Hyderabad, Dec. 2, 2018: The arrival of Christianity in the Telugu country cannot be timed correctly. Some link it to the arrival of the Dutch in the early 16th century, while some believe French missionaries spread the religion here from 1735 AD. According to a report, churches existed in the Nizam’s kingdom by 1800 AD.
Christianity enjoyed royal patronage and successive Nizams gifted big clocks, bells, teak furniture and decorative pieces to many churches. St John’s Church (Marredpally), St Mary’s Church (Secunderabad), St Joseph’s Cathedral (Gun Foundry) and St John’s Church (Abids) are the prominent churches constructed in the city over 100 years ago.
Early Christian institutions were confined to Secunderabad. Later, when many Christian families settled down in Chadarghat and Abids areas following the establishment of the British Residency at Koti, churches were built in these areas too.
Holy Trinity Church, Bolarum
Holy Trinity Church, Bolarum was constructed in 1847. It was personally funded by Queen Victoria, and the land was donated by Nizam of Hyderabad. It was initially meant for only British army officers and other Indian Christian families. The church is in the Victorian Gothic style. The stained glass windows are similar to those of country churches in England. In 1983, Queen Elizabeth II visited the church and here she celebrated her 36th wedding anniversary.
St George’s Church, Abids
The church is a beautiful structure standing in the St George’s Grammar school compound at Abids. The establishment of the British Residency in Koti led to many Christian families settling down in Chadarghat-Abids area. The construction of a church was mooted and permission from the Nizam was obtained. The then British Resident Sir George Yule laid the foundation stone in 1865 and the construction was completed in 1867. The ten-and-a-half-acre premise is full of big trees. Incidents from the life of Jesus painted on stained glass, and a unique Bible stand is special attractions at the church, which received a big clock, bells and liberal donations from the sixth Nizam. Officials of the British Residency and their families used to visit the 70-feet towering church built to resemble a cross.
St John’s Church
Located in East Marredpally, close to St Ann’s School, this is said to be first church constructed around 1813 AD in Secunderabad. It was set up exclusively for British soldiers. Priests came from Britain and enjoyed the rank of a Major. According to Theodore Comfort, from Marredpally, who was associated with the church for the last six decades, soldiers and officers in the cantonment area came marching for prayers daily at 7:30 am along with the military band. There were also arrangements to leave weapons securely outside the church.
It can be seen even today. Diwan Bahadur Seth Ramgopal had donated a large sum for the construction, and he used to visit the church frequently. The church was built in the shape of a cross, and the teakwood furniture made 150 years ago is still in good shape. Nizam Railway officers, who were also British, used to visit the church along with soldiers. The Military Engineering Service maintained the church and electric bulbs and fans were fixed in 1918. There was no electricity till 1914, Comfort says. The building won the HUDA-INTACH Heritage Award in 1998-99.
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s church is an imposing landmark and magnificent sight on Sarojini Devi Road, Secunderabad. It was in 1939 that Father Daniel Murphy was posted to Hyderabad to help build a church. Murphy at first searched for a place to build a church in Hyderabad, which was then the capital of the Kingdom of Nizam. Murphy found Secunderabad to be the best place for construction of the church and started construction in 1840.
The Hyderabad Diocese was known as the Vicariate of Hyderabad until 1832 AD. Later, in 1839, Father Daniel Murphy was specially brought from Britain for constructing a church in Secunderabad. He launched the works in 1840 after identifying a suitable site, and completed the construction in 1850, as stated in Glittering Star a tabloid published by St Mary’s Church authorities in August 1994.
Two years later, in 1842, Father Murphy took up the construction of St Francis Xavier Church in Bolarum. St Mary’s Church used to be called St Mary’s Cathedral earlier. The church was constructed in Gothic style and it accommodates about 500 people. From a lavish open ground, steps lead up to the entrance, and the whole premises is filled with people on Sundays and festivals. A number of educational institutions are run under the jurisdiction of the church.
St Joseph’s Cathedral Church
The church was built on an elevated rocky terrain at Gun Foundry with the help of Nawab Asman Jah. Rev. Dominic Barbero supervised the construction. The area was known as Kottabasthi in those days. The proposal for the church, with a convent and a school on the same premises, was finalised on December 16, 1869. Rev. Peter Kaproti laid the foundation stone on March 19, 1870. Father L Malberti completed the main buildings in 1872 with the help of local Christians and the church was finally opened on Christmas day in 1875. Rev. Kaproti became the first bishop in 1886 and later the construction of the twin towers was taken up. It took 16 years to complete them. Community elders attribute the delay to the paucity of funds.
The massive bells on the towers were brought from Italy in 1892. It is said the church bells were heard as far as the cantonment area. The colourful paintings in the church came from Italy, while seventh Nizam Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan donated the big clock on February 17, 1953, and it was fixed in one of the towers, oil paintings and furniture. It is said that the Nizam was a frequent visitor to the church. This 132-year-old church is still glorious and flooded with devotees on all Sundays and festival days.
All Saints Church
The All Saints Church in Trimulgherry was built in 1860. The typically gothic construction draws the attention of even the passers-by. This is the first church to come up in Trimulgherry area. The stained-glass paintings of Jesus Christ are not only impressive but look like new even today. The church boasts of a number of tools of worship which are still in use.
Vijaya Mary Church
Vijaya Mary Church, also known as Our Lady of Health Church, was constructed in 1905 at Chintalbasthi, near the present Mahaveer Hospital. Later, in view of the growing number of visitors, a new prayer hall was constructed for which the seventh Nizam laid the foundation stone. It was completed in 1959. It is the first octagonal church in the city with the idol of worship placed in the centre.