Christ Church, Shimla
“It is the last place in all India at which it is necessary for the government to be put at the expense of building a church”, was what the British Governor-General of India, Lord Ellen borough (1842-1844) stated when the townspeople of Shimla approached him for funds to build a church.
The government finally did give a loan to be paid out of pew rents. The cornerstone of Christ Church was placed on 9 September 1844 and the building was opened by license for divine service on 11 October 1846, but the church was consecrated only on 10 January 1857 by Bishop Wilson of Calcutta. The lettering on the cornerstone was legible till the early twentieth century when it became indistinguishable from the masonry. The church was built of stone and brick in lime mortar by Col. J.T. Boileau with neo-Gothic elements – and this was the first ‘proper’ church in Shimla. Till then, church services were held in a thatched building on the Northbrook Terrace, on the Mall near the Telegraph Office.
While the spire of Christ Church was up, it was a while before the other necessities as it were, came along. The stained glass windows over the altar and the clock were both placed in 1860. The chancel was built in 1864 and in the beginning, there were no pews and the congregation made do with rough benches or brought their own chairs along. The porch was added later and the organ was shipped in from England. Lockwood Kipling, father of the celebrated Rudyard, designed the original chancel window and had this executed by his students from the Mayo School of Art. Another gift was an elaborate screen, behind which the choir would emerge and then disappear. A young child took due note of this and asked her mother that ‘if the church was God’s house, was the bit behind the screen his bathroom?’
Heavy snows in 1961 caused extensive damage to the building and the pinnacles running along its length were dismantled. The structure has been repaired at various points and yet, the overall structure retains its essence and has a nave, chancel and tower. The floor has a centre aisle flanked by pews and two side aisles again flanked by pews.
Today, Christ Church still tells the story of a part of the town’s rich history – and its pews still mark the seats of the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief and the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, while the fascinating memorial tablets in brass and marble sound a roll call for some who shaped what was the British Empire.
St. Michael’s Cathedral, Shimla
Shimla’s Catholic community built St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1886 with a partial though elegant vocabulary of the French-Gothic style. The exterior is of dressed grey stone. The floor plan follows a cruciform and the church can seat 400 persons. The interior was designed with a nave and two aisles, a vestry, a baptistery and a confessional. The organ was built in 1913 and was considered to be among the finest in north India.
Over the high altar is a recently restored tapestry of glass that depicts a group of the crucifixion, while a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, presented by the people of Mexico has also been installed in the church.
Located just below the District Courts, the site for the Cathedral was selected by Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon (1880-1884) and is still called ‘Ripon Place’.
St. Mary’s Church, Shimla
This small wooden church rests in the heart of Himachal’s apple growing country, Kotgarh and dates back to the time when this temperate fruit was still a century and a couple of continents away. A School was established at here in 1843 and the church built in 1872. This was run by the Moravian missionaries and the Church Missionary Society.
St. Patrick’s Church, Dalhousie
This Church is situated in Baloon, Dalhousie Cantt., on Military Hospital road approximately 2 Km. from main bus stand. St. Patrick’s Church is the largest church in Dalhousie having a seating capacity of 300 persons in its main hall. The Church was built in the year 1909 and the dressed-stone building is still in good condition. This Church was built exclusively from contribution made by officers and ranks of the British Army. At present the Church is managed and maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar.
St. John’s Church, Dalhousie
This Church stands on the Gandhi Chowk approximately 2 Km from the main bus stand of Dalhousie. This Church was the first to be built after the town of Dalhousie was founded. Prior to 1863 a wooden structure stood at this place. The idea to build a stone structure took birth with the arrival of Rev. John H. Pratt who came to Dalhousie on 11-04-1863 and inspired the Christian community to build a permanent church building at this place. Building of this church is a copy of Roman Catholic’s Church of England but this church belongs to Protestants. The church building stands in a good condition but its surroundings demand much better care. Service is conducted on every Sunday.
St. Francis Church, Dalhousie
This Catholic Church is a very prominent monument on the Subhash Chowk. This Church was built in the year 1894 from the contributions made by Army and Civil Officers and Civilians. This Church is managed and maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar. Beautiful glass work and intricate stone work can be seen in the Church. Service is conducted every Sunday.
By the side of the Church is the residence of the Priest. The building is called Alverna better known to the local people as “Lambe Chole Wale Padri Ki Kothi”.
St. Andrew’s Church, Dalhousie
St. Andrew’s Church commonly known as the Church of Scotland was built in the year 1903 at Balloon by Protestant Christians. The Church is approximately one and half Km from Dalhousie’s bus stand. The Church building is in good condition; recently a brick boundary wall has been erected around it to save the building from mischief mongers.
Christ Church, Kasauli
Held high by stone revetments and shaded by cedars and huge horse-chestnut trees, at Kasauli’s main crossroad stands Christ Church. This stately nineteenth century structure was church of the Anglican Communion and is now under the Church of North India. This has a cruciform floor plan and the stained glass windows over the altar depict the Crucifixion where the image of Christ is flanked by those of Joseph and Mary. This was opened for divine service on 24 July 1853 by the Chaplain Thomas John Edward Steel M.A., St. John’s College, Cambridge at Evensong. This was consecrated on 8 January 1857 by Authority of the Bishop of Calcutta.
Baptist Church, Kasauli
At the start of the Sadar Bazaar, near the Post Office is the Baptist Church. This small unpretentious structure was built in the 1920s.
Church of St. John in the Wilderness, McLeodganj
This church is 8 Km from Dharamsala and 1 Km short of McLeodganj and lies between the suburb of Forsythganj and McLeodganj. Of dark dressed-stone, the Church of St. John in the Wilderness lies in a sheltered grove of high cedars. Like a blessing over the valley, it has a commanding location on the hillside. Within its compound, is an obelisk erected in memory of the Viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862 – 1863) by his wife Mary.
Church of St. John in the Wilderness, Palampur
There is another church of St. John in the Wilderness in the town of Palampur – which is famous for its attractive countryside and tea gardens. And in a way, speaking worlds for the churches of Himachal, their stained glass windows, miles away from where they were made and the memorials of people that died in events long forgotten, this has an unusual setting created by a rare climate and is surrounded by a clutch of warm weather poinsettias and shaded by tall Himalayan cedars that belong to the snows. This small church was rebuilt in the 1920s after it collapsed in the earthquake of 1905. The Palampur cemetery is a part of the churchyard.