Zion Church, Tranquebar - First Protestant Church in India

The Zion Church,Tranquebar, talesofanomad.com

The Zion Church at Tranquebar, theuntourists.com

Above image:  More than 300 years ago, in 1707 right here at  the Zion Church in Tranquebar, a coastal village, now part of Nagapattinam district five Protestant converts were baptized for the first time in India. This place was then part of Tanjore kingdom ruled by the Nayak dynasty with HQ at anjore (Thanjavur)  ..............................
The Danish settlement at the coastal town of Tharangampadi of present day Tamil Nadu state  was an important one in the world and the Danish fort here  is the second largest  fort outside of Denmark. During the heyday it was a busy trading  station  The Dansborg Fort built  after 1620  was the most important gateway in the trade route from Europe to Coramandel coast for the Danish Empire. Despite several odds, skirmishes, etc among the other European powers, the Danish settlement survived here for a long time and it is home to the very first Protestant church in India.

The  old Church and the other buildings in the fort complex saw renovation  in the  past -  by the Tranquebar Association with  help  from the Danish royal family and the State Archaeology Department in 2001. The recent project named ''Destination Development of Tranquebar" by the Department of Tourism of the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2011 was undertaken to repair and restore the old monument without disturbing its heritage value. With additional funds, almost all major restoration works were completed recently. With the blue sea in the back drop and the serene surrounding, it is a good hide out for those who want to be free from the madding crowd and city pollution.

Zion Church, one of the oldest churches in Tharangampadi (Tranquebar) was once part of the  Danish settlement. It is  located on  the premises of Fort Dansborg, built  by the Danish company in 1620 after getting necessary permission from the ruler of Thanjavur king Ragunatha Nayak (1600 -1634). The Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde in 1620  signed the treaty that allowed the Danes to build a fort and the settlement. One of the most prominent landmarks of Tharangambadi, it is a famous tourist destination and lots of Danes visit this place

A statue of Rev. Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg ,Tharangambadi.  

Ziegenbalg leaving Tranquebar 
( 1890),London Missionary Society. en.wikipedia.org

The Church was built in 1701 by Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg  (10 July 1682 – 23 February 1719). He, along with his fellow student Heinrich Pl├╝tschau, became the first Protestant missionaries to India. They landed  at the Danish colony of Tranquebar on 9 July 1706 and Ziegenbalg's  mission  was to  spread the vision of the Gospel  at request of the King of Denmark -  Fredric IV,  who was also the head of Lutheran Church of Denmark.  Both Ziegenbalg  and Pl├╝tschau established the Danish Mission here.
Zion Church, Tharangambadi  en.wikipedia.org

Native Tamil language in a few years later took the honor of being the first  to  be translated and printed - The New Testament of the Bible in Tamil in the printing press inside the fort.
The missionaries  specifically got the printing press from abroad for this purpose. 

Zion Church, Tharangambadi  tamilnow.com

The Danish mission-  first Protestant mission   had German missionaries trained at Pietist schools and seminary founded by Francke at the end of 17th century.

Zion Church,  which  Rev. Ziegenbalg established, is believed to be the first Protestant Church in India and was built for the Governors, while the other Church, the New Jerusalem Church  (built in 1718), for soldiers and the community. Incidentally Rev. Ziegenbalg  later became  the first pastor of the church and preached in Tamil.    

The Danish mission Tharangambadi, TN. thelostlander.

The church  located  near the  the Bay of Bengal was built in local architecture and  has an exterior made of brick, stained glass windows and tiled brick spire.  Conventional Methodist images and a prayer hall for the devotees are in the altar.  In the glass chamber one will find the plaques of Jesus Christ and some of the apostles  in standing posture on the walls facing the devotees. In 1782, the church underwent some modification. The historic bell tower in the church and numerous tombstones will normally draw the attention of the visitors.
We learn a few things about the church from the  church records   of 1781 to 1814 indicating the burials carried out in the church,  the expenses incurred for building the tombs, funeral services and maintenance of the cemetery.

Zion Church is an active venerated place with hourly prayer and daily services and is under the dominion of the Trichy-Tanjore Diocese of the Church of South India (CSI).

The other tourist attractions are the Masilamani Nathar  Hindu Temple built in the 13th century, New Jerusalem Church built in 1718, the Town Gateway built in 1792, the Danish Governor Bungalow built in 1784 and a series of tomb stones built during the 17th and 18th centuries.