Renovation of historic West Bengal church nearly complete

The church will also have new halls for pilgrims to rest, an auditorium, a food court and souvenir shops.

India (UCAN):Visitors to the 416-year-old Bandel Church in Hooghly district of West Bengal will be in for a very pleasant surprise this Christmas. The much-awaited renovation project, which was planned for the 400th anniversary of the church in 1999, and was stalled due to litigation, got underway last year and is in its final stages of completion.
The major attraction of this renovation project -14 'Stations of the Cross' with 54 life-sized statues depicting Jesus carrying his cross to the Cavalry and his crucifixion -is already up at the field in front of the church. "This installation is bound to evoke piety and prayer among visitors. The main door at the riverside entrance of the basilica has just been embellished with relief motifs depicting religious themes. The field is also being landscaped to provide a serene ambience for prayer and devotion," said Bandel Church prior Father T L Francis.
The church -declared a "mini basilica" by Pope John Paul II -will also have new halls for pilgrims to rest, an auditorium, a food court and souvenir shops. These were all planned for the 400th anniversary celebrations, but were put off due to litigation over the church's ownership of the field in front of the church in April 1996.
The case was settled in favor of the church last year and the planned renovation project started after that.
Another prime exhibit will be the ‘mast’, which will be on display after four years. This wooden mast of a ship stood on the field in front of the church from 1655 till May 2010, when it was struck down by lightning during a nor'wester. This mast was gifted by the captain of a large Portuguese ship that had encountered a severe storm in the Bay of Bengal; the captain had vowed to gift the church a mast from his ship if his vessel survived the storm. An ASI team which visited the church after the storm declared the mast a heritage item and directed the public works department to re-erect it. But with the department taking no action, the church authorities had wrapped the mast and stored it. It will now be displayed in a glass case surrounded by the ‘Stations of the Cross’. The Portuguese for ‘mast’ is ‘Bandel’ and that is how the church, and the township, gets its name.
The church was set up by Portuguese Augustinian monks in 1599, and is dedicated to ‘Nossa Senhora do Rosario’ (Our Lady of the Rosary).The church attracts people from all faiths who believe the icon of Mother Mary in the church has healing powers.
The church attracts lakhs of people every year, especially during Christmas and Easter.

Source: Times of India

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