Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Pune - 227 years old built by Portuguese

Immaculate Conception Church, Pune. jagadishchristian.com

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Pune.hindustantimes.com

Pune’s Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, also known as City Church, is the oldest church  in Maharastra and came up  before the British built the St Mary’s Church off Staveley. Its history is closely well-knitted with the  Peshwa's army. Located   in the crowded Nana Peth area, its 225th anniversary was celebrated by the Catholic community in early December 2017. This Puna's first  church was under the purview of Archdiocese of Goa.

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Pune..churchtimings.com

Toward the end of the 18th century, Peshwa Madhavrao II, the de facto leader of the Maratha Empire, realized his catholic soldiers from Goa had no church to meet their spiritual needs. The idea of a Church was mooted by the  Portuguese officer Dom Minguel de Noronha in the army of Peshwa.  Historians  are of the view that the Peshwa hired  de Noronha to strengthen his army  to   face raids by the European armies who had  good artillery power.  Peshwa Madhavrao  thought Portuguese  should have their own place of worship and historical records mention that  he donated four acres of land  in the Quarter Gate area of the city (once a separation point between  the British confines in the cantonment and the civilian line), right at the edge of the Pune Cantonment in 1791  to have a church built, thus facilitating the opening of  the Catholic Church in Pune, now a big sprawling city. It was built in Gothic style in 1852 replacing a mud building. It is said the Peshwa also made contribution to the construction of the structure.  

The church’s first services began on December 8, 1792 and the mass was held  on the Christmas day in  by priests in the presence of  two bishops of Pune and the Archbishop of Goa at the altar. They  felicitated during the mass Peshwa descendants – Vinayakrao Peshwa and his nephew Mahendra  Peshwa for the munificence of the Maratha rulers. Said an old parishioner ''honoring of the Peshwa descendants “a great gesture” by the parish priest, Father Salvador Pinto.   According to the old timer and a Parishner  Ambrose,  the church has been part of many parishioners who, though  have moved away from this area, have  a link with this historic church and attend the feast masses and Christmas. 

Peshwa Madhavrao II. Image credit: James Wales/Wikimedia Commonsscroll.in

It is to be noted that the Maratha's had good relation with the Portuguese  as evidenced by the presence of 200 Goan Catholics and 100 Portuguese soldiers in the Maratha army by 1788 -  according to PS Pissurlencar’s 'Portuguese Mahratta Relations.' The reason was the Portuguese had good knowledge of   artillery, something the Marathas  lacked. So, they treated the  gunners in the army well.  In the 17th century the Europeans had an advanced knowledge of artillery“ and the Indian rulers sought their services for the army. From 1819, the church had received  grants from the British government.

Often known as the mother church of the Deccan, today  the church offers services in English, Konkani, and Marathi. Invariably the congregation is a mix ethnic Goan or Mangalorean Catholics.
Goan culture is part of this  church  

 The heritage value of this oldest church in Pune is, to some extend is being retained. However, the interiors - the halls and the altar underwent changes. In 1840 the British gave additional land and funds for  refurbishment  but most parts are untouched, particularly the facade  The elements of Portuguese architecture  are visible.