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sometimes indistinguishable from residential buildings. They are generally built for Durga or Kali pujas to accommodate number of devotees in front. Midnapur has the largest number of these temples. In Bankura District the Haldar family temple at Kotlpur is a fine example which combines both medieval and modern features. The Chandrabhairab and Joshurashvari temples al Shyamnagar in Khulna, the Krishnamandir at Kaliganj, and the Brindaban Bihari mandir at Tarash in Pabna are some of the examples of this type.

From among these general types it is possible to find many sub-styles within them. The number of temples, both vanished and extant, is so much that only an extensive research can unfurl further types which might have remained unknown. The publication of a Unesco project Hundred Temples of Bangladesh by Nazli Chowdhury and Babu Ahmed is a pointer to this direction. The pictures in the book are so absorbing that one cannot feel at rest until the reader finishes looking all the pictures at a time.

3.2.4 The Churches

To the mediaeval Europeans, India was a fabulous land of spices and muslin. In 1498 the Portuguese, captained by Vasco-da-Gama, were able to discover the sea route to India with the help of Arab merchants. In 1517 the Portuguese came to Chittagong, the main port of Bengal, for business. Along with traders and colonialists came Christian missionaries for spiritual upkeep of the traders, the soldiers and their families, and for the simultaneous propagation of the faith in the community around.

It is said that ‘wherever the Portuguese captain hoisted his national flag, the Portuguese priest planted the Cross of Christ’. Missionary activities were started under the auspices of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit priests), which sent a deputation of two Jesuit priests, Fr. Francesco Fernandez and Dominic de Suoza, who arrived Chittagong in 1598. The Portuguese assisted the Arakanese King in his time of difficulty and as a reward the King allowed them to build a church and made provision for their maintenance. From the statistics provided by Fr. Francesco Fernandez in 1599, the population of Christians in Huglee was 5000 and in Chittagong 2500.

Although the Holy enterprise of the Portuguese missionaries started favourably, it soon suffered from a conflict between the Arakanese and the Portuguese in 1602. The churches were burnt down and two missionaries, although they were not guilty, were thrown into prison. Fr. Fernandez expired in the prison. The missionaries extended their mission towards Sandwip, which came under the control of the Portuguese. This alarmed the King and again in 1607 a second mishap occurred, resulting in a serious handicap to evangelisation. Later the Augustinians came to Chittagong in 1621, and baptized 28,000 slaves of the Portuguese to Christianity between 1621 and 1624. Around 1670 a local Bangalee named Dom Antonio Rozario, a respectable person in the community, preached in the areas around Dhaka, Nagori, Sreepur and converted about 20,000 Hindus to Christianity.


Dhaka became the capital of Bengal in 1608 during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) and attracted many traders, businessmen from different countries. In 1632, during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1658), the Portuguese fort in Hughli was attacked and defeated. During this crisis many Portuguese Christians fled to Dhaka and neighbouring area by river route and later became permanent residents in Dhaka. The earliest establishment of the Christians in Dhaka was of the Portuguese Augustinian missionaries in 1616 at Tejgaon. But due to the opposition of the local people, Christianity could not spread easily to these areas although it had the support of the Mughal rulers. With the defeat of Sirajuddaula, the last Nawab of Bengal, the British established their monarchy in Bengal in 1757. The English, as tradesmen or employees of the British companies, started to come to Bengal.

The Christian society of the mediaeval India, including Chittagong and Noakhali, according to Van Linschoten, consisted mainly of three classes of people: (a) The Portuguese inhabitants, (b) The Mesticos or Eurasians, the children of Portuguese father and native mother and (c) Indian Christians, the native Hindus who were converted to the faith.

The church is the focus of a Christian’s life. The church from the very beginning of one’s birth controls the life of a Christian by baptism sacrament to the end of life with the burial of the deceased in the church cemetery. The rest of the activities of parishioners are performed around the church. It is therefore out of necessity and practice that the Christian community in Bangladesh seems to cluster near the church vicinity.

