St. Pauls Cathedral

1, Cathedral Road, Kolkata – 700 071
(Anglican Background)

In 1762, tigers roamed the jungles where today stands St. Paul’s Cathedral.  As late as in 1839, when the decision was taken to build the Cathedral near what was then known as “Fives Court” there were objections to the site, being too far south.  The idea of a new Cathedral Church (the St. John’s Church was the Cathedral) was suggested even in 1819 by Bishop Middleton but he was laid to rest in 1822 before his vision became a reality.

Bishop Heber, James and Turner who followed, fell to the severity of the tropical climate and passed away shortly after their arrival in India.  In 1832 the saintly Bishop Daniel Wilson arrived in Calcutta.  It was his vision, his perseverance and his faith that slowly grew into what was to become a great edifice of this vibrant city.

Seven acres of land were granted.  A Cathedral Committee was formed.  The plans were made and on 8th October 1839, the foundation stone of St. Paul’s Cathedral was laid.  Brick by brick Bishop Wilson’s dream rose to a reality - the chancel, the sanctuary, the chapels and the lofty regal spire, standing two hundred and one feet from the ground, came into existence.

By August 1842, a sum of Rs. 94,074 had been spent in the construction of the new Cathedral and necessary instructions were given to the superintendent of the workmen.  By August 1842, Captain Greene reported that, “8,232 cubic feet of masonry was executed.  The whole of the outer walls and the tower base was raised to a height of thirty feet…”  By January 1943, all the half-sunk arches had been built to accommodate the two large windows.

There was considerable correspondence regarding the clock (which weighed close to three tons) and the pealing of bells.  Col. Forbes wrote, “Independent of the total weight of the clock I am of the opinion that the safety and stability of the tower and spire will not be endangered by five such clock bells…”

In May 1843, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University sent a grant of two hundred pounds for the use of the Library.  In his letter of thanks, Bishop Wilson wrote, “Allow me to assure the heads of the Houses and the other members of the Convocation, that through your kindness, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, India in all her extent returns her last thanks to your ancient and hon’ble University for this opportunity and most valuable gift…   It will be one link to connect the Western and Eastern branches of our Protestant Reformed Church.”  The books to be purchased consisted, among others. “works by Archbishop Crammer and Bishop Jewel… the works of Hooker…”   The Library was to be 61 feet by 22 feet and 35 feet high.

The Cathedral Library

The Cathedral Library owes its foundation to the munificence of Bishop Wilson, who bequeathed to it all his books.  It has been increased by large presents from W. Gordon, Esq., Rev. J. Nath, M. A., the University of Oxford and the Calcutta Bible Society.

On May 31st 1843, Bishop Wilson wrote a lengthy letter to the Hon’ble W. W. Bird, President-in-Council, giving details about the work done so that the “remainder of the Grant made by the Hon’ble Court in March 1840 could be forthcoming.”  The pews would hold at least eight hundred persons, “and galleries be added hereafter as need may require and chairs be occasionally placed in the aisles as is done in Calcutta Churches on great Festivals…”   The burden of running the church establishment was lightened with a portion of the money given to St. John’s Church being transferred to St. Paul’s.  This amount (Rs. 486) plus an estimated Rs. 400 as pew rent was considered “sufficient provisions for the expense of public worship”.  The Cathedral endowment stood at 1.75 lakhs with an interest of 5%.  A sum of Rs. 100 per month from the income was set aside for creating a “Repairing Fund.”  Bishop Wilson had, by this time, been paid Rs. 70,000 out of the one lakh promised, and to the Endowment Fund the second lakh.  He concluded the letter, “My present funds, if the remaining grant is paid to me, will just, and but just suffice with new subscriptions… to complete in a becoming style, the noble edifice.”

The President-in-Council replied in the affirmative, “the whole will be completed for about the sum originally calculated upon – 4 lakh of rupees.”

Architect of the High Altar

A faithful Churchman and a distinguished architect was found in the person of Mr. George Fellowes Prynne.  There as several examples of his work in Calcutta: the Cathedral’s High Altar, the altar and mosaics in St. John’s Church, the altars in St. Stephen’s and in the very beautiful Chapel of the Presidency General Hospital.

Memorial Gates

They were installed in memory of Sir William Prentice, who was for many years a member of the Cathedral congregation.  It was decided to erect new gates at the northern entrance to the Cathedral compound.  The gates have not only added dignity to the Cathedral grounds, but also from a worthy memorial to one who loved the Cathedral so well.

Trees were planted with care.  At the 48th meeting of the St. Paul’s Cathedral held on the 12th of July 1847, the Bishop reported, “The Governor of Bengal has highly approved of R. S. Mc Clelland’s plan for planting trees in and about the compound of the Cathedral…”   A total of sixty three varieties of plants were utilized.

By March 1847, the outer walls and buttresses of the Cathedral and those of both transepts extending to the south-east of the porch had been plastered and completely finished.  A sum of Rs. 4,35,669 had been spent.  In the one hundred and sixty two years that have passed since Consecration Day in 1847, through the ravages of time and history, the Cathedral has immutably and indomitably served the city and served God.  Millions have prayed at its altars and gone home with solace in their hearts.  In joy or sorrow, hope or bereavement, St. Paul’s Cathedral has harboured millions of Calcuttans who have come seeking the light of Communion, within its hallowed precincts.

Worship Service Timing:

Weekdays- 6:30 am - Matins; 7:00 am Holy Communion

Sundays - 7:30 am; 8:30 am; 10:30 am (Bengali); 6:30 pm Evangelistic Service

[...back to Churches Page]