Back in 1990s, when violence erupted in Kashmir, the once buzzing church in Srinagar witnessed a sharp decline in number of worshippers and was shut down. The 125-year-old church is now reopened for public.
The opening of the church was on December 23, Thursday and a prayer was held a day before. It is located near the Chest Diseases Hospital on the foothills of the Shankaracharya hillock in Dalgate area of Srinagar.
The church will celebrate Christmas on December 25 for the first time in more than 30 years. The church underwent severe structural damage and decay, including damage to foundations and walls, roof decay, vegetation growth, accumulation of silt and debris, rotten roof rot, and so on.
The hospital and church inside the campus were built in 1888 by the Neves brothers. Later, the Bishop of Lahore opened it to the public in 1896. The place was full of worshipers and tourists every Sunday. Mohammed Shafi, a local resident, recalls, “We went to the church and they offered us sweets and toffees.”
The church was protected by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and the tourism department after locals expressed concern.
The renovation of the church next to Chest Disease Hospital was undertaken by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department under the ‘Smart City’ project.
Athar Aamir Khan, commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, said about Rs 80 lakh was spent on the church renovation, which began in May. The church doors were covered in mud and the outside of the building was spilled with rainwater, the roof was leaking, the windows were corroded and the glass panes were broken. “We have revived it in its past glory and not tampered with the original design in the slightest. We bought glass from outside the country to match the old one, “said Khan.