The Armenian Church, Chennai was initially constructed on 1712 near Fort St.George, and it was destroyed in the French Siege in 1746. The Church was completely rebuilt again on 1772, on the site of the Armenian cemetery. That is a marvel of architectural beauty and this is one of the credited monuments in Tamil Nadu and among oldest churches existing in India. It has a magnificent bell tower having 6 bells, claimed to be the largest in Chennai.
The Church is located on the Armenian Street, Chennai, Tamilnadu, in South India. Armenians are believed to be establishing first trade links with India during the 16th century A.D and the Armenian merchants for the same purpose landed in the city, and got settled there. They soon began building houses and it is during the same era that a church was constructed that continues to occupy the ground till date. The church is also famous as the Armenian Church of Virgin Mary.
The Church complex consists of a small chapel and belfry tower. The belfry tower makes up the key attraction of the place; six bells are installed in the tower. The bells are believed to be the largest and heaviest in the city churches, each weighing about 200 kgs. The bells belong to different eras, and were casted at different points of time and different sizes varying from 21 to 26 inches. The inscription on the oldest existing, one reveals the year to be 1754. One other bell indicates that it dates back to 1778. Inscriptions on two bells indicate that they were gifted in memory of 19 year to the Church by an Armenian merchant named Eliazar Shawmier, who buried in the Church’s garden. Eliazer Shawmier was the youngest son of a leading Armenian merchant of the city of Madras, now Chennai on whose private chapel ground the present Church stands. The remaining two bells belong to the year 1837 and were cast in England and shipped exclusively for this church by the White Chapel Bell Foundry, then known as Mears & Stainbank, with inscriptions reading "Thomas Mears, Founder, London".
The Church is well maintained even though it has hardly any visitor nowadays. The bells belong to 18th century and 19th century. The Church complex, in olden times had served as a mortuary and cemetery as well. This particular emblem on the tombstone has motifs of scissors, scale and balance; to signify "cut measure and weigh justly". Now the Church complex also has a small cemetery.
The functioning of church only as a heritage site, the Church is opened for visitors from 9 am till 2:30 pm. It is funded by the Armenian Apostolic Church and maintained by the Armenian Church Committee in Calcutta. The graves of about 350 Armenians have been laid out throughout the Church. The founder, publisher and editor of the world's first Armenian periodical "Azdarar", Rev.Haroutiun Shmavonian is buried here. The six large bells are rung every Sunday at 9:30 am by the caretaker. One of the oldest churches in Chennai, the Armenian Church at No: 116 Armenian Street remains a place of peace and tranquility in the midst of the cacophony of street vendors outside. Now it is a deserted place, with a few visitors, mostly foreign tourists. In 2012, the Church will complete 300 years, a celebration is planned to remember this event.
|Bells Armenian Church|
|Engrave on bell|
|Altar Armenian Church|
|Armenian Church Interior|