Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

21 March 2010

i am a little church (no great cathedral)

Yesterday I happened to pass by that little area known to Shimla's older residents as Ripon Place. This was a quiet Saturday, and as good a time as any to wander into St. Michael's Cathedral, the other big Christian place of worship of our town. The dressed grey stone is, to me, its most attractive feature as is its spire, somewhat visible through the branches of an old oak.
This church was built in 1885, and was then known by its full name : the Cathedral of St Michael and St Joseph. Given its age, it is quite possible that it was constructed under the supervision of the famous architect, Henry Irwin. Its site was chosen by the Viceroy, Lord Ripon.

The Indian Engineering, a Calcutta periodical of the times, carried the following note in its issue of October, 1888: "...Mr. Henry Irwin, C.I.E., is transferred to Allahabad ... It is now seven and a half years since Mr. Irwin came to Simla, to build the public offices. Since then he has designed and superintended the building of the Army Headquarters; the P.W.D. Secretariat; the Post and telegraph Offices; the Foreign Office and the Ripon Hospital ... His crowning work in Simla is the Viceregal Lodge, a handsome stone building of the Elizabethan style, which he saw completed during the summer of the present year. He leaves Simla, the city he has beautified, on the 1st of November, carrying with him the best wishes of a large circle of friends and acquaintances." As can be seen, there is no mention of the design or construction of St. Michael's. Nor is there any record to prove that Irwin designed this lovely little church.

Everyone in Shimla knows the role that Lockwood Kipling played in the beautification of Christ Church. when he designed its wonderful chancel windows and supervised their making by the Students of the Lahore School of Art. Few are, however, aware that his famous son Rudyard would participate in a play to raise funds for the construction of St. Michael's cathedral.

St. Michael's is laid in the cruciform or Latin Cross form. There is a long nave, the main longitudinal area of a church, extending from the main entrance or narthex to the chancel to be used by the congregation. A transept, the transverse arm, lies across it: an array of musical instruments revealing the tastes and hobbies of the churchgoers. The nave is flanked on either side by long, narrow aisles whose ceiling is considerably lower. The clerestory windows are simple and elegant in design and provide a touch, not just of beauty, but also utility by providing necessary lighting to the central space. The ogival arches are, perhaps, a nod to Gothic architecture, but aren't as elaborate or as flamboyant as the ones seen in the Dom in Cologne, or in the Notre Dame in Paris.There is a vestry, a baptistery and a confessional. The latter is a simple structure, showing none of the drama or creativity one noticed in, for example, the Se Cathedral in Goa.

This lovely stained-glass window over the altar has St. Francis on the left and St. Joseph to the left of Lord Jesus. Since the church was empty of people, I couldn't ask anyone about the provenance of this window, but will update this post as soon as I do.

St. Michael's reminded me of a e e cummings poem:

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
- i do not worry if briefer days briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of the earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
- i do not worry if long nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring; i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)


Dr Jonathan Miles-Watson said...

St Michael's is a wonderful church with a lovely and warm congregation, if you get a chance to drop by on a Sunday I am sure that they would welcome you. The Chancel window that you talk about above was originally designed in the late 19th C by a Bavarian (German) company which was destroyed in the Second World War. However, by the late 20th C it had fallen into severe disrepair and was lovingly restored by Vijay Kaushik, a Delhi based craftsman, over a period of 2 years. In its present form then I see it as a great example of European and Indian collaboration.

Gallimaufry said...

Wow, Dr Miles-Watson, thank you for that piece of information. I love churches... they bring a lovely sense of peace, don't you think?

Dr Jonathan Miles-Watson said...

Yes it is what I like best about them and in thinking this we are not alone. When reading through the old visitors books for Shimla's two main churches one of the most striking things is the amount of times that people of all faiths say that they were struck by a sense of peace upon entering the building. To paraphrase Cummings:
I am a little church (removed from the frantic world
with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
Of course temples can have this as well, especially outside of the city, my favourite around Shimla is the new temple behind Tara Devi for precisely this reason, but the Churches seem to manage it even in the heart of the city. I wrote about such a peaceful experience in Christ church in my own blog once, you can read about it here if you like: http://shimlaproject.blogspot.com/2009/03/back-online-again.html

natasha said...

I will be visiting Shimla in two weeks time and I would like to attend mass in this little church. By any chance can you tell me if they have a saturday evening service and what time it is ?

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