BENGALURU: In 1799, following the defeat of Tipu Sultan, the British occupied Bangalore Fort and constructed a small chapel called the Drummers Chapel in 1808. This was probably the first church to be built in the city area of Bengaluru. Another source says that Drummers Chapel was the first church in the Kalasipalya area to have been built between 1724 and 1725. Later in 1812, it was shifted outside the fort, renamed as the Fort Church and used by the British soldiers. For over a hundred years, the services of this church were utilised by families living in the then suburbs. The Fort Church was designed and erected by Lieutenant John Blakistone RE of Madras Engineers, who was also responsible for the setting up of the Bangalore cantonment.
In the early 1930s, the Mysore government decided to construct Vani Vilas Hospital on the very spot where Fort Church stood and hence it allotted the present site for today’s existing church. Records from the proceedings of the Mysore government mention these conditions: “The land that was given by the government was 160’ from north to south, 248’+ 219’/ 2 from east to west on Hardinge Road, situated between New Sanskrit College to the south and Sri Anjaneyaswami Temple to the north. The grant is subjected to the following conditions which have been agreed to by the Lay Trustee of the Church:
1. That no permanent structures except the church that has already been constructed should be put up without prior written permission from the government
2. That no compound wall should be erected on the sides or in the rear of the church
3. That the ground should be maintained in a satisfactory condition.
The foundation stone for the new church was laid by the then Diwan of Mysore, Sir Mirza M Ismail on September 29, 1932. It was decided that the new church will be called St Luke’s Church after physician St Luke from the Bible, on account of its close proximity to the new hospital complex being built on the site of the old Fort Church. The Diwan had shown personal interest in procuring the new location and intended to build the new church there so that the Tamil Christians, could have a place of worship of their own. The church was dedicated to St Luke by the Lord Bishop of Madras, Rt Rev E H M Waller, on March 9, 1935. Since the church was in the same block as Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and the temple to the east, and a Sanskrit College to the south, it was the Diwan’s yearning that the religious monuments of dissimilar beliefs exist in the same block. Therefore, this church had no compound wall till the early 1980’s.
With a cruciform floor plan, it has a main wing along the east-west direction and two smaller wings running across in the shape of a cross. The chancel is at a step higher than the nave and is on the east of the church. The altar is one step higher than the chancel and has the altar table, the bishop’s chair and other furniture. The east wall is decorated with rich teak wood altarpieces, with typical British decoration of ribbons and flowers in scallops.. The east side has a magnificent stained glass of Christ’s ascension with four small angels. This was manufactured by Ferdinand Muller from Quedlinburg in Germany. There are many more such stained glass pieces adorning this structure.
(Mansoor Ali is an architect)