Armenians came to India in 5th Century BC, during the invasion of Alexander the Great. It is believed that Armenians had a trading relation with India from the early period of Indian history. Armenian came in Kolkata in the later phase of 1600. They are first to bring Christianity in India. British East India Company flourished under the kinship of Nawabs of Bengal and Delhi with the reference of Armenians.
The Armenians constructed the first church in Bengal in Brabourne Road, Kolkata in the year 1734. And it is known as the OLDEST CHURCH OF KOLKTA.
Armenian Church is also known as “Mother Church of the Indian Armenians. The Holy Nazareth structure is one of three Armenian churches in Kolkata; the other two are Saint Mary’s Church and the church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.
The altar of the Armenian Church of Kolkata is also decorated with 3 paintings, frescoes by English artist A.E Harris, “Holy Trinity”, “Last Supper” and “The Enshrouding of Our Lord”.
The Armenian Church was the first church to be established by the Armenian community that settled in Kolkata before the arrivals of the British East India Company in India. It is said that a wooden church was first built here by the British East India Company in the year 1688 through a contract they signed with the Armenian community in Europe.
Sir Josia Child on behalf of the British East India Company and Khoja Sarhad along with Khoja Phanoosh on behalf of the Armenians signed the contract. As per the contract, the British East India Company was supposed to construct churches in all corners of India where a minimum of 40 Armenians would inhabit. British East India Company also granted 50 pounds to the appointed priest as his remuneration. The East India Company therefore built a tiny wooden church at the south-eastern wing of the present Armenian Church.
A fire accident destroyed the wooden church, but later built by the Britons, which is now near the Howrah Bridge. The present church was built by Aga Mamed Hazaar Maliyar, an Armenian at the same site in 1734. The interior decoration of Armenian Church was done by an Armenian architect named Katchik Arfiel. The beautiful altar in the church is adorned with a Holy Cross, the Gospel text and twelve candlesticks symbolizing Jesus Christ’s Twelve Apostles. The architect donated the wonderful church clock. Additionally, Aga Mamed Hazaar Maliyar also built a monastery for the priests of the church and a huge cemetery with high walls in the church premises.
The graveyard near Armenian Church was the oldest known grave of an Armenian woman named Rezabeebeh, buried here in 1630. The small, well maintained compound also has a monument erected to the countless Armenians who died during First World War. All are now the architectural splendour of Kolkata.