In the early 1800s, Belgaum (now Belagavi) was home to a small British army contingent. The rising Portuguese presence in Goa caused the British to increase their presence to a full garrison. The cantonment area (now called Camp) became their home. The Army Engineers began the construction of a church here in 1863-64 to cater to the religious needs of the residents.
The church was consecrated in 1869 by the Bishop of the Bombay Presidency, in the presence of the Governor of the Bombay Presidency and a representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England. The ceremony took place on the 15th of April 1869, and the church was named ‘The Church of St Mary the Virgin’.
In 1930, the church was renamed St Mary’s Church, however the locals called it as Church Of England or ‘High Church’.
A statement in Gothic Architecture
The church has been constructed in the Gothic style out of locally available materials, pink stone from Gokak and teak and rosewood from Dandeli. No cement, iron or steel has been used in the construction. The stately carved arches, pillars and the tiled roof stay true to the style of architecture even today.
The altar area of the church is set upon a marble area. The altar table is made of teak and overlooked by rosewood panelling. An intricately made Belgian stained-glass collage towers over the altar area. Showcasing the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in 12 individual pieces, the exquisite piece is a testament to the true Italian craftsmanship.
The Church post-independence
After independence, when the British army left Belgaum, the church was handed over to the Indian Army Garrison. In 1958 it was then handed over to a civilian administration. Today, St Mary’s Church is the property of the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Private Limited (BDTA). This Trust holds and looks after all the Garrison Anglican churches and related property across Western India.
A special mass will be held on Sunday 14th April at 9 am to commemorate the 150 years celebration.