Parishioners, historian stumble upon 17th-century treasure

Parishioners demand excavation of the 9.5 acre church land

Thane: On Saturday, a group of parishioners and a historian stumbled upon the gold-washed remains of a sculpture among the ruins of the 17th century-old Our Lady of Mercy Church in Thane. They were conducting a survey of the church.

The broken part, resembling the palm of an infant Jesus held by Mother Mary, is 6 cm tall and 5 cm wide, and appears to have been a part of a bigger statue. The parishioners have demanded complete excavation of the 9.5-acre site in the hope that it will yield many such historical nuggets, reported Mumbai Mirror.

Archaeologist and historian Mayur Thakare, who found the piece, said: “After the discovery, I cleaned up the sculpture and handed it over to the parishioners. We are planning to display it in a parish museum or gallery that is being planned.”

He said the church is not a Center- or state-protected monument, and the discovery was not a part of any official activity.

Parishioner Kasber Augustine said that further excavation of the premises is essential. “The small piece that was found tells us that many such valuables of historical importance may be lying underneath,” said Augustine.

However, the process of obtaining an excavation license from the Archaeological Survey of India is a long one.

Around 6,000 parishioners have been trying to get a heritage tag for these remains for a long time. They had written to the Directorate of Archeology and Museums and the authorities have requested the Thane Municipal Corporation and the district collector to include the structure in the heritage list.

In its letter, the Directorate of Archeology and Museums in clearly stated: “The church is a representative specimen of the Indo-Portuguese art and architecture and is a living testimony to the rich history and heritage of Thane.”

Despite that, Augustine said, “nothing has moved forward so far.”

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