Although initially the Portuguese and their descendants tried to maintain their own culture in their adopted home, they gradually merged with that of the locals; especially the converted Christians maintained their customs, language, dress and way of living. Christians of Bangladesh tend to live in groups clustered near the church or schools. This clustering provides social support during their need, where they can extend their service

towards each other. As a centre of communion of believers the church is a landmark, a symbol of holiness, love and brotherhood, which is Christ’s main teaching.

Early Churches of Bangladesh

Architectural characteristics of a specific type of building depend on various influencing factors. To determine the architectural character of the local churches of Bangladesh in it’s genesis period, which originally was a foreign building type, the local influences that moulded the alien building type into a new or hybrid type of church in this context has to be understood. For this critical study a background study of the religion and it’s propagation in this country, the local style and construction method and materials, climate, social and cultural conditions etc are a necessity. A comparative study of the findings from the ten churches studied lead to determine the characteristics of early local churches.

Bengal, which is originally, a deltaic-region, criss-crossed by a number of rivers, is

under the influence of composite or monsoon climate. Here humidity and rainfall are dominant climatic elements that directly influence the local Architecture. For high



Plan of Holy Rosary Church, Tejgaon

relative humidity and rainfall the layout of rooms need to be cross ventilated with rain protection. Wind flows from south in the summer and from north in the winter. So the room is often rectangular in shape with it’s longer axis in the east-west direction allowing the north and south sides to be open for cross ventilation.

Local material and architectural style of Bengal had a great influence on the architecture of the early local churches. Brick, being the sole building element available, became dominant in the construction of wall and the trabeated style became common for construction of local churches where the roof was supported by the horizontal beams and the vertical columns.

The existing local elements like arches, turrets, cornices and flat plastered surfaces with geometric and panel decoration influenced the facade treatment of the local churches. Churches in Bangladesh followed mostly the local construction method with easily found materials. The economic condition of the Catholic priests, who initially started to erect church buildings in different areas of Bangladesh, was not so sound. Their unstable condition due to the local adverse situation were reflected in their churches which were mostly constructed of cheap materials and easy technology devoid of the glamour of the existing European churches of that period.

Holy Rosary Church of Tejgaon

Originally erected in 1677 and renovated in 1714, 1940 and recently in 2000.

The thickness of the walls and the manner of the roofing difference between the two

image

parts indicate that probably the Augustians built the eastern part in a later period. The larger eastern part is attached to the smaller western part by the Arch of Triumph of 11´-4´´ span with it’s cusped archway. The western part, which was initially built as a chapel probably by the Nestorian Christians in the early 17th century has surki wall of 48´´ thicknesses, only with a few small openings at the north. This original chapel was divided into two parts:

a) Altar at the west, 2´-0´´ high from the normal level, b) Congregational space for the worshippers.

The large body at the east measures 83´­ 6´´ in length and 32´-3´´ in width having wall of 2´-3´´ thickness. The inner space is divided into a nave and two side aisles by twelve circular Tuscan pillars in two rows each of 1´-6´´ diameter.


The main entry is from the east but two additional doorways are placed on the south and north side directly on the wall without any porch or shading. Simple and large openings similar to doorways are placed on the north and south walls to allow ventilation and light.

Church of St. Nicholas Tolentino, Nagori Date of establishment: 1663 (inscribed on the wall). 1888 (existing construction).

The whole church is composed of three parts:

1) The entry verandah, 2) Congregational body and 3) Altar and sacristy.

