When Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias will inaugurate the city's first museum of Christian art at the St Pius seminary in Goregaon on Sunday, there will be no ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Instead, he will only be sliding the 'arambol', a wooden plank used as a traditional lock, to open the doors to 300 years of restored Christian history.
"From church collection receipts dating to the 16th century sourced from waste-bins, to family altars procured from a ransacked villa in Goa, the museum houses artistic liturgical pieces, which were found covered in dust," said Father Warner D'souza, head of the Catholic Church Committee on Heritage, who has played a pivotal role in setting up the museum, the first such in the city.
"The restoration work took two years. Once the dust was cleared, we could see the bright colours of the artefacts that were painted using original vegetable dye and gold leaves," he added.
The museum is spread across a 2,000-square foot area on the first floor of the seminary.
"At the entrance we have placed a statute of the Body of Christ with a reflective surface below that will set the sombre tone for the objects displayed ahead. We could only include 150 pieces," said Ainsley Lewis, the architect who designed the museum. Many artefacts and books are lying in lockers owing to lack of display space, he added. "We are planning to set up a mobile museum," he said.
"Portable wooden units comprising artefacts and rare objects will be carried to individual parishes. We will be able to reach out to almost all Catholics with our museum on wheels."
The highlight of the museum, besides the audio-visual section, is a timeline of Christianity engraved on a wall recounting its history from 6 AD onward. "It was challenging to arrange the events chronologically by drawing parallels between the origins of Christianity in Mumbai and the world at large," said Joe Cardo, an advertising designer, who worked with a team of historians to create the timeline.