Art on glass

Although everyday a number of tourists pass by the Christ Church on the Ridge in Shimla, hardly a few care to peep inside.

Most of the passersby are oblivious of the fact that this second oldest church of North India holds a hidden treasure — the stained glass windows, which are no less beautiful than those adorning the cathedrals of Goa.

The European stained glass originated in the 9th century. The art flourished in the 12th century (Romanesque period) and Paris became the major centre for the development of this art. The stained glass art reached its zenith during the period between 1130 and 1330 AD. The technique involved composing small panels of dyed and painted glass, holding them in strips of cast lead and mounting them in a metal framework.

The attractive stained glass windows of the Shimla church show a high level of workmanship. The sunlight, filtering through the huge windows, further enhances the impact of the glass panes. The chancel window depicts an allegory of the famous Latin hymn, Te Deum and along the south wall is high composite window with six figures representing Patience, Humility, Help, Praise, Prayer, Fortitude, Faith, Charity and Hope.

The saints represented on the glass windows are attired in voluminous robes, and are hold shields bearing different emblems: a bull, a lion, an eagle and a man. St. Matthew is seen with the angel, St. John with the eagle, St. Luke is holding a bull and St. Mark is with the lion. St. Isadore, the patron saint of farmers, is seen holding a spade.

The building, which is based on gothic architecture, was designed by Col. J.T. Boileau. Constructed during 1844-57, it was consecrated by the Bishop of Madras in 1857.

A walk through the aisles, amid the colourful windows, introduces one to those who prayed here during the colonial times. An inscription on one of the windows says, "To the glory of God and in loving memory of Lizzie Marion Walker, wife of James Lewis Walker, who worshipped in this church for 30 years. Died in London 22 Nov 1892."

Each window is a masterpiece. The brilliant colours of the windows are spectacularly vibrant, still as fresh as new, even though the last window was installed more than 80 years ago. As sunlight plays upon these windows, bathing the interiors with soft colours, a divine calm seems to descend.

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