About St. Olav Church
St. Olav’s Church, also known as the Danish Church, is a historical site of worship (protestant church) located on Dr. Bishwanath Jot Sarani at Tin Bazar near Serampore court in Serampore city. Governor Ole Bie of Serampore desired a great church erected for the local protestant community, therefore he built this church. The governor personally oversaw the construction of this Lutheran church, which began in the year 1800. It’s worth noting that Ole Bie was born in Norway. The church’s design is extremely similar to that of St. Johns Church in Kolkata, which was influenced by London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The portico and bell tower were absent from the church in 1806 and were subsequently added in 1821. The royal monogram of Danish King Christian VII may be seen on the front face.
Danes in Serampore
Serampore was originally called Frederiksnagore, and this little Danish colony had the distinction of having over 100 structures built under Danish administration between 1755 and 1845. This town in the Hooghly area was colonized by the British, French, and Danish in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the innumerable monuments here represent the various styles of these colonies. The Danes were the Europeans who set up their factory in Hooghly. Their first factory was at ‘Gondalpara’ in the southeast of what became the French territory of Chandannagar. In 1755 the Danes re-established themselves, having secured from Ali Vardi Khan, at a considerable cost, the grant of a settlement at Serampore. In 1801 a war broke out between Denmark and the British. The British occupied the Serampore between 1804-and 1814 but it was restored by Denmark in the year 1815. Finally, on 10th October 1945 Denmark’s king handed over Serampore to the British.
Restoration of the Church
One of Serampore’s most prominent cultural landmarks from the Danish era is St. Olav’s Church, which dates from 1806. The church was used by the local Christian congregation until it was closed in 2009. The ancient rafters had been ruined by termites, and the ceiling was starting to sink in. The church was restored to functioning order between 2013 and 2016 because to a cooperation between the Serampore Initiative of the National Museum of Denmark, Serampore College, and the diocese of Kolkata. The church was consecrated by the bishop of Kolkata at a celebration ceremony in 2016, and it was awarded the UNESCO Award of Distinction for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
How to reach the church
The Danish Tavern, Serampore Court, and other heritage monuments associated to Danish presence in Serampore are all close to St. Olav’s Church. You may take a local rail from Howrah station to Serampore or take a ferry from the Barrackpore side.
Timing of the church
If you want to know about more historical places in Hooghly, then don’t forget to check my previous blogs on heritage places of Hooghly.