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Delhiwale: A hint of Venice tucked away in Lutyens’ Delhi

The austere exterior of the Cathedral Church of the Redemption, built in 1931, shields the richness of its dazzling arches and carpeted floor.

delhi Updated: May 26, 2018 11:19 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The former Viceroy Church, housed in President’s Estate in Lutyens’ Delhi, is built of red sandstone and Burmese teak
The former Viceroy Church, housed in President’s Estate in Lutyens’ Delhi, is built of red sandstone and Burmese teak(HT Photo)

Here’s a lovely building hidden in broad daylight, tucked away from plain view unlike most Delhi monuments. You can hardly spot it. The Cathedral Church of the Redemption demands special attention — you’ll have to come especially for it, or you may never know it exists. This could be because its imposing front doesn’t face the road.

The former Viceroy Church, housed in President’s Estate in Lutyens’ Delhi, is built of red sandstone and Burmese teak. It was opened in 1931, the year the British-built New Delhi was made India’s capital.

The design, inspired by the 16th century church of Il Redentore in Venice, has a central tower soaring up into the sky. The rest of the building seems to aspire to touch that blessed top.

The exterior is otherwise austere. However, much of the simplicity is abandoned inside the church. The interior is rich though not jarring. The hushed dignity of the carpeted floor harmonises smoothly with the dazzling interplay of the arches.

The small recessed openings in the sidewalls let in beams of sunlight that makes the otherwise dark nave feel mystical. The altar faces the east and is capped by a half dome. Above is a copy of Madonna and Child by the 15th century Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini.

The choir gallery over the western entrance boasts a unique William Hill, and Norman & Beard pipe organ.

The building was initially said to suffer from bad acoustics and there was an unwanted reverberation. But in 1934 the ceiling of the dome was coated with an asbestos solution to rectify the problem. This finally enabled the magnificent teakwood organ to give the cathedral the beautiful music it deserved. On festival days, surrounded by bright bulbs and forests of gladioli, you can sit among a remarkably diverse throng and sing hymns with gusto.