Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Sep 10, 2007

Metro Plus Delhi

A Gothic touch
Did you know that the church in Medak is perhaps the second biggest in the world?

 The Medak Church

Medak, about 90 km outside Hyderabad, is a beautiful place to be in the monsoons. The grey clouds lend a soft, diffused light to the impossibly green countryside; mango, guava, pomegranate trees host families of trilling birds, cornfields stretch out, alamanda trees shed copious amounts of their yellow blooms everywhere. On the lawns of the IB I’m staying in, egrets and peacocks come calling at dawn and later, swarms of yellow and white butterflies flit about. I have a vehicle and I have a yen to go driving about the countryside.

Which is how I come upon a stunning church of cathedral-like proportions, a pile of white granite that soars into the sky. This is the Medak church, the largest in all of Asia, a piece of Gothic architecture in a most unexpected place, a mere kilometre outside the sleepy, typically Andhra town.

We just have to tackle the physicality of the place first, it’s that stunning. Medak church is supposedly not just the biggest church in Asia, it is also said to be the second biggest in all the world, next only to the Vatican Church. Standing a lofty 173 feet high at its pinnacle, the church is built on an immense scale, 200 ft long and 100 ft wide. The tiles are Italian and the soundproof ceiling, cast to give off perfect acoustic results, has been constructed with a spongy material. However, the mellifluous sound of the church bells can be heard for quite some distance.

The immense windows, the vaulted inner structure, all call to mind other grand chapels in Europe. The stained glass windows, unusually tapering at the top, depict scenes from the Bible; a veritable story in pictures for those of the devout who cannot read the written word. The birth of the Christ Child, the Crucifixion, the Rising of the Christ, His life and times, are all vividly shown, radiating beauty and serenity. The panels weren’t at their best at this time of the year since they rely on solar light to light up. Artificial lighting, even the strongest and most modern, just doesn’t do it. I make a mental note to return when the sun is at its brightest and streaming through these stained glass windows.

This exemplar of piety and beauty came up at Medak after a dreadful famine hit the area around World War I and all but decimated it in a relentless three years. Built by the British Wesleyan Methodists under the aegis of C.W. Posnett, the Reverend of Medak, on 1000 acres of land, for ten long years, the Medak church, now under the CSI, was consecrated on Christmas Day of 1924. Christmas, Easter and New Year masses are held for as many as 5,000 people at the church. Built as a labour of love, it continues to welcome and embrace the devout from all religious disciplines.

Medak was once a Buddhist centre and many an archaeological dig has thrown up ample evidence of this. Today, though, the Medak Church is unarguably, the jewel in this particular crown.


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