St. Mary’s Church
Except for a new steeple, much of the bombproof structure remains in its original condition, including the roof and arcade aisles. The church’s 104 tombstones were relocated and used to lay pavement after the French besieged Chennai in 1758 and 1759 and used as gun platforms when Hyder Ali invaded the city in 1782. St. Mary’s is a popular stop on Fort St. George tours and going with a guide is useful in learning about the church’s long history.
Things to Know Before You Go
- St. Mary's Church is a must-visit for those with an interest in colonial history and architecture.
- Remember to dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered, out of respect for religious traditions.
- Photography is allowed, but don’t take pictures during services or of people who are praying.
- The church is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
St. Mary's Church is located inside Fort George, just north of Marina Beach and the Napier Bridge. The fort is well-connected to other major areas in Chennai by public transportation. The Chennai Fort commuter railway station is about a 10-minute walk away while the High Court metro station takes 15 minutes to reach on foot.
When to Get There
The church is open to visitors daily, but if you want to visit on Sunday (either to attend a service or to just see the interiors) then it’s best to call ahead of time to find out service schedules. Special services on feast days and other Catholic holidays also might impact when you can visit.
The Gravestones of St Mary’s Church
Keep an eye out for the gravestone of Elizabeth Baker, the oldest British tombstone in the country. There's also a memorial to Elihu Yale, founder of Yale University, who was the first man to be officially married in the church.
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