Saturday, September 29, 2012
The St Thomas Garrison Church has quite a bit in common with the St Clement Danes in the Strand, London. In the first place, both churches are closely connected with the armed forces: the one in Madras was raised to cater to the military establishment between the Mount and Pallavaram and the one in the Strand is now the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. Both buildings have had some restoration done due to aircraft. Luftwaffe bombers gutted St Clements during the London Blitz; the steeple of the Garrison Church had to be reduced in height to enable planes land at the Meenambakkam airport.
Such similarities should not surprise us, because the Garrison Church was designed on the lines of St Clement Danes. However, the replication of the design seems to have been confined to the outside, unless the original was unrecognisably altered during its restoration. A significant difference is that the altar does not have a grand reredos, preferring to keep it simple with a small altarpiece.
That altarpiece too, was not painted by any famous painter, or even a 'professional' painter. The work of Major John Robinson, it shows Jesus asking Thomas to touch his wounds. On the evidence of this painting, and a lack of any leads towards the Major's martial exploits, he was probably quite a peace-loving military officer!