Hoary Christ church, Salem , Tamil Nadu

Christ church, Salem, Tamil nadu.inchristchurchslm.in

Among the oldest churches in India, Christ Church,  located in a prime  area on Fort Road, near the District Collectorate office, in  Salem City, Tamil Nadu,  has been catering to the Christian community for more than  140 years  since its inception in 1875 when India had come under the direct British administration in London.

Designed by the well-known architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm, an expert in the Indo-Saracenic architecture, who  designed the Senate House buildings of the University of Madras and the Madras Presidency College, Christ Church in Salem is a unique colonial place of Christian worship.

 In the bygone era, there existed a small Church of England Chapel at the Yercaud Hills, Yercaud and a small chapel of the London Missionary Society (LMC), which was used by the Christian congregation in Salem, consisting mainly of East India Company officials who had access to  the services of the Church of England. There was no church in Salem in much of 1800s. For certain reasons, the cordial relationship prevailing  between EIC officials and LMC hit the low level in 1860 over the sharing of  Christian worship. In the wake of this strained relationship, there arose a necessity to have a separate church in Salem for the European, Anglo-Indian and native Tamil communities. 

 Under one H. Gomez, a committee in 1866, collected funds and donations from public for constructing  a new Church of England church in Salem with a view to  conducting both English and Tamil services.

On 16 September 1871 the foundation stone of the church was laid by Rev. D G Clarke in the presence of C.T. Longley, the then Collector of Salem District. The church building came up on a site owned by Mrs. Thomas Foulkes, daughter of Mr. Robert Fischer. Earlier, it was a club house which was pulled down to build the church. The total finished cost was Rs. 15,000.00 and a part of the cost was borne by the Madras government that also donated the Church bell.  The  interior length of the church was 68 feet  and the nave was 47feet  x 22 feet. The church was consecrated on 26 October 1875, by the Bishop of Madras, the Right Reverend Frederick Gell.

Christ church, Salem, Tamil nadu. .panoramio.com

The then Madras government was in charge of maintenance of the church, however,  the Christ Church was vested with the British Crown, England. The Chaplain of the Indian Ecclesiastical Establishment from Coimbatore took care of the administration of both Yercaud Church  and the Christ Church.  In the early 1920s the SPG conducted services in Tamil.  After independence in August, 1947,  following formation of the Church of South India (CSI) in September 1947, the Christ Church, came under the Diocese of Mysore  for administration purpose.

Salem location map, Tamil Nadu state. Maps of India

 The Anglican Cemetery of Salem is 220 years old  and is being administered by this church. This historical church is credited with having  several memorial inscriptions that include:   Major. Hodges of the Madras Police who died in 1878, Charles Carpenter (died 1818), brother-in-law of Sir. Walter Scott and members of the Fischer family (they were the only European Zamindars in the Salem District in1830s of the Madras Presidency).

Christ church, Salem, Tamil nadu. tamilnadu-favtourism

Christ church, Salem, Tamil nadu. tamilnadu-favtourism
 Some renovations were undertaken, prior to  its 140th anniversary celebrations. Parish Hall, Parsonage, Zion Hall, etc  are the additions to meet the increasing demands of the parishioners. The old bell is on the bell Tower  and the new bell, cast in 1982 is on the steeple of the belfry tower. A visit to this church will take the visitors right back to the forgotten colonial days when India was under a foreign rule.