The Churches of India takes the reader on a fascinating journey through India to discover the history and architecture of the country's Christian churches. With fine illustrations and an informative, easy-to-read text the book reveals the diverse architectural styles that have evolved in different regions from the very beginnings of the Common Era identified with the birth of Christ.
Churches have been built in greater numbers from the middle of the last millennium when settlers such as the Armenians and colonisers, Portuguese, French and British, brought their own branches of Christianity and religious architecture with them. Many churches were indigenised over time while others have retained their architecture in its pure form.
Taylor's work gives the reader a deep feeling for the range of churches and their architecture, from the humble to the grand. It is also a fine history of the search by those who design or adapt buildings for a self-identity through the symbolism, explicit or implicit, expressed in built forms.
Religious buildings give India its identity as a nation of diverse people with their own cultures. It is a country with one of the world's richest architectural traditions. Complemented by over 300 photographs, this absorbing book is the most comprehensive work on India's churches to date.
Joanne Taylor was born and educated in Sydney. She studied Indian history at the University of Sydney and has written a thesis for the University of New South Wales, The Great Houses of Calcutta, 1750 - 2006. Joanne's first visit to India in 1971 left an indelible impression on her. An accomplished writer and photographer, Joanne has since travelled widely in India, particularly in Kolkata and Bengal. Her award winning book, The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta published in 2006 (Niyogi Books) ignited an interest in the heritage importance of north Kolkata's unique mansions resulting in a push for conservation.
Taylor's The Great Houses of Calcutta, Their Antecedents, Precedents, Splendour and Portents published by Niyogi Books in 2016 is co-authored by highly respected Emeritus Professor Jon Lang. By bringing in Taylor's first hand experiences and research in Kolkata and Lang's knowledge of the broader context of architectural history it is a more definitive work on the subject.
The Churches of India is the third of Taylor's works published by Niyogi Books.
India's architectural heritage is as enormous as it is varied. The history of the country is written in the buildings that stand out from their backgrounds. Some are magnificent edifices self-consciously designed to create a sense of awe. Others are small works hidden in the back streets of cities and villages; it is easy for them to be passed unnoticed. As a set of individual structures, the religious buildings give India its identity as a nation of diverse people with their own cultures and aspirations expressed within a broad definition of 'being Indian. These aspirations can be seen in the religious architecture of the nation. Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Buddhist stupas and Parsee fire temples enrich the morphology of settlements and countryside in the sub-continent. They are immediately recognisable and full of meanings for people to read into them. Some are pure types; others are hybrid because religious groups have borrowed impressive elements from the buildings of others. So too with Christian churches.
Churches in India date back to the very beginnings of the common era identified with the birth of Christ. Their presence surprised the Portuguese when they first set foot on Indian soil. Churches have been built in greater numbers from the middle of the last millennium when settlers such as the Armenians and colonisers, Portuguese, French and British, brought their own branches of Christianity and religious architecture with them. The church rituals and their architecture either became, self-consciously or unselfconsciously, indigenised or they remained as symbols of aloofness of the colonisers by retaining their architecture in its pure form to the extent that the climate would allow. The sculptures and decorations show the aspirations of their congregations.
Joanne Taylor's latest work The Churches of India with its fine illustrations gives the reader a deep feeling for the range of churches, from the grand to the humble, and their architecture that has been built in the country. It is also a fine history of the search by those who design or adapt buildings for a self-identity through the symbolism.
Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that great book'
Though India is known as a land of Hindu temples and Islamic mosques it is also home to an extraordinary number of Christian churches. Contrary to what many believe Christianity did not arrive in India with colonisation but is one of India's most ancient religions and it is widely believed, began with the arrival of St. Thomas the apostle who brought the religion to the west coast of India in 52 AD. It was after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 that church architecture in India did become inexorably linked with the history of colonisation. These churches represent the faith of the religious orders which built them and the colonisers' need to establish their identity in India. They also exhibit the artistic abilities of India's master craftsmen who decorated them. More recently, Indian architects are reinterpreting church architecture and creating a Christian identity for Indians in the built form.
Over the centuries the architecture and design of India's churches has evolved and flourished, though more in some regions than others. In Kerala churches can be seen everywhere one looks while in Gujarat or Rajasthan it would be difficult to find one. How they came to be part of India's landscape is a fascinating story which began in the first century AD and continues today.
This book has been written for readers interested in Indian history and church architecture. From simple chapels to grand cathedrals, it showcases a diverse number of church buildings from all over India.
The work has drawn on the most commonly believed or most probable facts. I have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible. The very early churches have had numerous incarnations and much has changed over time. Many churches have been demolished and rebuilt, sometimes in quite different styles. In addition, the dates of Indian churches are not always reliable and many churches have changed in response to cultural patterns. What has happened over time can be convoluted.
Though much church photography concentrates on the massive exteriors and soaring interiors of churches the photographs in this work also focus on the small details; a piece of exquisite carving or the simple garland of marigolds at the feet of a saint's statue. Details such as this show the human element of a church.
It would be impossible to record all of India's churches. The goal here has been to present a diverse collection from across India. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the region followed by the church and its accompanying photographs. The similarities and differences are what make these churches intriguing. Some have fascinating histories and inspiring architecture, while others are eclectic. Many are simply charming.
People of all religions have expressed their faith for centuries by constructing buildings for their gods. Though faith may be the same the world over the architecture it inspires is diverse and fascinating. I invite you to discover the Churches of India.
Unless stated all the photographs throughout the book are mine. Though much church photography concentrates on the massive exteriors and soaring interiors of churches I have also focused on the small details.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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