Ring out, twin bells   

Today, January 6, is the Epiphany – according to tradition the twelfth night after Jesus was born, when the three wise men of the East arrived in Bethlehem – signalling the official finale ending the Christmas season.

Garima Gupta’s illustration of the twin bells at The Church of our Lady of Salvation, Dadar

Though the twinkling stars and fairy lights of Xmas have beamed brightest for at least a month, Bombay’s gleaming church bells fortunately ring all year long.

An unusual set of two present some interesting history. They are paired like tall twins, in the courtyard of The Church of Our Lady of Salvation, popularly referred to as Portuguese Church. This Dadar church is one of the city’s oldest, its sixteenth-century foundation laid by Portuguese Franciscans who named it Nossa Senhora da Salvacao. After the late 1500s, the structure underwent three renovations, expanding each time.

The norm-breaking, Padma Vibhushan awardee architect Charles Correa was commissioned the last revamp in the mid-1970s. Reinterpreting his assigned project radically, with clean cuts and new angles, Correa gifted the flat shell-roofed space a unique, cross-shaped bell tower. He replaced conventional elements, including steeples, the choir loft, the ascending roof and an ornate facade, with conical domes connecting the sanctuary (altar), the nave (central aisle), the baptistery (baptismal font) and the oratory (shrine). 

The axis mundi (column of the universe connecting the earth to the sky) is fundamental to the architectonic symbolism in universal places of worship. Though his invitation to artists like MF Husain and Anjolie Ela Menon to paint Biblical episodes added ample luminosity to the edifice, in his book, A Place in the Shade: The New Landscape & Other Essays, Correa writes how architecture can unite us, despite differences in held beliefs and faiths followed. Are the powers-that-be listening?


MEHER MARFATIA

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