Sunday, May 15, 2011
The other church
It is natural that when one thinks of St Thomas' Mount and church in the same sentence, the building that comes to mind is the Church of Our Lady of Expectation. That's the one on top of the mount and perhaps the one that's much better known over the world. However, there is one other old church in the vicinity - one that goes by the rather workmanlike name of St Thomas Garrison Church.
It was built sometime in the 1820s and was intended to serve as a place of worship for the garrisons stationed at St. Thomas' Mount and at Pallavaram. It is not clear why these garrisons could not go up the mount - probably it was difficult for the horses and carriages to climb up that winding path and so they had to have a church right at the foot of the hillock. Over the past two hundred years, this church has seen a lot, as can be gathered from all those memorial tablets inside.
In the 1950s, when the Meenambakkam airport was getting ready for regular air traffic services, it was found that the spire of the St Thomas Garrison Church was impeding the flight path for aircraft landings. Ever since, it has had to do with this truncated top - the third storey and the spire had to be taken down to ensure aircraft safety!