The impressive yellow edifice of the “Queen of Hills”
The memory of the church which stands in all its colonial glory, amidst the snowy hills of Shimla, the lush green of deodar and pine, is etched in the heart for over a lifetime.
By Anitta Bejoy
The yellow edifice visible from far-off, the Christ Church in Shimla, clad in a white coat of snow during wintertime, illumined by the night lights is a lasting memory for anyone who has ever visited the place. The church is an indispensable part of the colonial history of Shimla. The stately structure, located at the Ridge, is doubtlessly a jewel in the crown of Himachal, which once was the summer capital of India.
The church was constructed as demands arose from the Anglo-Indian community and Britishers who resided in Shimla, for a church to be put up to meet their spiritual needs. The Church in neo-Gothic style reflects the craftsmanship of Col. J.T.Boileu, who is famed for his designs for St. George's Church in Agra. His involvement in the maintenance works of the Great Taj too is noteworthy. A township in Shimla has been named 'Boileuganj', in memory of Col. J.T.Boileu and his brother.
The construction of the church took around 13 years, and was consecrated on January 10, 1857, by Bishop Thomas Daltry. The bell towers of the church are 90ft high and houses five tubular bells and a brass church bell. The church also treasures a clock donated in 1860 by Col. Dumbelton and a pipe organ—one of its kind in India—installed in the year 1899 by Morgan and Smith, Brighton.
Five stained glass windows accentuate the beauty of the church, each of which represents Christian virtues of faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility. The windows were built in remembrance of the spouse of Bishop Henry James Matthew, who served as a chaplain at Shimla during 1877.
The stained-glass window which is an allegorical representation of 'Te Deum'(a Gregorian chant), is surrounded by frescoes designed by Lockwood Kipling, the father of the well-known story teller of late Victorian era, Rudyard Kipling. The sanctuary wall fresco was constructed by the students of Mayo School of Art, Lahore.
Adjacent to the church, is a library, built by James Ransome in the year 1910. Designed in Elizabethan style, the library is home to an enviable collection of books and ancient scriptures.
The church is peaceful amidst the commotion out in the Ridge, the much-loved tourist spot in Shimla. The elegance of the church is sure to deport one to the memories of British colonial era. And the memory of the church which stands in all its colonial glory, amidst the snowy hills of Shimla, the lush green of deodar and pine, is etched in the heart for over a lifetime.
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