History of Bandel Church
Bandeltown was used as a port in the middle of 16th century by the Portuguese. The first man to arrive from Portugal was Vasco da Gama in 1498. Around 1571 the Mughal emperor Akbar permitted them to form a town in Hooghly. By 1598, the settlements of Portuguese began in the region and the natives were started to be baptised by the priests. This resulted in increase in the number of Catholics in Hooghly which reached around 5000 and included natives and mixed races. A port and a fort were built in 1579 along the bank of Hooghly River. The services of the largest religious body of Goa, a band of Augustinian Friars, also began in that period. The next year, permission was granted to Captain Pedro Tavares for preaching Catholic faith publicly and for the construction of churches. This led to the construction of Bandel Church in 1599.
In 1632, when Hooghly was sacked by the Moors, the church was burnt down. Afterwards in 1660, a new church was constructed by Gomez de Soto over the ruins of the old one. On the eastern gate of the present Bandel Church, the keystone of the older one can still be witnessed. The Bandel Church was declared to be Minor Basilica by the Pope John Paul II in the year 1988.
Architecture of Bandel Church
In front of the Bandel Church, a mast of a ship stands. According to a historical legend, a ship had survived a deadly sea storm in Bay of Bengal by the divine intervention of Mother Mary. To immortalize this unusual event, the captain of the ship had gifted the huge mast which still finds a place within the holy premises of the church. The church comprises a number of tombstones, 3 altars, a shrine to Mary and an organ.
Interiors of Bandel Church
The interior of the Bandel Church is decorated with beautiful chandeliers. The coloured glass windows and the Grand Tower Clock of the Bandel Church add to the glory of this religious monument. Constructed in the unique architectural style of the Portuguese, the Bandel Church attracts several devotees from different religious communities of West Bengal. A statue of the Lady of Happy Voyage is worshipped by the Christian devotees with intense devotion and dedication.
The exclusive significant religious monument of the Portuguese rule in Hooghly District, the Bandel Church portrays the glorious past of the West Bengal.
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