Instead of the traditional narthex, this church has a verandah covered by a flat roof supported on four stout pillars like the local Bengali houses. The verandah leads to the main body directly with three approach doors to a hall room of 102´-10´´ length and 36´-4´´ width. Twelve pillars of I-section (9´´× 5´´) iron bars at 14´-4´´ intervals, resembling the railway bars, divides the total space into a main central space of 17´-6´´ width and side space each of 8´-8´´ width. There is the evidence of two turret-like structures flanking the entry doors, bearing resemblance with the layout of the Tejgaon church (which was probably destroyed in the earthquake of 1897 and was not reconstructed). This corner space probably held staircases or similar elements, which does not exist today but can be assumed from it’s imposing character on the main body.

Holy Rosary Church, Hasnabad, Dhaka

Date of establishment: 1888.

The church of Hasnabad has many things in common with the church of Nagori. The whole church is divided into three parts:

1. The entry verandah or narthex, 2. Main congregational space and

3. Altar, Sacristy, etc.

image

The narthex, nave and the altar space are arranged in east-west axis. Entry is from the west side, approached by a few steps.

The main congregational space is rectangular 95´-10´´× 36´-0´´ divided into a nave of 18´-0´´ width and two side aisles each of 9´-0´´ width with two rows of Iron column of 9´´× 5´´ cross sectional areas, similar to the church of Nagori discussed previously.

The entry and the nave are separated by a choir space in the mezzanine floor approached by a wooden stair, near to the entry door.


Corner turnets in the upper level



Interior view towards

the atlar

Two square shaped corner turrets also create a similarity with the church of Nagori and Tejgaon, relating itself more with the existing local pre-Mughal architecture of that time (17th century). These corners have no functions at the lower level, but it acts as a bell tower in the upper level and holds the bell to summon people.

image

A verandah is added at the south in a

later period.

The nave leads to the altar directly, which is again divided into three parts. The central area 18´-0´´ × 34´-0´´ is higher than the side areas of 7´-4´´ width on each side. This higher area is used for bringing in light through clearstory opening of 1´-6´´ depth. The side areas

are connected with the central altar through three arched openings on both sides. Besides these clearstory openings, the altar receives light from north and south sides through window openings, which is also for ventilation purpose. Behind this altar is the sacristy or the Priest’s preparation space.

Basically brick built building with plastered wall. The columns of the nave are of iron bars. Twelve columns in two rows hold two longitudinal beams, which hold the thrust of the corrugated roof of surki construction.

Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Chittagong

Date of establishment: (originally in 1601, destroyed), reconstructed in 1843.

A rectangular shaped large hall room of 34´-0´´ width and 128´-4´´ length (altar 38´­ 6´´ + nave 77´-0 ´´ + narthex 12´-10´´ ).

Entry is from the east side through a porch of 10´-9´´ × 16´-6´´ area, which is converted into a bell tower at the top. A lantern surmounts the tower with a conical spire above, on which is the cross to identify.

The entry leads to the narthex– a rectangular space of 34´-0´´ × 12´-10´´ divided into two levels vertically. The upper level is used for the choir, which is approached by a wooden staircase from the northern verandah.

The nave is not divided into aisles and central space due to the absence of rows of columns. Circular stained glassed opening is placed on the sidewalls of the northern and southern walls above the door openings from the verandahs. Nave hall is covered by a shallow barrel vault, which is again covered by corrugated iron sheet externally. Altar is approached directly from the nave.


The cathedral is quite remarkable with it’s pitched roofed view especially for it’s spire over the porched entry at the east side. Circular clearstory openings relate it with Pisa Cathedral of Italian Romanesque architecture while the stained glass work reminds of the Gothic Cathedrals.

Holy Cross Church, Laxmi Bazar, Dhaka.

Date of establishment: 1898.

The church is divided into three parts:

1. Entry Porch, 2. Main Hall and 3. Altar

The entry consists of a rectangular area of 16´-4´´ × 12´-0´´ with a wall thickness of 25´´. The two-storeyed spire over the porch, pierced with traceried gothic window, is the most distinctive feature externally. The square belfry was originally fitted with a clock. A small gable holding the Cross-as identifying mark of a church surmounts the spire. The pointed Gothic windows have stained glass work, which creates a mysterious lighting environment inside the rather dull nave.

