Monday, 18 May 2015

Oldest Anglican Christ Church of Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India and the Rev. Christian Frederick Schwartz

Christ Church Built : 1792 Thiruchirapalli. .www.trichy.com
Christian_Friedrich_Schwarz St. Mary's church,chennai. Madras musings.com.

Christian_Friedrich_Schwarz.www.tharangampadi.dk
Christian_Friedrich_Schwarz.
www.bbc.co.uk

Christ Church, built  by  the Rev. Christian Frederick Schwartz in 1766 in Trichirapalli , it is believed, is  the  second  oldest  Anglican  church,  built  east of  the Suez,  after St. Mary’s in Fort St George, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Located on  Nandi Koil Street, near Teppakulam (built by the Nayak king), exactly opposite  to Naganatha Swami Temple, it is an historical  church  mainly  built  to  cater  to  the services  of Christian  community  that lived  here centuries ago.

Schwartz  came  to  India  in  1750  as  part  of  the Danish  Mission to spread Christinity in India. He arrived at  Tiruchirapalli on 30 July, 1750  via Tranquebar, a small coastal village on the east coast of Tamil Nadu. Though Tranquebar was for some time his headquarters, he paid frequent visits to Thanjavur and  Tiruchirapalli, and in 1766  moved  over  to  Tiruchirapalli. Here  he  acted  as  chaplain to the garrison, and upon  taking  residence  he had a church  built  and also a  home on the same premises where Christ Church stands now. This home was meant for  orphaned or affected children of  military  officers  killed  in an  accidental  explosion of some military arsenal. He had a single story house built  on a  higher  basement  with an underground  chambers From 1766, the school functioned  from  the vestry of Christ Church and later came  to  be  known as  the Vestry School. In 1812, it moved  over  to  St John’s Church  in  the  cantonment  area of Trichy  where in 2013 it successfully completed 250 years. Christ Church  has  a  marble  plaque that records its date of  consecration  and  also  states  that the  land  for the  church  was donated  by  the Nawobs of the Carnatic

It is really unfortunate  that this historical church, has not received  any due attention whatsoever and its  maintenance  is  inadequate.It is also quite true of the Scwartz Church of Thanjavur built by Raja Serfoji.  The heritage aspect of this old church is not taken into account and neglected. Memorial stones with inscriptons, stained glass fan lights, doors, vaulted ceiling, the altar, etc  need careful restoration  without  obliterating  the original  historical works.   

Schwartz (1726–1798), founder of Christ Church,  was a  German Lutheran Protestant  missionary to India. Born on 8 October, 1726 at Sonnenburg, in the electorate of Brandenburg, Prussia, when he grew up, he  took keen interest in missionary and charitable  work.  Having learned the Tamil language(widely spoken in Tamil Nadu, India) to assist in a translation of the Bible into that language,  he was keen to  become  a missionary in  India. He received ordination at Copenhagen on 8 August,1749, and, spent  some time in England to acquire the English language,

A genial person as he was, besides being a polyglot, he had good  relationship  with  local Indian rulers in  particular  Rajah Serfoji II, a Maratha ruler of Tanjore,
to whom he was a mentor right from the early stage. Raja Serfoji was a direct descendant of Shivaji  Maharaj, the great Maratha warrior. Fr. Schwartz  also had  good relationship with Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore. As a Protestant missionary in India, he won the esteem of people of other religious faiths. After  twelve  years  in Tiruchirapalli,he moved  to  Thanjavur, where he spent  the  remainder  of his life. He died  on 13 February 1798. The Raja of Tanjore -  Serfoji  had  a monument  erected  and  executed  by John  Flaxman, in  the  mission  church, in which  he  is represented  as  grasping  the  hand  of  the  dying missionary  and   receiving his  benediction.

A monument  to  Schwartz  by  John  Bacon  was placed  by the  British East India Company in St. Mary's church at Chennai. Schwartz  High School  in Ramanathapuram  has  produced  notable students, among  them Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of  India  and  a ballistic  missile  scientist  of international repute.
 

The following is the message in the Memorial commissioned by Raja Serfoji at Thanjavur CSI Schwartz church (1779):

To the memory of the Reverend Christian Frederic Swartz. Born at Sonnenburg of Neumark in the Kingdom of Prussia, the 26th of October 1726, and died at Tanjore the 13th of February 1798, in the 72d Year of his age. Devoted from his Early Manhood to the Office of Missionary in the East, the similarity of his situation to that of the first preachers of the gospel, produced in him a peculiar resemblance to the simple sanctity of the apostolic character. His natural vivacity won the affection as his unspotted probity and purity of life alike commanded the reverence of the Christian, Mahomedan and Hindu. For sovereign princes, Hindu, and Mahomeden selected this humble pastor as the medium of political negotiations with the British Government Maha Raja Serfojee

Ref: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Friedrich_Schwarz