With the fame of being one of the largest churches in India, this majestic church captivates everyone with its architectural excellence. It also boasts of being the second largest church in Asia. Dedicated to Saint Philomena, St. Philomena’s Church is not only known for its architectural beauty and religious significance; it stands as an exemplary of secular viewpoint and the religious harmony which existed in Mysore. This can be seen from the fact that this church was built by Mysore ruler for the European residents in the city.
History of St. Philomena’s Church
Built in 1840, earlier it used to be called as the St. Joseph Chavez, which was later changed to its present name. Initially a small church, it gained its present form in 1933 during the reign of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. In 1843, Mysore King Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar built the church so as to cater to the needs of the European people who were residing in Mysore then. However, with the increase in the number of European residents in the city a need for bigger church aroused.
In 1926, TRV Thamboo Chetty who was the Diwan and Chief Justice of Mysore, attained Saint Philomena relic from Peter Pisani, Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies, which was duly transferred to Father Cochet who then requested Mysore maharaja to build a church in the honor of the saint. Upon his request, Mysore King Krishnarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur IV gave the permission for the construction of the church. Hence, in 1933, a foundation for the new church was laid out. After 8 years of construction, the church started functioning in 1941. The remnants of the St. Philomena have been preserved in this church even today.
It is said that St. Philomena was the daughter of monarch of a small state in Greece. Monarch was childless, hence the couple prayed to God for a child. A year later, a daughter was born to them whom they named as Philomena. Since her childhood, Philomena displayed great devoutness for the God. When she was 13 years old, her father had taken her with him to Rome, where he had gone to seek help of Emperor Diocletian. Seeing Philomena, emperor, who was awestruck with her beauty, expressed his desire to marry her. However, Philomena, who was already a great disciple of the God, refused to marry the emperor. Unable to bear the rejection, emperor tortured her and gave orders to execute her.
Architecture of St. Philomena’s Church
Constructed in the Neo-Gothic or the Victorian style, this church draws its inspiration from the Cologne Cathedral of Germany. The church is said to be designed by a French artist Daly. This church has been made in the shape of a cross, with congregation hall also referred as ‘nave’ being the longest end of the cross, the transepts being the two arms of the cross, choir being the crossing and altar being the upper part or the smaller part of the cross.
The main attraction of the church is its twin spires with a height of 175 feet, which can be spotted even from mile away. The design of spires is similar to those in St. Patrick’s Church which is located in New York. Each spire has a cross adorned on it with a height of 12 feet. The altar presents a captivating view with intricately crafted marble and the statue of St. Philomena which was brought from France. At alar you will find statues of St. Philomena and beneath the altar, in the underground catacomb, relics of St. Philomena have been kept.
The hall of the church boasts of a capacity to accommodate close to 800 people. The sanctum add more beauty to the entire structure with its stained glass windows, displaying exquisitely drawn paintings from various stages of Christ’s life such as birth, Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension are another major attraction here. These glasses were made in France. There are three front doors to the church along with various small side doors, which take you to the prayer halls. Pillars in the church have also been crafted with exquisite flower patterns.
St. Philomena’s Church Timings
You can visit the church till 6 in evening as the timings of St. Philomena’s Church are from 05.00 am to 06.00 pm. It is always better to visit in evening as then you can watch the church is being illuminated. Every Sunday and on festival, special masses are organised while everyday masses are conducted in morning and evenings. On 11th August, annual feast is organised at the church.Photography is not allowed inside the church hall.
Reaching St. Philomena’s Church
This church is situated about 2 km away from the Mysore Palace. Quite close to the city bus stand with a distance of only 3 km between them and hence St. Philomena's Church is easily accessible. Located on the Ashoka Road of Mysore, it can be easily accessed by road. Tourists can either hire a taxi or just take an auto rickshaw to the church.