Thursday, February 2, 2017

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pondicherry

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pondicherry
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is situated on the south boulevard of Pondicherry is an oriental specimen of Gothic architecture. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and saints of the Catholic Church. In recent years it has become one of the famous pilgrimage spots for Christians. It is one of the 21 Basilicas in India and only one in Pondicherry. This church was established in 1908 by the French missionaries and attained the status of basilica in 2011.

The centenary celebrations were celebrated during 2008-2009. As part of the centenary celebrations, a special postal stamp and postal envelope were released. This Catholic Church is one of the finest churches of Pondicherry. This church was built by the French missionaries. The Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus Pondicherry, as it is referred to in French. The church is the first basilica in Pondicherry, 6th in Tamil Nadu, 20th in India and 50th in Asia.

In the year 1895, the then Archbishop Mgr. Gandy consecrated the Archdiocese of Pondicherry to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wished to build a new church in devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rev. Fr. Telesphore Welter, the parish priest of Nellithope prepared the building plan and parish priest of Cathedral Rev. Fr. Fourcaud commenced the construction of the new church in 1902 at the Southern side of Pondicherry. The blessing of the church and the first mass was held at the western wing of the present church by Mgr. Gandy on 17, December 1907 and the new parish surrounding this church has been established on 27, January 1908.

Centenary Celebrations:
The year 2008 – 2009 was celebrated in grand style as Centenary year of founding of the parish in this area and the Government of India issued a special postal stamp and postal envelope to mark the valedictory function of the centenary celebrations.
Elevation to Basilica Status:
At the end of the Centenary Celebrations on June 2009, a request was placed through Telesphore Toppo, President of CBCI, to the Holy See for the elevation of this church to a Basilica. The Holy See granted the status of minor basilica to the church, with a papal brief dated Friday 24 June 2011. This arrived on Friday 29 July 2011 to archbishop’s house. This was officially announced by Mgr. Antony Anandarayar, Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore on July 29, 2011. The Papal Nuncio to India, Salvatore Pennacchio (Titular Archbishop of Montemarano) visited the basilica on September 2, 2011 and officially declared the church as a basilica in the name of the Holy See. At present the basilica is headed by Rector Rev.Fr. S. Maria Joseph
The Basilica measures 50 meters long and 48 meters wide. It is 18 meters high and has a Latin rite cross shape in the aerial view. The main material used in the church was bricks with well ground lime-sand mix. It is a big church and can accommodate 2000 people. The church has attractive glass windows, twin spires and a huge exterior. The glass windows are encircled with terracotta craft.

The interiors are a magnificent blend of scarlet, moss green and milky white and the entire structure is held by 24 columns. Terracotta motifs adorn the walls - typical of south Indian architecture. Glass paintings of the 28 devout saints related to the sacred heart of Jesus include that of Joan of Arc. A striking statue of Madonna is placed at the right side of the high altar. The statue is draped with a blue sari.

A biblical verse from 2nd Chronicles 7:16 are written above the entrance door in Latin "sanctificavi locum istum, ut sit nomen meum ibi" which means "I have consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there forever." Along with Biblical Verse, the images of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mother Mary are also carved in the entrance door.

There have been additions to the original church complex over the past decades - a Parish Hall, Adoration chapel and a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes. Statues of the four evangelists were erected, beneath which there are four lamp posts describing their lives and inviting Jesus and the twelve apostles. The two front twin towers (spires) of the Church throw a beautiful silhouette during the sunrise and sun down.

The Grotto for Sacred Heart of Jesus facing the City Railway Station were added and the church illuminated inside and out with chandeliers, focus and flood lights. This 100-year-old church has been led by twenty parish priests. After the arrival of parish priest Thomas in 2005 the church was fully renovated inside and out.

On festival days, in particular Christmas, this place becomes more vibrant with festive mood, pomp and grandeur. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a beautiful place of veneration with a magnificent building in the former French colony of Pondicherry far south of Chennai on the east coast of India.

The former parish priests of this church are:
Parish Priests:
·        T. Welter (1902–1909)
·        Combes (1909–1910)
·        Deniaud (1911–1917)
·        Leblanc (1917–1924)
·        L.C. Renoux (1925 - )
·        P.M. Planat (1925–1931)
·        H. Gaston (1937–1945)
·        L. Peyroutet (1945–1947)
·        Olasail (1947–1953)
·        S. Valanganny (1954–1956)
·        M. Abel (1956–1963)
·        P. Irudayam (1963–1972)
·        G. Raja (1972–1980)
·        Gnanamanikam (1980–1982)
·        P. Gnanapragasam (1982–1988)
·        P. P. Xavier (1988–1989)
·        Mariasusai (1988–1989)
·        L. Maguimey (1989–1996)
·        G. Jacob (1996–2005)
·        A.Thomas (2005-2012),Rector
·        S.Maria Joseph(2012-present)
·        Thomas (2005- May 2012)
·        S. Maria Joseph (June 2012 to present)
The Church celebrates the Easter Day, New Year and the eve of Christmas in a grand manner.
Mass Timings
·        Monday to Thursday: 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening
·        Friday and Saturday: at 6 in the morning and 5:30 in the evening
·        Sunday: 5:30 to 7:30 in the morning and 5:15 in the evening
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
132, Subbiah Salai,
Pondicherry – 605001
Phone: +91 – 413 – 2228916 / 2225559
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located just opposite to Pondicherry Railway Station and located at about 2.5 Kms from Pondicherry Bus Stand. Take a Bus on Gorimedu Route and get down at Old Bus Stand. Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located 500 meters from this Stop. Autos are also available from Bus Stand.

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