The main hall, 36´-0´´ × 78´-4´´, is without aisles and holds one space under the truss roof. The roof above the iron truss is of corrugated iron sheet.

The nave ends at the altar, which is partially a rectangular space ending with a half hexagonal apse. The ceiling of the apse is painted with angels and Jesus as the Lamb of God, all symbolic of the glory of Heaven.

Brick is the main building element. 20ll brick wall rises up to about 20l high and holds the corner of an iron truss, which is covered by CI sheet.

St. Peter’s Church (Catholic), Sadar Ghat Road, Barisal

image

Date of establishment: 1864

A 60´ × 25´ central nave space is surrounded by verandahs in all sides. The entry is from the west through porch placed at the middle of the front facade. Above this is the bell tower of three storeyed high with Gothic pointed arched openings. A pointed spire at the centre surmounts the top of this tower and similar smaller spires are on four corners.

Nave is uninterrupted by pillars and the sidewalls containing the brick pillars have openings to the verandahs on the both sides. The external facade of the church is distinguished by a series of pointed arched arcade.


Plan of St. Peters Church


St. Peter’s Church, Barisal

Date of establishment: 1849.

A simple rectangle of 26´-6´´ × 45´-0´´ having the altar space within it only isolated by a few steps from the main congregational space. North and south sides have two verandahs of 11´-4´´ width extending it’s whole length. The columns are square of 2´

× 2´ with a nearly flat base and capital. The shaft is stout. There are total 12 columns on both sides.

Christ Church, 69, Jubilee Road, Chittagong

Date of establishment: 1926.

Like the English churches, Christ Church is located on the east-west axis, entry is from south through a projected porch. The main hall is 34´-0´´ × 50´-0´´ and divided into a nave of 23´-0´´ width and two side aisles of 3´-6´´ each. Nave is separated from the aisles with eight piers in two rows.

The height of the nave is 41´-0´´ and higher than the aisles’ height, which is lighted by 12 long lancet type clearstory opening above the aisles’ roof. 26´-0´´ × 23´-0´´ is raised from the nave by steps. The sides of the altar act as sacristy and other preparation, storage space. The wall of the altar contains three lancet types, stained glass opening. Brick flat buttresses gradually increasing in steps towards the ground level support the

wooden roof. This wooden roof has similarity with the early English churches with their construction technique and styles. At the opposite end of the altar is an apse of a half hexagonal plan covered by pitched shaped wooden roof, which occupies the baptismal font. Above this at the higher point of the built form is a bell exposing the exterior of west part.

St. Xavier’s Church Pahartali, Chittagong

Date of establishment: 1924.

A simple rectangular hall room of 42´-6´´ length and 24´-0´´ width serves as the nave, which has no aisles or rows of pillars. Altar is separated only by two steps and terminates at a square end. The heavy wooden trussed roof is supported by five buttresses 18ll thickness on each side which is flushed inside and exposed outside with it’s stepped brick works projected 40´´ from the exterior facade.

The Church of Epiphany, Barisal

Date of establishment: 1894-95.

The plan is divided into three parts: a. Narthex or Entry, b. Nave, c. Apse

a. Narthex (entry): Narthex is divided into two parts:

Outer narthex: 8´-0´´ wide verandah like separate space with brick arched arcade

Inner narthex: Outer narthex leads to the inner narthex, which is within the main structure of the church. A rectangular space of 10´-6´´ 53´-0´´ is divided into three areas. The central portion holds a sunken font of octagonal shape for baptism.



image

b. Nave: Nave vault is supported by 16 pillars on two rows at 16´-6´´ spacing. Nave is flanked by two aisles of 11´-6´´ width, which is approached from the verandahs at north and south sides. 14 doorways, seven on each side are the source of light and ventilation. A moderate pitched roof with black bituminous coating, which rests on the corbelled nave walls, covers the barrel vault of the nave. Two layers of vaults cover the aisles; inner layer is of wooden construction and barrel shaped. External cover is semi barrel shaped and covered with glazed bituminous coating. The verandah around the whole structure is covered with a pitched roof of similar colored coating.

