Pune, a city of churches

December 27, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

city of churchesPune, December 24, 2011: One of the significant aspects of Pune’s multi-culturalism is the presence of more than 80 cathedrals, churches and chapels in the city itself, and perhaps another fifty more in the district. The oldest ones go back more than 220 years in the history of the city. On Christmas day, tomorrow, these churches will be lit up, giving the city a resplendent glow. Sakàl Times tells the story of these magnificent structures

The presence of Christian soldiers in the Maratha and British armies in Pune necessitated the construction of churches catering to their religious needs, which led to the establishment of some of the oldest churches in the city, in the early and mid-19th century.

St Mary’s Church on Solapur Road in Pune Camp, which was built in 1823 for soldiers and officers in the British army, is the oldest church structure in the city. In keeping with the tradition that time, a capsule containing the names of British India’s governor general Warren Hastings, Mumbai governor Mountstuart Elphinstone and other East India Company officials was buried at the church site during the stone-laying ceremony in June,

Oldest Structure

The Church of Immaculate Conception or City Church is the oldest Catholic church in the city. The land was gifted by Peshwa Madhavrao II and the first Mass (religious gathering) was held on Christmas day in 1792, and a structure made of mud and mortar was built in 1794. The present structure was constructed only in 1852.

St Patrick’s Cathedral has been built on the land gifted by the British government in 1850. While St Paul’s Church, located behind the police commissionerate, was erected in 1867 on the lines of the St Chapelle Church in Paris. The cost of construction came up to Rs 90,000 at that time. The structure, however, suffered heavy damages in a fire on July 5, 1900.

The foundation stone of the St Mathew’s Marathi Church on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road was laid in 1893. This church catered to the city’s Marathi-speaking population.

St Andrew’s Church near the Race Course, which bore the brunt of a major fire in October this year, was built by the Church of Scotland in 1861. The church had a seating capacity of 500 people at the time.

Christ Church near Quarter Gate, which was built in 1896, is also one of the oldest churches in the city. A majority of the old Catholic and Protestant churches are in Pune Camp, Wanowrie and Khadki where the British military establishments were located.

The Panch Haud Church, Brother Deshpande Memorial Church (Kasba Peth) and St Crispin’s Church near Nal Stop on Karve Road are the only churches in the heart of the city. The Catholic Church’s major religious institutes – the Papal Seminary and the De Nobili College – were started at Ramwadi on Nagar Road six decades ago. A large number of Catholic religious congregations also established their centres near these two institutes. This led to the concentration of the migratory Christian population in Yerawada and Vadgaonsheri on Nagar Road. So, many churches came up in these areas over the last few decades.

St Francis Xavier’s Church, which was built in 1973, was the first Catholic church in Pimpri Chinchwad and it catered to the Goan and Tamil populations who had migrated from the neighbouring Ahmednagar and Aurangabad districts to the industrial hub. Subsequently, four more churches were opened in Pimpri-Chinchwad to meet the needs of the growing Christian population.

Since the Christian community in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad is multi-lingual, most Catholic churches celebrate the Mass in English, Marathi, Konkani, Tamil as well as Malayalam. A few churches also cater exclusively to the Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam speaking communities in the city.












The construction of any church is financed by its members who contribute their own share, while also raising a building fund. The Pune Catholic Diocese offers a share of the construction cost. If the local community undertakes the building of a new church, the Pune diocese offers 50 per cent of the construction cost. The new churches that came up on Nagar Road and in Pimpri-Chinchwad during the last decade were built on this principle.

Fr Simon Almeida, who has presently undertaken the construction of a new building for St Francis Xavier’s Church in Chinchwad, says, “It is the responsibility of the local people to build a church for themselves. The priest’s job is to build the community. Therefore, the lay leaders undertake various activities to raise the construction funds.” Sometimes, when local parishioners are unable to raise 50 per cent of the construction cost, the diocese has to bear more than its share of the amount. The diocese receives its funds from monthly collections given by various churches under its jurisdiction.

Fr Almedia says that every Catholic church is required to give its donation collections of two Sundays of every month to the Pune diocese. The diocese utilises these funds for various activities. “Besides this, parishioners of other churches are also expected to contribute for the construction of churches in other localities,” he adds.

– inputs by camil parkhe













It was Peshwa Madhavrao II who gifted a piece of land for the construction of a church for the Catholic soldiers in the Maratha army. The Catholic soldiers included Goans, British and Portuguese nationals. The Peshwa also contributed a sum for building of the church, which eventually came to be called City Church. Later, when the British came to rule over Pune, they gifted one bigha (three acres and 14 gunthas) land to build the present structure of the church that we see today. The Portuguese government in Goa had offered a substantial subsidy in its construction. The British government had also gifted land and a grant of Rs 2,000 for the construction of the St Patrick’s Chapel, the present cathedral and seat of the Pune diocese. Records show that many Catholic soldiers in the British army donated a full month’s salary too.

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