Christ Church – Fort (Schwartz Church)
While Tamil Nadu is famous for its legendary temples, it is also home to some outstanding churches. The Schwartz church located in Thanjavur is believed to be one such fine example of an Anglican church and is believed to be the second oldest Anglican Church constructed east of the Suez.
The Schwartz church was constructed to honor Rev. Christian Fredrick Schwartz, a Danish citizen, in 1779. Raja Serfoji II Bhosle of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom was an open-minded ruler who provided land to this missionary to build a church and offer service to the Christian community that thrived here hundreds of years ago. He did this out of gratitude to the priest for being a competent negotiator and saving his kingdom from being usurped.
The church is located inside a Small Fort called Sivaganga Kottai built by the Vijayanagara Nayakar dynasty in 1560. The fort also encloses the Naganatha Swami temple, temple pond and the Sivaganga Park. The fort has two boundary walls with the inner wall being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the outer wall by the municipality.
Though the king retained his Hindu religion, he became the priest’s disciple and there was a great deal of love, respect and friendship between the two. The Christ church was earlier known as the Big Church as it stood in tall and pristine white grandeur in-between the Sivaganga Park. Rev. Schwartz spent his remaining life here, teaching children and preaching Christianity. There is nothing glamorous about the structure but it inspires feelings of peace and tranquility with its quaint vintage charm.
Unlike other churches built in India, this church was not built to propagate Christianity; rather it was meant to be a celebration of the love and respect shared between two religions which gains special significance in today’s torn society. The church’s structure has a hint of French detailing with its high arches, gleaming tower elevation and mirror designs. The most outstanding feature here however is the white marble slab with its emotional carving depicting the death scene of Rev. Shwartz. Raja Serfoji II can be seen holding his hand here while his ministers, some children and a missionary look on.
The slab was installed in early 1800s after Schwartz was laid to rest in 1798. A trip to Thanjavur should include a visit to the Schwartz church to witness its pristine beauty. The city is well-connected by rail and road with neighboring Trichy offering the closest airport. You could also stay-over at the prestigious Sangam hotel here and enjoy authentic Thanjavur hospitality.