The Basilica of the Holy Rosary commonly known as Bandel Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in West Bengal, India. Situated in Bandel, Hooghly districtof West Bengal, it stands as a memorial to the Portuguese settlement in Bengal. Founded in 1599, it is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also a parish church, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta. It is one of the most prominent historical churches in West Bengal as well as in India.
Earlier, there was a Portuguese settlement at Bandel. The Church and the Monastery were built around 1660 by the Portuguese. Bandel word derived from Portuguese word mast of ship. Bandel Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in West Bengal and a nice Tourism attraction. It is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosário, also known as “Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem”, meaning “Our Lady of the Good Journey”. The keystone of an older church with the year 1599 on it adorns the riverside gate of the monastery attached to it.
Around the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port. During or around 1571, they were given permission byAkbar, the Mughal emperor, to build a town in Hooghly. As they began settling around the area, their priests began to baptise the natives – by 1598, Catholics in Hooghly numbered around five thousand, including natives and mixed races.
In 1579, the Portuguese built a port on the banks of the Hooghly, as well as a fort, and enlisted the services of a band of Augustinian Friars, then the largest religious body in Goa. The following year, Captain Pedro Tavares obtained the emperor’s full permission to preach the Catholic faith publicly, and erect churches. Thus the Bandel Church came to be constructed in 1599.
This first church was burnt down during the sacking of Hooghly by the Moors in 1632. A newer church, constructed by Gomez de Soto (also spelt John Comes de Soto), was built over the ruin in 1660. The keystone of the older church can still be seen on the eastern gate of the monastery, bearing the date 1599.
On November 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II declared the sanctuary a minor basilica.
A ship’s mast stands in front of the church; it was presented to the church by the captain of a vessel that had encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal, and its rescue was attributed to Mary. The church has three altars, several tombstones, an organ, and a shrine to Mary.
St. Francis Church, in Kochi, Kerala, built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India
St. Thomas supposedly built a small church, now known as St. Thomas Church at Palayur, a town now in Thrissur District, Kerala, around 52 AD. The Palayur church still stands at the same site and is considered the oldest church in India. But the wooden walls of the old church were destroyed with time. In the 17th century Reverend Fenichi enclosed the original church with a new outer building but the original altar consecrated by St. Thomas still remains at this site.
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