Kolkata's Cathedral: St Paul's
The iconic buildings and grand edifices of Kolkata are intricately woven within Kolkata's cultural fabric. Much Kolkata's character and attitude is shaped by these edifices, as much as its distinctive beauty. One such is the magnificent Pre-Raphaelite structure of St Paul's Cathedral, the Diocese of Calcutta. Designed to resemble the 12 th century Canterbury Cathedral of England, St Paul's was commissioned to replace St John's Church as the cathedral for the growing European community in 1800s. With its majestic tower, stained glass windows, the grand Parish Hall, beautifully manicured garden and a well-stocked library, St Paul's is one of the important landmarks on the face of Kolkata.
Since its inception, St Paul's has been playing a seminal role in Kolkata's cultural progression. With its patient kindness and love, it has always kept its doors open to all-the locals and the tourists, the pilgrims and the laity, the happy and the troubled, the young and the old. People came back time and time again in search of a safe house to St Paul's Cathedral. The quiet walls of the cathedral beckoned many, and many came seeking peace, mercy, relief and love. Mostly people came seeking a friend to talk to, to seek some advice, to unburden.
Last year, after the painstaking efforts of Rev. Nigel Pope, the Presbyter-in-charge of the cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral, in partnership with the St Peter's Church of Derbyshire, and with incredible help from the Westminster Abbey, The Bishop of Derby, The Diocese of Derby and Ruth and Adrian Whitehall, set up the Cathedral Friendship Centre on 21st August 2016.
In this one year the Cathedral Friendship Centre has extended its friendship to several. People of all faiths or no faith, troubled or lonely can come to the centre to read, listen to music or talk to one of the wonderful 'Befrienders' (the volunteer friends from the Cathedral). Over this one year the befrienders have helped many, and many have, thus, come back to the centre to share their experiences and help the troubled.
The Friendship Centre with its befrienders and coordinator-in-charge remains open to all from Tuesday to Saturday. Mondays are off days and Sundays are half days.
Call it slow or call it old-fashioned with want of opportunities, Kolkata is more than a city of glitz, glamour and urbanised industrilization. Its beauty lies in its compassion, its simplicity and its warmth. Its history is as rich as its present-a proof that the edifice of St Paul's and its community bear by itself.