c. Apse: The eastern end is the semi circular apse containing the altar and the sacristy. A separate square unfinished (not completed as it meant to be) bell tower is located at the southeast corner. This bell tower is constructed shorter than the main church, which was originally designed much higher. This square tower has three tiers. The top tier has three pairs of arched opening on each side and surmounted by a pitched roof of terracotta tiles.

Architectural Characteristics of Early Churches of Bangladesh Plans and Layout

The church is essentially a gathering space for the worship and other congregational activities. Usually a sequence of narthex, nave and altar is common for all type of church. The space of the churches studied followed the typical European tradition. Initially the churches built by the Portuguese missionaries were very simple hall type of structures but gradually the form and functions became more elaborate as the religion got firm establishment.

The plans of these studied early churches were found similar to the European churches. The three types followed the traditional European style with nave, altar and sacristy arranged in longer axis keeping north and south side open for ventilation and lighting.

The Church of Epiphany, Barisal



General plan and layout

of a church

The addition of verandah as an entry porch is a local influence to counter the climatic adversaries like rain, sun, etc. Tower is found both in European (French) and local architecture (Sultanate mosques), but it’s treatment has more resemblance with the Sultanate mosques turrets.

image

In Bengal Christianity was propagated by different missionaries, who built different churches. The churches they built reflect their culture and architectural style.

For an example, the Christ Church at Chittagong, which was built by the

English people during the British rule in Bengal, bears resemblance with the typical churches of England. Similarly the Holy Rosary Church at Hasnabad, the church at Nagori is similar to the Holy Rosary Church of Tejgaon, all of which were constructed mainly by the Portuguese Catholic missionaries. These churches are grouped in three categories according to their plan and layout and founder.

image

image

Category- 01: Most of these churches built by the Portuguese missionaries initially, consists of a hall room with an altar and congregational space, which is often separated by an arch of triumph. Often corner turrets holding the staircase or bell tower became common at the entrance facade. The entrance facade bears the gable top although in most cases this gable did not reflect the interior spaces. A cross surmounts this pediment/gable. In some of the cases the corner turrets followed the local existing details, such as the Holy Rosary Church at Tejgaon, which has resemblance with the


Church

Location

Year

Founder

Category- 01

Holy Rosary Church

Tejgaon, Dhaka

1677

Portuguese Catholics

Holy Rosary Church

Hasnabad, Dhaka

1888

Portuguese Catholics

Church of St. Nicholas

Nagori, Dhaka

1888

Portuguese Catholics

Category- 02

Our lady of Holy Rosary

Chittagong

1843

Portuguese Catholics

Holy Cross Church

Laxmi Bazar, Dhaka

1898

Portuguese Catholics

St. Peters Church

Barisal

1864

Portuguese Catholics

St. Peters Church

Barisal

1849

British Protestants

Category- 03

Christ Church

Chittagong

1926

British Protestants

St. Xavier’s Church

Chittagong

1924

British Protestants

Church of Epiphany

Barisal

1894-95

British Protestants



image image image

Catagory 01 Catagory 02 Catagory 03

pre-Mughal corner turrets. Later cross form plan evolved as another type, which follows the same layout of spaces.

Category- 02: Another type of plan developed with a single tall bell tower just over the entrance with marked identity, which has a resemblance with the English churches such as the Christ’s Church at Newgate Street, S. Andrew, Heckington. The tower located centrally is composed of two or three levels and the top is surmounted with spire and cross.

Category- 03: There was another type of plan found which followed the English style having shallow buttresses, wooden roof with decorated frame and central space divided into a nave and aisles porch often from the north or south like the English churches leads to the nave.

