At Fort St. George you may find the spire of St.Mary’s Church emerging from the canopy of green trees and pointing towards blue sky. The church is located in Church Street i.e., the south western corner of the Fort St.George, Chennai. The church is one of the oldest surviving monuments of British East India Company and also regarded as ‘the Westminster Abbey of the East’ and it is the most ancient Anglican Church on the east of the Suez Canal.
The church was built with private contribution and the East India Company had no part in it. In 1678 the foundation stone for the church was laid in 1678 by the initiative and orders of from Streynsham Master (1640-1724), the then Governor and was completed in 1680. Some historians designate the designer of this church as Chief Gunner William Nixon and some other give the credit to Edward Foule as the architect. The original rectangular building was about 60 ft. by 90 ft. The design also attached priority to bombproof roof (two feet thickness) and the walls about five feet in thickness and the church was built with the capability to withstand gunfire from sea and land. The Sanctuary, Tower, Vestry and the steeple were added in 1795.
The church was dedicated to St. Mary the Blessed virgin and it came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. Now it is being part of the Diocese of Madras in the Church of South India. The antique Raphaelian painting ‘Last Supper’ (Biblical Scene) is the altar piece at this church.
At this church Elihu Yale, Governor of Fort St George married Catherine Himmers in 1680. Later Robert Clive married his bride Margaret on February 18, 1753. The church also houses many memorials, tombs and exquisitely carved marble statues British East India Company army officers, past governors, administrators, merchants, and their family members.
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