Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha - the oldest Catholic Church ought to be repaired soon!!

oldest church Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha

Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha

Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha

Above images: Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha. The oldest church is in a dilapidated state. condition is precarious due to official apathy. Lal Girija in Balasore Located on a plot approximately one-fourth of an acre, the Church is a synthesis of Romanesque and Gothic Styles. The whole structure is built with fine warm-toned bricks, timber, and lime mortar was used in the construction.The church once had  stained glass on the widows to light up the main hall (50 feet in length and 20 ft wide).  There were The high circular windows bearing elements of Gothic style  on both ends of the church appear to be damaged, ...............

That the oldest Catholic Church of  Odisha -Lal Girija in Balasore is rotting and is prone to collapse at any time is unfortunate. It shows the lethargic attitude of the government officials toward  a site that has historical and heritage values. It is not used as a Christian place of worship today, but  the visitor can not miss traces of its past grandeur and serene ambiance.

Lal Girija in Balasore, Odisha

Built on a small piece of land in 1871 (work began in 1864) by the Portuguese  near  the settlement, it  was modeled on the village churches of England. The total neglect of this old church is very much writ on the building due to  vast growth of vegetation and wild bushes around it.  Further,  huge grown of trees piercing the roof of the church have caused much of the damages, developing cracks and gaping holes in walls and windows. The  deeply penetrated roots that have spread across the site have widened the cracks on the walls, The SW monsoon in November and December brings in lots of rain and has the made the structure leaky and weak. Other damages are due to termites attack  on the wooden roof rafters and doors. The plastering on both sides of the walls and damaged rafters bear testimony to the decades of neglect of this site. The surprising thing the small church is tucked away at the end of a short lane next to the residence of the Collector and the military barracks. Not even a single official took efforts and got the attention of the heritage department of the state. 

Media reports say part of the church is used as the Balasore Press Club, something which cannot be neither  explained nor understood. The INTACH engineers and officials, upon their visit to the site, were appaled by the damages and declared that the old church was in a precarious state. That restoration or conservation of this site is a moot question as damages are far beyond redemption.

Tracing back the history of the  Balasore region of Odisha, it is obvious, this area  has close link with  the arrival of christianity through the Portuguese traders in the early 15th century. A Portuguese settlement came up by 1514 C.E. at  Pipili, an ancient port at the estuary of the Subarnarekha. The Augustinian Missionaries of Goa who used to visit this place from from 1535 C.E  had a small church built - Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in 1606 C.E to meet the spiritual need of the traders and settlers. Obviously, with the growth of trade,  by the end of the 17th century, Pipili became a strong Catholic centre which spread to the neighbouring town of Balasore. The old church - very first one is the hoary reminder of the early growth of Catholic community.  One of the oldest surviving churches of the State, a legacy of early catholic community, it should be declared a State Protected Monument so that its history and its early Gothic church design style can be preserved for the posterity.

The vagaries of weather and the proximity of sea shore  have already taken a toll on the 150 year old church Lal Girja in the capital of the district, which still remains uncared for.  If not repaired immediately, it may b lost for ever - may be the history of this region is frozen in the broken rubble and debris.