The Armenians of Madras

 The Armenian Church of Virgin Mary, built in 1712  is located in the busy hub of Parrys, Chennai. The Armenians established a thriving settlement in Madras in the 1600s. According to  S. Muthiah’s Madras: The Land, The People and Their Governance book the earliest Armenian tombstone dates back to 1663 and is of Coja David Margar.

The church had its origins in a simple wooden structure built on a plot of land granted to the Armenian community by the British East India Company. The church was built in 1712, but it was destroyed in a French siege in 1772, and was then rebuilt in its present location – the grounds of an Armenian cemetery. IMG_20170717_122339_HDR-01 The Armenian Church of Virgin Mary.

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The Belfry adjacent to the main Church structure houses Six large bells weighing more than 150kg. Uniquely cast, the first bell was hand cast in 1754, while the last two bells were added nearly a century later in 1837. Shipped in from London, the bells still bear the inscriptions “Thomas Mears, founder, London.”

There are over 300 Armenians been laid out throughout the Church’s premises. Details of the deceased are carved on their graves mostly in Armenian scripts.

Worlds first Armenian newspaper ” Azdarar (intellectual) ” was published & printed in Madras. The Founder and editor of Azdarar, Rev. Haroutiun Shmavonian (1750-1824) is buried in same premises.

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The church opens at 9.30 am every day.  Bells are rung only on Sundays but mass service isn’t conducted. Mr.Jude Johnson maintains the church & the maintenance cost is funded by The Armenian Church Committee in Calcutta.

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