St. Bartholomew’s Church stands as an exemplary example of the cultural harmony fabricated into the social life of Mysore since ancient times. Built in 1830 during the early colonial era in India, the church holds the distinction of being the oldest cathedral of Mysore. The famous church was built in memory of Saint Bartholomew who is believed to be one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. It was established during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the then King of Mysore, on a piece of land gifted by the king for the holy purpose.
History of St. Bartholomew’s Church
After the Tipu Sultan-era ended, the erstwhile Mysore state was witness to a large number of Europeans migrating and settling down in the city. As the city experienced the growth of Christian population, it also faced the demand to fulfill the religious need of these people. The then King of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, was a generous man who tolerated all kinds of religion and allowed them to flourish in his state. He offered the land to build a church for the Christian community living in his kingdom.
The church was established in 1830. But it was only in 1832 that the monument was constructed. British military officials and civilians pooled their resources and contributed for the construction expenses of the monument. The church was affiliated to the Anglican denomination in 1847 and handed over to the Madras Government in 1852.
As the church started conducting services in an era when no English medium school existed in either Mysore or Bangalore, the church also served the purpose of schooling the children of European officers who served at Mysore during that period.
In 1874 the church initiated Sunday school to impart good Christian education to the children, which continues till date. The church was also closely associated with the Holdsworth Memorial Mission Hospital in Mysore.
Architecture of St. Bartholomew’s Church
St. Bartholomew’s Church is a single storey structure built in a simple but attractive style. Though much is not known about the architect of the church, the beautiful structure is a glaring reflection of the wonderful workmanship of the architect.
Standing in a serene location, the church can easily pass off as a large bungalow but for the cross standing atop the church. But once inside, the cathedral draws attention with its lovely stained glass windows and tall pillars. The large glass windows of the church and the high dome at the end portion of the church echoes the wonderful architectural style followed in that bygone era.
St. Bartholomew’s Church: A significant monument for visiting dignitaries
St. Bartholomew’s Church has always attracted visiting dignitaries of Mysore. Way back in 1834 when the then governor general of India, Lord William Bentinck came to Mysore he visited this church. The church continued to have its famous visitors on and off. In the early part of 1906 King George V paid a visit to Mysore when he was the Prince of Wales. During that trip he had offered prayers in this historic church. The junior Prince of Wales, Edward VIII had also made it a point to visit the church when he came to Mysore in the year 1921.
In 1930 the then king of Mysore had donated the church beautiful stained glass windows. These glass windows were unveiled by Lady Wellington on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of the church in 1930.
St. Bartholomew’s Church: A few interesting facts
One of the most interesting things about St. Bartholomew’s Church is that the church bell (still in service) joins it uniquely with the French Army Base Church at French Rocks Erode village (now Pandavapur), some 25km from Mysore. This church bell was cast in France during the middle of the 17th century. It was at the service of the French Army Base Church till the church was dismantled to make way for the Visvesvaraya Canal. After the church was taken apart, it’s functional bell was gifted to St. Bartholomew’s Church.
St. Bartholomew’s Church is actively involved in the social life of people and even in their death. It is occupied with maintaining the community cemeteries in and around Mysore. The European Cemetery on Mysore-Bangalore road, the Benson Cemetery on Mysore-Nanjangud road and the Garrison Cemetery in Srirangapatna are the three cemeteries attached to St. Bartholomew’s Church.
A notable fact about St. Bartholomew’s Church is that the land for the construction of the church was located on the outskirts of Mysore. Therefore, when the church was built, it stood on the outskirts of the historic city. But with the expansion of Mysore, the church today stands in the heart of the city.
How to reach
St. Bartholomew’s Church is located on the Nilgiri Road of Mysore. Mysore can be accessed through a number of transport means from other towns and cities.
Mysore has a small airport in Mysore that connects the city to only Bangalore. The railway station has trains plying between Mysore and many other cities in south India. The bus service between Mysore and Bangalore is in excellent condition and there are frequent buses leaving for Mysore from Bangalore and vice versa.
Taxis and private vehicles can also be hired to reach Mysore from Bangalore. St. Bartholomew’s Church can be easily reached from any part of Mysore through hired taxis and auto rickshaws.