Zion and New Jerusalem Churches - first Protestant churches, the Danish colony of Tharangambadi

Tharangambadi, Zion church, 1922. upload.wikimedia.org

In the 1980s  and prior to that  this site of Danish settlement, now a protected monument  at  Tharangambadi (Trankebar or Tranquebar)  was more or less like a jerkwater town forlorn and uncared for; a forgotten  derelict place where Danish legacy lay hidden. This is  very much reminiscent of the transitory nature of life and the ebb and flow of time. In 1945 the settlement came under the   British. Since then until 1980s it had been a neglected place with its history buried deep in the earth.  because of official apathy and lack of interest among the heritage lovers, the colonial structures in this place were in a dilapidated state.  

Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalgamazon.in

This isolated place of ''singing waves'' that ever pound the bottom of the fort now  once witnessed the splendor  and opulence of  17th and 18th Century Danish colonial life  in the fortified town that has fine  exotic colonnaded buildings and homes with typical Danish facades that adored the streets - Kongensgade or King’s Street, Dronningsgade or Queen’s Street and other by lanes. 

Once a seat of power, the Danes established the  fortified trading station in 1620s and, in a few years time,  it became an active  port with the arrival of ships from other places laden with goods, merchandize, etc.  The Danish occupation lasted roughly  225 years and during that long period came up several buildings  - the Governor’s House with its pillared façade across the fort, government offices, etc.  The Church of Zion and  New Jerusalem church, residential houses and the churchyards were later additions to serve the European and engage in missionary activities.  

Replica of the VOC ship Duyfken under sailen.wikipedia.org/

.Denmark, Royal Coat of Arms. colonial period.wikiwand.com

Danish India - colonial period. en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Danish possessions in India. Kiøbenhavn and Christian (1618–1621, part of the Gjedde expedition that founded Dansborg at Tranquebar.  During their heyday, the Danish East India Company and Swedish East India Company imported more tea than the British East India Company, and illegally supplied to   England, raking up a huge profit. Between 1624-36.  Danish trade covered    Surat, Bengal, Java, and Borneo, with factories in Masulipatanam. In the later years 1643 and 1669 Denmark lost much of its acquisitions due to European wars. However the Danish colony at Thanrangam badi was saved on account of enforcement from Denmark in 1669.

mission plaque.telegraphindia.com

Zion Church, tharangambadi, TN:

Zion Church, tharangambadi, TN.

Zion Church, tharangambadi, TN.flickr.com

Zion Church, tharangambadi, TN, India..picxy.com

Zion Church, tharangambadi, TN, India trip.com

Above images: The Zion Church in Tranquebar (Tharngambadi), Nagapatinam district, TN. It was in this first protestant church of India, the first  Indian Protestant converts were baptized in 1707. It was founded  by Lutheran missionary Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg  (July 1682 – February 1719). He  along with his fellow student Heinrich Plütschau  landed  at this Danish colony  on 9 July 1706 and  became the first Protestant missionaries to India. Besides becoming the first  pastor of the church   he learned the local language Tamil  (a classical language) and began preaching in Tamil  to make the natives feel at home. Apart, the Danish mission got the first printing press and the first printed material was the Bible - New testament in Tamil. it was a great feat by the protestant mission.  

Built in local  architecture, the exterior wall is made of brick lime-sand mortar with fine stained glass windows and a small tiled spire.   The old altar has  conventional Methodist images and  a small  prayer hall for the devotees. The bell tower in the church and numerous tombstones  get the attention of the tourists. Way back in the 2000s with help from the  the National Museum of  Denmark and the Tranquebar Association of Demark  major conservation work was done in the Governor's house and in the two churches - pieces of broken furniture, the stained glass windows were restored. The church grave yard was active between  1781 to 1814 suggesting that  burials  were done during that period.

The New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebar, TN: 

New jerusalem Church Tharangambadi. 1717upload.wikimedia.org

Tharangambadi, New Jerusalem church, India..talesofanomad.com

New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebarupload.wikimedia.org

Above image: Royal Monogram of Frederick IV of Denmark, New Jerusalem Church,Tranquebar.

New jerusalem church, Thanrangambadi, TN..istockphoto.com

New jerusalem church, Tharangambadi, TN..istockphoto.com

new jerusalem church, Thanrangambadi, TN..istockphoto.com

 Above images: Interior part of The New Jerusalem Church  (built in 1718),  yet another Protestant church  of the Danish settlement Tharangambadi  to serve  the spiritual needs of  soldiers and the community.

Rev. Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau came to Tranquebar in 1706 to establish  the Tranquebar Mission on orders from the king of Denmark, Fredric IV.  The first Protestant mission in India,  right from its inception  it had been managed by  German missionaries trained at Pietist schools and seminary founded by Francke at the end of 17th century.

 The Rev.Ziegenbalg  in October 1766 began holding  the Tamil congregation on Sundays at his house, which was used as a school on other days. Prayer  services were also held in  Portuguese as the  Governor Hassius  happened to be a native of Portugal. He not only  donated 20000 bricks towards the cause of raising the new church at Tranquebar but also   allotted  land at the Sollinger quarter of the colony.   The foundation for the  new Jerusalem Church was laid on 14 June 1707 and named as Jerusalem Church  after the Francke Foundations in Halle which was known  as the Jerusalem. 

In 1718 new Church called New Jerusalem church came up though the old Jerusalem was not much damaged in the November 1715 Tsunami, its proximity to the sea was of main concern to the church authorities.  The new  Church was consecrated on 11 October 1718, the birthday of King Frederick (foundation laid in February 1717). An interesting aspect was the sermons  during the consecration were  conducted both in Portuguese and in Tamil.

The design style used in this church was that of Danish with a blend of local style and  the  church's façade carries the royal monogram of Frederick IV of Denmark, with the year of consecration 1718 written below the monogram.

In the aftermath of the worst  tsunami of December 2004, church, and  other buildings of the Tranquebar Mission,  suffered some damages damaged and in 2006 the damaged structures including the churches were   renovated at a cost of INR 7 million.






Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalgplacefortruth.org