Typical Layout

Basically these churches are composed of single spaces instead of aisles and nave separated volumetrically. Only the altar is separated from the nave by an arch of triumph and raised above the nave floor level.

A sacristy or priest’s preparation space is allocated with this altar preferably at the back. A baptismal font is placed near the entrance space. Usually in the Catholic churches this is only a bowl- like structure on a stand as the ritual is restricted to infants only. But in the Protestant church this font is enlarged and accommodated in the narthex, which is usually sunken in the ground for the adults to dip into it for baptism.

The choir is located above the narthex usually on the mezzanine floor before the nave. In some cases this choir space is not separated from the nave level and often located near the altar.

The confession cell in these churches are no longer an isolated cell or chamber rather it is only a sitting space for the priest to listen to the confessions of the laity or the common people.

A bell tower, attached nearly with all churches, serves not only to send messages but also acts as an identifying vertical element to the church.

Basically the whole church is divided into the following spaces:

a. Preparation (narthex) or the entrance space, b. The congregation space, c. The altar and d. The sacristy or the preparation for the priest.


Entry and Narthex

The narthex refers to the vestibule, foyer or entrance hall of a church. This area serves as a gathering space before and after service. So the narthex need to be wide and attractive and welcoming. In the studied early churches this narthex and entry spaces are not separately defined. Rather they act as a verandah space imitating the local architectural style. Four types of entry are found in the study.

1. Through Verandah Example:

St. Nicholas Tolentino Church, Nagori;

Holy Rosary Church, Hasnabad;

Church of Epiphany, Barisal

2. Through Porch and tower– Example:

Holy Cross Church, Laksmibazar, Dhaka;

Church of Our Lady of Holy Rosary, Chittagong;

St. Peter’s Church, Barisal;

St. Peter’s Church, Barisal.

3. Directly

Example:

Holy Rosary Church, Tejgaon.

4. Through porch Example:

Christ Church, Chittagong;

St. Xavier’s Church, Chittagong.


Verandahs

Verandahs are traditional local element practiced in architecture of Bengal for a long time, which is the product of the climatic influence. The church openings are protected by eaves or by verandahs to prevent rainwater and direct sunlight penetration. These verandahs are located at the north and south sides or at the east or west as a narthex or preparation space before entering the main nave.

Orientation

Buildings of this region as well as European churches are located in east-west axis. Most of the churches studied are located in east-west axis, but some were located in the north-south axis and elongated on the east and west sides for lighting and ventilation.

Building Elements

Walls. Thickness varying from 10´´-40 ´´, built of brick, taking directly the load of the roof directly. In Tejgaon Church, walls are of different thickness in the eastern and western part and these are solid, plain and covered with plaster on the surface. These solid walls are pierced for door and window openings on the north and south side. Internally these walls hold a number of niches to accommodate the stoup of holy


water, and replica of Saints and Virgin Mary to whom the church is usually dedicated. Walls of the churches studied were found of two types:

a. Plastered walls; example Holy Rosary Church, Tejgaon.

b. Exposed brick walls; example Church of Epiphany, Barisal.

Arches. Arcuated openings (seen in the mosques of the pre-Mughal and Mughal period) with their pointed arch is followed in the openings of the churches along with the multi-foil arches, one of the distinctive types of Bengal, used in the churches with some modifications, as the dividing arch of triumph between the altar and the nave, comparatively over a larger span.

Openings. Both arcuated and square headed openings are found. Openings are placed on the longer sides mostly on the north and south sides. In the initial Portuguese churches these openings act as doors as well as lateral light source in absence of high clearstory lighting. Later in the British period clearstory lighting of lancet shape is provided (Christ Church, Chittagong and Church of Epiphany, Barisal). Circular clearstory light openings are also seen in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary at Chittagong, which reminds us of the circular openings of the Italian Florence Cathedral. The space between the arch and the square door openings are filled with coloured glass work which although not refined like the Gothic stained glass but states the influence clearly. Stained glass work later influenced many other local buildings.

