Dating back to the end of the 18th century, St. John's Church was the first Anglican cathedral in India. It was one of the earliest buildings set up by the East India Company, its construction funded largely by public lottery. The church served as the seat of the Anglican Church until the 1847 construction of St. Paul's Cathedral.
Originally a cathedral, beautiful St. John’s was modeled after St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London's Trafalgar Square and constructed with a mix of brick and stone. Inside, the church features huge stained glass windows, a replica of da Vinci's The Last Supper, and memorials to a number of colonial figures. Monuments and memorials to various aspects of local history dot the grounds. Because of the church's historical significance, many city tours stop here.
Things to Know Before You Go
- St. John’s Church is a must-visit for colonial-history buffs.
- Men and women should dress modestly, with clothes covering knees and shoulders.
- If you visit during mass, don’t walk around the church or take photos.
How to Get There
St. John’s is located in the heart of the city, around the corner from Calcutta High Court and a short stroll from Millennium Park on the Hooghly River. Maidan park, home to historical attractions such as Fort William, is just north. From Howrah Railway Station, it's about a 10-minute drive across the river; 10 minutes in the other direction leads to Park Street and many of the city's best hotels and restaurants. The Esplanade metro station is about a five-minute walk away.
When to Get There
The church is open daily to visitors, and mass is held every Sunday morning at 8. Because some of the church’s grounds are worth visiting, it’s not a bad idea to take weather into account. The best time to visit Kolkata is during the cooler, drier months of October through March. Things get hot in April and May, while monsoon season (from late June through mid- September) can leave the city drenched.
The Black Hole of Calcutta Imprisonment
On the grounds of St. John's stands a memorial to the Black Hole of Calcutta, a dungeon prison inside Fort William in which British prisoners of war were held under arrest by the Nawab of Bengal in 1756. While some controversy surrounds the story, survivor accounts attest that 146 prisoners were held overnight in a room measuring around 14 feet by 18 feet (4.3 meters by 5.5 meters), but only 23 survived—the rest died from heatstroke and suffocation.