It won a battle with a storm in the Bay of Bengal and guided the Portuguese sloop it belonged to to the safe harbours of Bengal in 1655.
The captain, a religious man, had promised to god that if he could ride out the storm, he would donate his mast to Him.
He did. For the next three-and-a-half centuries, the mast stood in the courtyard of Bandel Church, the oldest in Eastern India.
But on Monday, another storm toppled the mast. As the structure – rising above 30 feet – came down with a thud, it broke into pieces.
The church is the only surviving relic of Portuguese settlement in Bandel in Hooghly district, about 43 km north of Kolkata.
Around the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port by the Hooghly river. It stood 10 km upstream from Chinsurah, where the Dutch had set up their colony.
“Around six in the morning, a tree, toppled by the storm, fell on the mast and razed it to the ground,” Father Thomas Gomes of the church told Hindustan Times on Monday evening.
Down the years, as it grew old, the church authorities wrapped it with a protective coat of concrete. “But the impact of the storm and the toppling tree was too strong for it,” said Father Gomes.
“I am shocked to hear it. I have to find out whether it was shoddily maintained,” said Eugene Gonsalves, president, Catholic Association of West Bengal.