My mother always calls me up like clockwork every Saturday I silently mouth the words of a sentence I’ve been hearing every weekend for the last God-knows how many years. “Don’t forget to go to Church on Sunday!” she says.
So one Sunday in a sunny little French town in South India, I decided to take her advice (P.S. Mum, if you’re here, I take your advice every week, really!)
I visited 3 out of the several churches in quaint, little Pondicherry. Being from Goa, a land with beautiful churches every few kilometres, I wanted to see if the ones here were any similar to the ones back home. So here are the ones I picked to visit:
Domus Dei – While you will pass by many Churches on your rides around Pondicherry, this one will immediately make you stop and get your camera out. In pastel shades of blush and lime, Domus Dei Cathedral (or Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges in French and ‘The House of God,’ in English) looks over the Bay of Bengal. Whether or not you see it as the rising sun shines upon it, it is always beaming with radiance.
The façade is made up of a giant triangular pediment and two bell towers, each with the statue of two saints in nooks of i own. Two prominent inscriptions over the doors read ‘House of God,’ over the main entrance and above it, ‘To the Lord, the best and greatest, under the protection of Our Lady of Angels.’
As you step inside, 3 things are apparent right away – how gorgeously luminescent it is, how vast in size and how EVERYTHING is symmetrical, just like the outside. A soft glow of light beams through 8 stained glass windows on the dome above as well as all along the sides of the pews. The slightly elevated white-marble altar stands shielded behind a gallery. The Cross with crucified Christ is adorned with flowers. You can spend hours soaking in the sheer tranquility here and trust me, you’ll want to look at everything twice!
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Located right in the middle of Pondicherry, close to the railway station and main bus stop, this Church is in stark contrast to the elegant Domus Dei. It was built just over 100 years ago and seems to be in the style of South India, especially since a gold plated garuda sthamba-like structure is placed right in the middle of the courtyard.
It was interesting to see the way South Indian churches are. Leave your footwear outside and step in to a myriad of colour and gold everywhere you look. White and brown arches with circular stained glass designs on top coupled with brown streaks stretching across the dome make the place look very busy and kitschy. Still, architecture lovers will enjoy marvelling at its Neo-Gothic Architecture. If you’re pressed for time, consider skipping it. If not, take a moment to look at the unique stained glass paintings they have inside.
Immaculate Conception Church – Dating back to 300 years ago, this church has paintings that have been gifted by Napoleon III and has been visited by Mother Theresa! But that’s not all that’s cool about it. The Immaculate Conception Church was built in 1692 and thereafter was demolished and rebuilt several times by the Dutch and British. This is the only church in Pondicherry that resembled those in Goa, with it’s blue, yellow and white façade.
The interiors of this 17th century church are so much more toned down and understated. Simple whitewashed walls, the typical arches and dome at the end and a wooden railing to separate the altar from the pews. Statues and altars in various corners of the church are dedicated to St. Joseph, Our Lady of Good Health, St. Theresa and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, but apart from these, there isn’t much to look at.
There are around 10-12 churches to visit, and while you can spend a few days covering them all, these 3 are the most impressive ones. Hope you enjoyed this post! More on Pondicherry coming up soon!