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St Michael's Cathedral Shimla

The wind sculpted pines sway their heads against the silhouette of Shimla’s most majestic structure. St. Michael’s Cathedral is nothing less than a synonym for Himachal Pradesh’s most popular hill station. When you step into the mall the church can’t go unnoticed. When you take a walk inside the premises it immediately sweeps you into the old world ambiance. Tide of time has seen many currents through the walls of this church. When you look at the largeness of the hills at the backdrop of this historic structure, you are bound to feel small in front of it. The view is breathtaking and this would wrap you in the tranquillest inner peace. The prayer sessions are conducted at 6am and 6pm and the Friday mass is a tradition never broken.

About the Church

The St. Michael’s Cathedral is built in the French-Gothic style of architecture. It isn’t possible that you went to the mall of Shimla and didn’t notice the church with grey stone walls. It was the first Roman Catholic Church to be built in the summer capital of British India and it was opened for the public in 1885. The present diocese has 43 parishes and the clergy consists of 100 priests who take responsibility of all educational, social and pastoral activities of the diocese. These activities are also shared by 25 other religious congregations and shared across 54 communities which are brother concerns or sister concerns. The current Bishop of the diocese is Rev. Ignatius Mascarenhas.  The St. Michael’s Cathedral has a seating capacity of 400 people at a time. A stone statue of the Lady of Guadeloupe that had once been presented by Mexico has been installed inside the church.

Established

The St. Michael’s Cathedral of Shimla was built in 1885 under the supervision of Henry Irwin, the then superintendent engineer and architect of the PWD. The glass window panes over the altar have images of St. Francis on the left and St. Joseph on the right painted on them. The full name of the cathedral is Cathedral of St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s. Lord Ripon converted himself to Catholicism. He got constant support by fellow catholic Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick who was the then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. The Archbishop of Agra performed the ceremony of devotion. This cathedral served as a new diocese that now includes Chandigarh also.

How History Changed its Archdiocese

When the capital of India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi on the 11th of December 1911, the catholic population came under the jurisdiction of the Shimla diocese. Sylvester P. Mulligan was the first archbishop of Delhi-Shimla archdiocese which consisted of Delhi, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Chandigarh. Joseph Alexander Fernandes was the succeeding archbishop after Mulligan’s retirement. In 1959, Shimla split out as a lone member on its sole self from the Delhi-Shimla diocese and the new pastor was Bishop John Burke. Bishop Alfred Fernandes, the Vicar General of the Hyderabad archdiocese had succeeded Burke in 1966. He served his tenure for four years until he was transferred to Allahabad in 1970.

Shimla-Chandigarh Diocese

The diocese of Shimla-Chandigarh stretches across an area of over 83,000 kilometres and covers the districts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

Districts of Himachal Pradesh: Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Kullu, Shimla, Mandi, Solan, Bilaspur and Sirmour.

Districts of Haryana: Panchkula, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Karnal, Jind, Hissar, Kaithal, Bhivani, Fatehbad, and Sirsa.

Districts of Punjab: Patiala, Sangrur, Bhatinda, Mansa, Ropar, and Fatehgarh Sahib.

Chandigarh as a separate union territory is included in the area covered by the diocese.

Location

The St. Michael’s Cathedral was built in Shimla when Lord Ripon was the Viceroy. The exact location of the church is Ripon Place in the main upper mall of the hill town. If you are a tourist to whom Shimla is a kaleidoscope, you can walk up the mall road and reach the church without any problem. There are plenty of cars that reach from nearby towns Manali and Mandi. Buses are in a plethora and the conveyance is on hourly basis. The location of the church is within half an hour from the main bus depot of Shimla.

Best Time to Visit

You can visit Shimla round the year but the best time to visit is in summers. Between April and September the weather remains finer than the rest of the year. The church may remain closed due to heavy snowfall during December and January but if you are an adventurous traveller then you can visit the town during the chilling winter. But beware of winter rain as it may result in roads getting blocked.

Where to Stay

Shimla is a popular hill station for decades so accommodation is absolutely not a problem. There are innumerable hotels in and around the mall road. The hotels range from guest houses to three-star rated. You can take a walk down the mall to Aunty’s for a plate of steamed or fried mutton momos or just get into the countless small cafes for a quick bite. The Lakkar Bazaar is quite a place for buying wooden handicrafts. You can also buy kitchen appliances and utensils from the Lower Bazaar shops at affordable prices.

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