Our Lady of Angels Church – Karaikal
Our Lady of Angels Church
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About the Church:
Karaikal is situated on the east of coast of south India about 320 Kms. South of Madras and about 150 Kms. from Pondicherry on the Madras â€“ Nagapattinam bus route , about 20 Kms. North of the famous Basilica of Our Lady of Health at Vellankanni.
The antiquity, grandeur and beauty of the church at Karaikal may go unnoticed among the several temples dotting Tanjore district, a center of national pilgrimage , drawing people from all over the country. Yet the lofty belfry , the tallest landmark of the town , does not fail to attract the attention of passersâ€“by. It houses three huge clocks and five imported bells whose melodious bells could be heard within a radius of 5 Km.
The year 1801 inscribed at the base of the bell tower, which is a latter addition to the main structure of the church, belies the actual age of the church. The old faÃ§ade of the church whose architectural style is quite different from that of the belfry, contains the large Statue of Our Lady.
The chequered history of the church began when the French bought Karaikal in 1739 from the King of Tanjore, to build a chapel inside the fort to cater to the spiritual needs of the residents. At that time the Jesuit missionaries stationed at Nagapattinam, were ministering to the spiritual needs of the Portuguese Trade Posts. Coming to know about this fact , the French approached the Jesuit fathers for help and after signing a contract on 4th June 1739 , got two priests to look after their settlement in Karaikal. The Jesuits originally built a church in 1740 in the place were the present church is located.
The British captured Karaikal in 1760 and destroyed the 20 years old church. So the French government took up the task of rebuilding the church in 1765 and put commander Fleurin in charge of the reconstruction work. The church so rebuilt in 1770 was dedicated to St.Louis. As there was a need for suitable accommodation for the priests, a presbytery was built in 1775.
But there was no peace or security even for the new church. Before long the hordes of Hyder Ali plundered the church between 1778 and 1783. According to the historical records , the French governor reported to the government in Paris in 1828 that the church in Karaikal was in need of urgent repairs . So once again , with the monetary assistance of the French government the church was renovated in 1843. As the congregation increased , the problem of enlarging the church had to be faced in 1848.
In 1867 , Fr. Legion was the parish priest and his aesthetic tastes found expression in the decorative marbles altar, the beautiful stained glass and the communion rails which he put up with the aid of money collected for this purpose.
Mrs. Laforgue , a pious and generous French Lady donated 2000 francs to the parish priest , Fr. Pautret, to buy a suitable bell for the church . When the bell was bought , there was no proper place to fix up. So it was decided to construct a belfry. Fr. Welter began the work of building the bell tower in 1891 and as the work proceeded , more and more money was needed . But the cost of constructing the belfry and fixing up the five musical pealing bells was paid by generous Mrs. Laforgue.
After the completion of the bell tower in 1893 this house of God got its present lofty, massive and imposing look which is our good fortune to admire and where we gather to praise and thank the Lord. In 1991, the parishioners were blessed to celebrate the centenary of the belfry tower and 250 years of the church in Karaikal.
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