Roof. Both sloped and flat. Early Portuguese churches mostly had flat roof on transverse steel I-beams. Longitudinal beams over the series of columns in the nave hold these transverse beams. Later wooden decorated truss roof clearly relates with the English churches.

Tower. Flanking the entrance followed the form and detailing of the pre-Mughal period, such as Atiya Mosque, Tangail. Bell towers in the local Churches are found in two forms: a. Corner turrets flanking the entry: example Holy Rosary Church, Tejgaon;

b. Placed centrally above the entrance porch on east or west side, crowned with a spire and have glazed openings: example Our Lady of Holy Rosary, Chittagong. Decoration and external treatment. Initial churches followed the wall plastering system of the Mughals. Later exposed brick treatment was introduced. Stained Glass used following the Gothic style. Coloured glass used in windows. Decor in

Catholic churches is simpler: examples Holy Cross Church, Laxmi Bazar Church, St. Nicholas Church, Hasnabad and Patharghata Church. In some Protestant churches (example Christ Church, Chittagong) complex extensive stained glasswork depicting Jesus Christ’s story from Bible is found, which has similarity with the English Gothic churches. There is no typical character of the exterior facades of the existing local churches but local elements like turrets, corner treatment are found (example eastern facade of Holy Rosary Church at Tejgaon). Pediment above the entrance facade, although placed arbitrarily as it did not reflect the interior, became common particularly where the bell tower is built whereas the Protestant churches built by the English were firm in character with exposed brick


work, buttresses and other elements. The cross on a pediment facade and the bell tower became the symbols, which evidenced the purpose of the structures.

Conclusion

The European tradesmen being Christians were the initial builders of the church. The existing early churches were mostly built by the Portuguese Catholic missionaries, starting from 15th century to the middle of the 18th century. The latter ones were built by the Catholic and Protestant missionaries during the middle of the 18th century after the British ascendancy to political power in Bengal.

In Bengal the missionaries could not follow the style of churches of their countries directly as they had to overcome a different culture and climate, with different language and religion. Most of these initial churches by the foreign traders were simple structures with very simple construction system and local materials. They had to remain content with constructing temporary humble structures just for the services rather than the magnificent structures that existed in their own land.

The churches constructed in Bengal could never truly follow the European style for two reasons: (a) Initially the Portuguese settlers and the missionaries who were propagating the faith in Chittagong (Diang) and Dhaka (Tejgaon) were not in a favourable environment. They continuously faced opposition from the local people and the pre-Mughal Sultans were not in their favour either, barring the odd occasion when they had the opportunity to gain the Sultan’s confidence and were granted permission to erect churches and establish their colonies. Moreover, the reckless living style of the Portuguese was disapproved, (b) In 1602 the total community was destroyed by the Arakanese king in Diang, and later in Noakhali. In Dhaka the Christians living in Tejgaon faced similar attack from the local Muslims.

This unstable condition did not encourage them to erect religious edifices elaborately as in their own country. Later when the British rule was established the churches were more permanent with the adoption of local style. For example, Holy Cross Church at Laxmi Bazar (1898) and the Christ Church, Chittagong has similarity with the English churches.

According to Nazimuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh was neglected for about two centuries during the British rule, when Calcutta (West Bengal) was the main focus of their political and administrative power as the capital of British India from 1773-1912. East Bengal with it’s nerve centres in Dhaka and Chittagong barely had a share in the affluence that Calcutta enjoyed, except for a brief period of seven years when Dhaka became the capital of East Bengal and Assam during the first partition of Bengal in 1905. Thus the buildings built in Dhaka and Chittagong during the British period, economic constraints often limiting the expression to the facade only, bear no comparison to the architectural splendour of the churches and other buildings of Calcutta.

With simple construction techniques and the locally available materials the Christian

missionaries tried to construct a true European church in a foreign land, moulded by



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