Armenian Church in Chennai offers annual service

Photo: Ratheesh Sundaram


Once a flourishing community in the city, Chennai now only houses six Armenians.

This bell of the Armenian church in Chennai, which usually rings every Sunday morning, rang on Tuesday to mark the service being offered after more a year, the New Indian Express reports.

A divine liturgy brings Armenians from across the country and sometimes even from outside India, to come together, deliver their prayers, offerings and to retain the long history of the Armenians in Chennai.

The history of the church dates back to the days of Kojah Petrus Woskan, an Armenian merchant who came to Madras from Manila at a time when the city was like a magnet, because of St Thomas of Cana.

“Woskan built the steps of St Thomas Mount church and the Marmalong Bridge. Before he departed, he wrote all of his will to the people of Madras,” said Jude Johnson, the caretaker of the Armenian Church, adding, “You would have noticed the picture of Mother Mary taking Jesus to heaven inside the altar, and it is only in this Armenian Church that you would find such a photo.”

The church, which was built as a wooden structure in 1712, was then reconstructed in stone in 1772. This year, the church had a curtain at the altar to conceal the priest from people, a tradition followed during some parts of the liturgy. Rev Movses Sargysan, pastor and priest from Kolkatta, was seen in a bright traditional cassock and a crown. Accompanying him was a deacon, who said the prayers and songs in Armenian.

The church was initially built on a cemetery, and has buried the souls of 350 Armenians in its space. A small building next to the bell tower, which used to be a mortuary earlier, is the parish office today.

The bell tower is said to be the only church in south India to have six bells. Each bell is a different size and weighs up to 150 kg. One of them has inscriptions in Tamil.

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