby from The Winged Fork

Architecture of Afghan Church.
Afghan Church in Colaba, Mumbai

The Church of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Afghan Church, stands as a solemn tribute to the British soldiers who died in the retreat from Kabul, Afghanistan in 1842 in the Second Afghan War. Nestled in Navy Nagar, Colaba, every time we come here, it feels as though it’s narrating a different story of war and lives of lives cut short.

In the early 1840s, worshippers usually gathered in a temporary chapel located in the area then known as the ‘Sick Bungalows,’ which is now the naval hospital INHS Asvini. Rev. Piggot, the Chaplain of the Bombay East India Company, advocated for the construction of a permanent church in this corner of Asia. His efforts led to the laying of the foundation stone on 4 December 1847, and the consecration of the Afghan Church by the Bishop of Bombay, John Harding, on 7 January 1858 and the church was designed Henry Conybeare. However, the spire took longer and was finally completed on 10 June 1865.

The reredos, as well as the Afghan War Memorial mosaics, screen, choir stalls, pews, and polychrome floor tiles were designed by students of the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art under direction of architect William Butterfield. The bells were cast in the Taylor Foundry in England in 1904. William Wailes created the famous stained glass windows. Even now, this impressive European structure stands out distinctly against the backdrop of surrounding Indian buildings in the city of Mumbai, and a must-visit for every local and international traveler.

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3. St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi,  Kerala

By Ashley from Plan Ashley Go

St. Francis Church Outside.
St. Francis Church

One of the most visited churches in India, the St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi, is a fabric weaved into the history of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial rule in the southern coastal state of Kerala in India. St. Francis church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1503 as a Catholic church.

When the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama died in Kochi on Christmas Eve of 1524, he was initially buried here. While his son took his mortal remains back to Lisbon, Portugal, a few years later, the church preserved the original burial site as a historical relic.

In the mid-1600s, the Dutch captured Fort Kochi and they converted it into a protestant church. They also undertook many renovations and the architecture you see in the church now is a perfect blend of the Dutch and Kerala styles.

In the 19th century, when the British overtook Fort Kochi, they converted the church into an Anglican congregation. The War Memorial you see in front of the church commemorating the death of World War I veterans is a testament to British colonial rule. Today, the church functions as an Indo-Anglican Protestant church under the congregation of the Church of South India (CSI).

4. National Shrine of Our Lady of Ransom, Ernakulam

By Ashley from Plan Ashley Go

Outside Vallarpadam Basilica.
Vallarpadam Basilica

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Ransom in Kerala, India, famously known as the Vallarpadam Basilica is a 16th century, Latin Catholic church built by the Portuguese. This basilica, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, has unique traditions that reflect the religious harmony upheld by the people of Kerala since ancient times.

It is believed that a miracle happened with the intervention of Vallarpadathu Amma (Mother Mary of Vallarpadam) in 1752 that led to the rise of this church as a major pilgrim center for people of all faiths.

A Hindu woman of royal lineage named Meenakshi got caught in the flood while rowing in a boat with her young son. She prayed to Vallarpadathu Amma that if her son and she survived the flood, they would forever be slaves to Her. Miraculously, the fishermen folk of the region found and rescued them. Meenakshi then kept her promise and dedicated her life to serving Vallarpadathu Amma.

A unique tradition emerged out of this miracle. Devotees of all faiths who visit the Basilica sweep the courtyard of the Basilica as a sign of offering themselves as “slaves” to Vallarpadathu Amma.

5. Augustine Ruins Goa

By Aaron from The Winged Fork

Ruins of St Augustines Tower in Velha, Old Goa.
St Augustine’s Tower in Velha, Old Goa

The ruins of St. Augustine’s Monastery and the church of Nossa Senhora de Graca on Holy Hill in the Velha region of Old Goa are not something that gets added to a regular Goa itinerary. Constructed between 1597 and 1602, the Nossa Senhora de Graca was once one of the 3 greatest Augustinian churches of the Iberian world. Excavations reveal that the monastery had 8 chapels, 4 altars, and many more cells connecting it to a nearby convent.

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The church’s colossal barrel vault was impressive but collapsed quickly in 1842 after it was abandoned. The bell from the tower was removed in 1871 and now resides in the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Panjim city.

Legends also surround these ruins, including one about the relics of Queen Ketevan of the Georgian kingdom of Kakheti. After she was killed in 1624, for refusing to give up her Christian faith, her remains were reportedly brought to the monastery in Goa by Augustinian missionaries and might still be somewhere.

I highly recommend leaving the hustle and bustle of the Old Goa heritage churches across the road, and exploring St. Augustine’s tower on your next visit to Goa.

6. Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim, Goa

By Abby from The Winged Fork

Front view ofOur lady of immaculate conception panjim goa.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim, Goa

Right in the bustling city of Panjim, the capital of Goa, the church Our Lady of Immaculate Conception offers a serene vantage point overlooking the city’s lively streets. Originally constructed as a small chapel in 1541, the church was reconstructed in 1609 to its current size.

Notably, the church houses a historic bell that once graced the Augustinian church in Old Goa called Nossa Senhora da Graça, also known as Our Lady of Grace. This bell holds the distinction of being the second oldest in Goa.

The church’s baroque facade is painted to symbolize the purity of the Virgin Mary, and the interior features golden altars of Saints Peter and Paul positioned on either side of the Virgin. While there’s not much else to see here, it does provide a welcome short respite from the hustle and bustle of Goa’s city center.

7. Sao Jacinto Island Church, Goa

By Abby from The Winged Fork

Side view of Sao Jacinto Island Church, Goa
Sao Jacinto Island Church, Goa

A short drive from Dabolim Airport, San Jacinto is an island that you’ll see in the distance when crossing the bridge from North to South Goa and vice versa. Connected to the mainland by the Silver Gate Bridge, i’s a truly remarkable island, exuding its own unique charm. What’s unusual about this spot in Goa is that the locals have been diligent caretakers of the island, having pledged in 1927 never to sell or lease it to the government.

The church on the island is an architectural gem, known locally as Sao Hycith or St. Hyacinth Church or the San Jacinto Church. Usually closed to tourists, you’ll have to visit during mass timings to look inside. Make sure you’re quiet.

There’s also a miracle spring nearby that’s known for its healing properties if you drink the water. It was just 5 minutes away so we visited, but no, did not try drinking the water.

8. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pune

By Sarah

St. Patrick's Church in Pune.
St. Patrick’s Church in Pune

A prominent Pune landmark, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located on Prince of Wales Drive. It started out as a chapel where the first mass was celebrated on December 8, 1850. When the Vicar Apostolic of Bombay and Administrator of Poona, Bishop Hartmann blessed the chapel in June 1856, he named it St. Patrick’s. Becoming a cathedral in 1886, and built in the neo-gothic style it catered to the spiritual needs of Irish soldiers stationed in Pune. It’s also the headquarters of the Pune Bishop and the main Church of the Pune diocese.

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If you visit, pay attention to the Gothic architecture, the high bell towers and beautiful stained glass windows showing scenes from Jesus’ life and the skylight above the altar that depicts the Holy Spirit.

9. Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

By Abby

Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa.
Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, situated in Old Goa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed between 1594 and 1605, the church is dedicated to the Infant Jesus and located next to Sé Cathedral and the Church of St. Francis Assisi. But the reason it’s visited more than any other church in Goa is because the body of St. Francis Xavier is kept here. Dying in 1696, his body is still preserved without embalming. Devotees throng to visit and stand in line for hours every 10 years when the body is on display.

The church itself showcases stunning Baroque architecture from the Portuguese era. While the outside made of basalt rock might look it’s age, the inside features gilded walls with ornate carvings, and paintings showing the life of St. Francis Xavier. If you’re lucky enough to visit when there are less tourists, it’s also quite peaceful.

10. St. Philomena’s Cathedral, Mysore

By Sarah of Abby’s Hearth

St. Philomena's Cathedral in Mysore.
St. Philomena’s Cathedral in Mysore is also called St. Joseph’s Cathedral

The main church of the Diocese of Mysore, India is called the Cathedral of St. Joseph and St. Philomena. Sometime’s it’s also referred to as St. Joseph’s Cathedral or St. Philomena’s Cathedral. it was built on the site of an older church that had been built there in 1843 by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. The foundation of the newer cathedral was laid by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1933 and the church was completed in 1936.

Designed by the French architect Daly, the church draws inspiration from the Cologne Cathedral in Germany and is Asia’s second largest church. The twin spires of the church are 175 feet or 53 meters tall, while the nave can easily seat 800 people. Stained glass windows depict scenes from the Bible, while a crypt below the altar inside the church holds a statue of St. Philomena. The magnificience of the Cathedral is a must-see anytime you visit Mysore.

This is a work in progress list of the must-visit Indian churches and cathedrals. There are many that still need to be added. If you would like to contribute, ping abby@abbyshearth.com

Other Posts You Might Like:

Pinterest images of St. Francis Church, Afghan Church and St Augustines Tower.
Pinterest images of Sao Jacinto, Our lady of immaculate conception and Vallarpadam Church.

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