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Amid the chaos at Kashmere Gate, outside Ambedkar University, stands the majestic St James Church — Delhi’s oldest, built in 1836. After the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) spent four months last summer renovating the foundation, the 182-year-old church is now looking for funds to finish restoration work.
“The project was divided into phase A and B, and last year only a portion of phase A was completed… the church dipped into its reserve funds, and members and some organisations also chipped in. The total budget of the project is Rs 3.5 crore, of which we raised Rs 50 lakh last year,” said Kamal Baluja, chairman of the Church Conservation Committee.
The committee had written to L-G Anil Baijal last year, asking for financial assistance. “The L-G asked us to forward the request application to the DDA. We have been in touch with DDA for months now and have shared the project report prepared by INTACH as well as cost estimates. We are positive,” said Baluja.
A DDA official said, “If the L-G has ordered this, we will follow the directions.”
In March 2017, INTACH began work on ground stablisation of the church, as “the fundamental problem was that during the rains, the groundwater level would increase and the water would get into the foundation,” said INTACH convener Swapna Liddle.
The church, built by Colonel James Skinner, is listed as Grade-I under the North civic body. It claims to house precious relics such as “original European stained-glass windows depicting the crucifixion, ascension and resurrection of Christ, a painting titled The Prodigal Son,” among others, as well as Mughal-style brick masonry. “Once we get the money, work on the roof can begin , which needs to be waterproofed… it was last done in 1995. The plaster on the walls is peeling and artwork needs to be restored. It’s a 19th century structure… a legacy, it’s our heritage,” said Baluja.
The Church Conservation Committee had also approached the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) last year, requesting assistance with funds. “Strong vibrations can be felt every time a Metro passes by, and even though we are not contesting the test reports by DMRC which show that the nearby Metro hasn’t impacted the church, we are requesting for Rs 70 lakh,” said Baluja. DMRC is yet to respond to the request.