Basilica of the Holy Rosary, Bandel

The Basilica of the Holy Rosary (commonly known as Bandel Church) is one of the oldest Christian churches in West Bengal, India. Situated in Bandel, Hooghly district of West Bengal, it stands as a memorial to the Portuguese settlement in Bengal. Founded in 1599, it is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also a parish church, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta.[1] It is one of the most prominent historical churches in West Bengal as well as in India.

Bandel Church
The Basilica of the Holy-Rosary, Bandel
Bandel Basilica, Hooghly (West-Bengal).jpg
The entrance of the Bandel Church
LocationBandel, West Bengal
DenominationRoman Catholic
Statusminor basilica
ArchbishopThomas D'Souza


Our Lady of Happy Voyage Shrine, rooftop Bandel Basilica.
…the Portuguese church, which is now the great sight of modern Bandel. This, the oldest Christian place of worship in Bengal, India, was founded in 1599, the year in which Queen Elizabeth sanctioned the establishment of the East India Company. It was burnt in the sack of Hooghly by the Moors in 1632, but the keystone with the date 1599 was preserved and built into the gate of the new church erected by John Comes de Soto in 1661. It is dedicated to Nossa Senhora di Rosario and contains a monastery once occupied by Augustinian friars, the last of whom died in 1869… Some 380 bigghahs of land, out of the 777 granted rent-free by Shah Jehan, are still enjoyed… Every November the church is thronged with pilgrims during the Novena of Notre Dame de Bon Voyage.[2]

Cotton, H.E.A (1909)

Graves at the Bandel Church

Around the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port. During or around 1571, they were given permission by Akbar, the Mughal emperor, to build a town in Hooghly. As they began settling around the area, their priests began to baptise the natives - by 1598, Catholics in Hooghly numbered around five thousand, including natives and mixed races.

In 1579, the Portuguese built a port on the banks of the Hooghly, as well as a fort, and enlisted the services of a band of Augustinian Friars, then the largest religious body in Goa. The following year, Captain Pedro Tavares obtained the emperor's full permission to preach the Catholic faith publicly, and erect churches. Thus the Bandel Church came to be constructed in 1599.[3][4]

This first church was burnt down during the sacking of Hooghly by the Moors in 1632. A newer church, constructed by Gomez de Soto (also spelt John Comes de Soto), was built over the ruin in 1660. The keystone of the older church can still be seen on the eastern gate of the monastery, bearing the date 1599.[4][5]

On November 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II declared the sanctuary a minor basilica.[6]


A ship's mast stands in front of the church; it was presented to the church by the captain of a vessel that had encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal, and its rescue was attributed to Mary. The church has three altars, several tombstones, an organ, and a shrine to Mary.

Oldest church in IndiaEdit

St. Francis Church, in Kochi, Kerala, built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India[7][8]

St. Thomas supposedly built a small church, now known as St. Thomas Church at Palayur, a town now in Thrissur District, Kerala, around 52 AD. The Palayur church still stands at the same site and is considered the oldest church in India. But the wooden walls of the old church were destroyed with time. In the 17th century Reverend Fenichi enclosed the original church with a new outer building but the original altar consecrated by St. Thomas still remains at this site.[9]


  1. ^ "Calcutta Archdiocese : HOWRAH & HOOGLY DEANERY". The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  2. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, pp 820-821, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  3. ^ Datta, Rangan (9 January 2011). "Next Weekend You Can Be At Bandel". The Telegraph Kolkata. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b Nicholas J. Santoro (2011). Mary In Our Life: Atlas of the Names and Titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Their Place In Marian Devotion. iUniverse. pp. 379–380. ISBN 978-1-4620-4022-3.
  5. ^ "Bandel Church: Description". Hooghly district official website. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  6. ^ "Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, Bandel". Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  7. ^ "St. Francis Church". Wonderful Kerala. Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
  8. ^ Ayub, Akber (ed), Kerala: Maps & More, Fort Kochi, 2006 edition 2007 reprint, pp. 20-24, Stark World Publishing, Bangalore, ISBN 81-902505-2-3
  9. ^ "Which is the oldest Church in India?". Archived from the original on 2008-05-04. Retrieved 2008-02-23.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 22°55′08″N 88°23′43″E / 22.9190°N 88.3952°E / 22.9190; 88.3952