The old Cathedral of our Lady of the Rosary is a flat-roofed building dominated by a spire at its northern end. The foundation stone was laid on the 12th March, 1797 and the Cathedral was consecrated on 27th November, 1799. The total cost of Rs. 90,000 was met almost entirely by Joseph Barretto and his brother Louis, Portuguese nobleman. Two other members of the family were Viceroys of Goa.
The entrance of the Cathedral is from the south, where steps lead to a pillared portico paved with grave stones. The interior is illuminated by round coloured windows, while a double row of arcaded pillars adorns the centre. The high alter is at the northern end, and behind it, on the wall are, figures of the Madonna and child. Below, lie the remains of Paul Goethals (1833-1901) the first Archbishop of Kolkata. Numerous mural tablets record the names of Vicars-General of Bengal, among them one of a front –pillar on the eastern side commemorates Patrick Joseph Carew, Archbishop of Edessa, obit 1855, the founder of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. On the pavement beneath the chairs are other grave stones. One of the oldest on the south-east is in memory of an Armenian named Petrus Hendy, a Chaldean from Babylon, who died in 1719.
The site of the Cathedral was granted originally to some Augustinian missionaries during the life of Job Charnock. The used it to build a humble structure of mud and thatch. In 1700 this was replaced by a brick chapel, the expense for which was met by Mrs. MariaTench. In 1720 the Church was enlarged by Mrs. Sebastian Shaw. The Mortal remains of these two benefactresses lie on either side of the high alter. During the capture of Kolkata by Siraj-ud-Dowla in 1756, the Church, while it escaped total destruction, lost all its records. At the same time, St. Ann’s the Anglican Church, was burnt down, and the Portuguese sanctuary was temporarily appropriated to serve as a substitute. For three years the Governor and his Council, with the rest of the English Protestant community, worshipped in this Portuguese Church, until a chapel adjoining the east gate of the Old Fort was erected. The Portuguese sanctuary, thereafter, was restored to its owners, until it was pulled down in 1796 to make way for the present building.
Sources : a) Guide to Calcutta – Firminger
b) Recollections of Calcutta-M. Massey.c) Handbook to Calcutta- Edited by Eardley Latimer (Calcutta Historical Society).
Research -Santanu Roy.
Picture Courtesy - Sudip Ghosh.