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Christ the King Church, Loyola College, Chennai – The Architectural Marvel





Christ the King Church was designed and built in 1931 by Architect S. A. Gnana Pragasam Pillai at the behest of Rev. Fr. Francis Bertram S.J., founder Principal (1924-1935) and second Rector (1926-36) of Loyola College. It is smaller in length, width and height when it is compared to many other churches built by Jesuits in Tamil Nadu but definitely unique with its majestic exterior.

The 157 feet tall single German spire rising on the central portal along with the slender needle pinnacles set as corner elements, on the piers and the fliers of the buttress gives the church a flamboyant elevation. The spire which is an open work type in some measure is penetrated with tall lancet arches filled with tracery windows. Since the tall lancets relegate the use of rose windows to the background in the church it may be grouped under the lancet Gothic model as in the cases of Salisbury (England) and Milan (Italy) Cathedrals.

The portals (three in number) are not ornate and the Gothic features of the exterior and interior are usual but the distinctive feature the like of which is not to be seen in no other Gothic churches of the state is the flying buttresses. The fliers of them carry a two layered decoration in which crockets borne by thin stems surmount a sloppy line of standing quarterfoils. Attractive pinnacles cap the vertical buttresses (piers). The first pair of fliers near the central spire has beautiful capping pinnacles at the meeting point with piers that are taller than those behind them.

The octagonal lantern has beautiful gable topped louvre lancets on all the sides, interspersed with small pinnacles. The octagonal spire has both blind and empty dormers with gables set in two tiers. The beautiful central gable above the middle portal and the blind trefoil arcade at the bottom of the big lancet window in the first floor of the steeple enhances the front elevation.

The interior is so simple and less chromatic without stained glass paintings, coloured vaults and arches, attractive altarpieces and statuary. Yet, the façade as it appears to the viewers who take a look at it from a distance by standing on the road in front of the church, is awesome. Above all, the profile of the façade that unfolds like the bow of an ancient Roman ship, and the buttresses that stretch out like the oars rowed by the slaves confined in its lower deck, may remind us of the sequence of a naval battle between the Roman and the Macedonian brigands that features in the legendry film, Benhur.

The grandeur of the church was, thus, described at the time of consecration: “The sacred edifice stands out in all its beauty, elegance and slimness with its harmonious lines clear cut on the blue azure, towards which walls, turrets, buttresses, parapets, roof, spire all soar and coverage carrying aloft with them, the soul of the onlooker.”
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