City Monument – Sacred Heart Cathedral, Central Delhi
Hall of grace.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi’s largest Catholic church has twice been graced by the presence of Pope John Paul II.
Spread over 14 acres, which includes two schools, the cathedral is the headquarters of the Delhi Archdiocese. Completed in 1934, it was built 70 years after the city’s first catholic church, St Mary’s, near Delhi railway station.
Henry Medd, who later became the chief architect to the government of British India, designed it. The red brick structure was selected from eight entries that were judged by a panel which included Edwin Lutyens, the architect behind New Delhi.
The church has a massive vaulted ceiling under a towering curved roof, polished stone floors and broad arches. The façade has mouldings and cupolas.
The dark arches of the entrance enhance the building’s immensity. The altar is domed and of pure Carrara marble.
The main fresco of Christ and his 12 disciples (who have green eyebrows and blue hair) is painted by an unknown artist. The artwork shows signs of age but still look glorious.
The archbishop of Agra, who also laid the building’s foundation, presented the bell, vestments and altar furniture.
On Sundays, hymns are sung on an electronic keyboard and services are offered in more than one language. (If you are lucky like me, you may find yourself in the middle of a wedding crowd.)
Lepers and memento-sellers crowd the iron-gate outside. The worshipers thronging Sacred Heart Cathedral during Christmas Eve cause traffic jams each year.
Where Opposite Gol Dak Khana, near Connaught Place Nearest Metro Stations Rajiv Chowk/Sardar Patel Sunday mass Summer: 6.30 am, 9 am, 11.30 am, 6.30 pm. Winter: 6.30 am, 9 am, 11.30 am, 6 pm
Oasis of calmness