After aN 18-month-long restoration process of the entire structure, the 433-year-old St John the Baptist Church, the oldest one in Thane, opened its doors to people on Sunday.
The church now flaunts a massive state-of-the-art industrial fan, that is perfect for a hall with a capacity of 800 people.
The restored structure also includes lancet windows and lime water-plastered walls. Initially built in 1581, the church was rebuilt in 1605 and renovated multiple times over the past few centuries.
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According to church officials, the plan to completely restore the church structure was first brought up in 2002.
Conservation Architect Vikas Dilawari, who handled the entire project, said that while the work could have begun in 2012, the project was stalled for next two years due to the absence of a Thane-based heritage committee.
“We finally managed to start the restoration work in March 2014 after a committee was set up in 2013,” Dilawari said. While the church remained shut, a make-shift church was made for holding masses,” he said.
According to Dilawari, the church had lost its natural and historical beauty because it was being renovated many times.
Hence, an effort to recreate uniform architecture was made this time around.
“Some windows were round and some were pointed. We converted all windows into pointed ones. Like the Goa churches, we plastered the exterior walls with limewater. We also restored the three altars, bell towers and the porch,” he said.
What caught the church caretakers and restorers by surprise, however, was the discovery of a sealed trap door that led to the verandah.
“We have now opened that door. It is a tiny door that connects the church to the outside verandah,” said Father Allwyn D’Silva, the church’s parish priest.
The church, situated along the serene Masunda lake, was restored using funds pitched by local Christians.
D’Silva added that specially crafted doors have been designed by Vasai-based Sequeira brothers for the church. The entire project is undertaken at a cost of Rs 5 crore.
Fleur D’Souza, member of the parish heritage committee that monitored the restoration, said the objective was to “preserve the authenticity and symmetry” of the church.
“It is the oldest church to survive in its original form,” said D’Souza, also a Thane resident who visits the church regularly.
Along with its reopening on Sunday, an exhibition of artefacts dating back to over 200 years has also been inaugurated at the church. The exhibition will go on for a few days.