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Karkala: Commendable restoration of St Joseph's Church building at Belman


By William Pais

Karkala, Jun 26: Fr Edwin D'Souza and his parishioners at St Joseph’s Church, Belman are an elated lot. The church, in which their ancestors prayed, has been aesthetically restored to its original glory.

The brain behind this noble thought is that of the young vicar of the church, Fr Edwin D’Souza and the parishioners who supported him. An artistic piece of architecture built in 1933, this imposing church building was elevated on a small hillock. The flight of steps in the front leads to the church building. The facade built in art deco style, is a landmark for the passersby. 

Fr Edwin says there were many inputs on how to go about the restoration of the church. He says that some of them lead the opinion that the pillars in the area are to be removed so that the area can be expanded for a better view of the altar to the congregation. The Catholic population that had to be accommodated for services was a challenging factor. The need to go ahead with more modern and open flashy interiors with state-of-the-art gadgets was considered as an ideal option. 


Fr Edwin D'Souza


Art by Wilson Kayyar

The urge to have a modern building was not only confined to private residences but also to the places of prayer. The decision to keep the old church in which the preceding generation faithfully prayed was a challenge. Fr Edwin, who has a background in social work on community development, was inclined towards preservation of old church. He took upon the task of renovation and the workers, artisans, artists scrapped through walls, facade, sacristy, pillars, belfry and all that is part of anatomy of the church. This revealed layers of artistic accomplishments that lay beneath for decades and paved way for the church building to return to its original glory.

The colours, blue, pink, yellow, and ochre were exposed as a testimony to the ‘creative’ inputs of different times. The altar, central point of focus, had departed long back from its originally envisaged plan. There were no documents, plans or maps of original altar. The only fall back was old wedding albums used as a reference to create an impression of the original altar. 

The ensemble of arched pillars was restored and old door frames were replaced with the ones that matched the old ones. The cracked areas in the facade and belfry were suitably rectified. The sanctuary espoused more radiance, the dark and dingy colours were replaced with more lighter and sober colours. It gave the church more expansive look, and from the backdrop of oblivion emerged a grand artistic edifice of St Joseph Church, Belman.

Alvyn Agueira, vice president of the parish council proudly proclaimed, “This church is the greatest gift of our ancestors, symbol of their unwavering faith and sweat of the brow, built with great hardships. It is our duty to keep it and pass it on to our next generation.” Agueira is a civil engineer with Minor Irrigation Department in Udupi. Agueira gave structural consultation on the repair and renovation work. “Structurally speaking, anything built in circular form is stronger than the building built in straight lines as the load is evenly distributed. I have no doubt that Belman church will stand firm for another 100 years,” he said.

The church was modeled on Gloria Church in Byculla, Mumbai, by the then vicar Denis R Lewis. Reminiscing the time Agueira said, “Aerially it looked like a cross, Fr Denis Lewis despite his old age, was a determined man to see the church built and when it was done, he had lot of loans to pay. He went to the extent of selling his private property to pay for the loans.” He further said, “How can we let go of the hard earned and beautiful edifice, built with such hardships, therefore we decided to beautify it and the net result of entire exercise is beautiful church resurrected to serve for ages to come.”

It took Rs 1.5 crore, a strong conviction in keeping this heritage structure. It took the deployment of artisans who understood the importance of heritage conservation. The artistic and creative inputs from artist, Wilson Souza converged to create a desirable structure. The government of Karnataka under its scheme of financial assistance for renovating old churches gave a grant of Rs 40 lac. The rest of the amount was raised from the resources given by parishioners and other donors. One family eagerly gave a teak tree, which they kept for the use in the construction of their daughter’s house. The tree was used for the main door of the church. The old furniture was re-used in making cupboards and other furniture.

Old statues, ceremonial paraphernalia used in services have been carefully preserved. Fr Edwin said, “There is absolutely no need to demolish old churches, all we need to be doing is to restore them and put them to use. They are strong enough and are capable of serving the community for years to come. Such was the farsightedness of our past generation.” He then showed porticos, verandahs, and side wings where people can be accommodated if the need comes. He put TV screens so that everyone could take an active part in the service. He stated that if ever the church is flowing with faithful, there will always be an option to increase the number of masses or services.

Further, he said, “Old church building is a testimony of history and sacrifice of our past faithful and it needs to be preserved to be used by the next generation.” Fr Edwin proposed that formation of a committee which will look after the maintenance of church building and undertake periodic repairs if there are any. He also said that there should be compulsory audit of church building maintenance once every five years.

After taking around in every corner of the church, Fr Edwin took the writer to the cemetery to show how the burial place is organized. The statue of Risen Lord that is a perpetual inspiration to the faithful is installed at the cemetery with angels and flowering plants are planted with neat compound wall around. The cemetery completely looked like place of Eternal Rest. There is an atmosphere of ease in the church surroundings and the presbytery. Fair of peacocks feed on mangoes fallen on the ground, and monkeys from the nearby forest climb onto the facade signifying they are also stakeholders in the church building that has stood for the past 86 years.

Belman is indeed a shining example of how an old church building can to be restored and passed on to the next generations. Those who have plans to demolish old churches need to pay visit to Belman and if they are not convinced about what has been done, they need to abandon the thought of demolishing church. For all the brave and innovative initiative of Belman parishioners they need to be congratulated with a prayer - May their tribes increase.


 Author William Pais

Comment on this article

  • Wilfred DMello, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 28 2019

    Many congratulations Fr. Edwin

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [1]

  • FRANCIS D CUNHA, Karnad

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    ingenious planning by Fr. Edwin in restoring the inherited treasure. Everything neat and clean, including rain water harvesting systems. Aesthetic.Reminds the presence of Lord to the travelers on the High Way. Congratulations.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Wilma, Mangalore

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Such a beautiful church...great ...now a days people just demolish old churches n build new buildings ,which dont even look like churches. Fr. Edwin a big thank u for taking the trouble n initiative to restore this beautiful church. I feel there should be a law in place where to restore the old churches. It's our Heritage. I know it is difficult to restore a old church n it's easier to build new one ,but the trouble is really worth. Congratulation Fr. Edwin n the people of Belman church...God bless . You people have set a good example .

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangaluru

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Good news and hope this church will become a great worship centre of the Lord.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [4]

  • Augustine Daniel DSouza, Udupi Mumbai STATE OF KUWAIT.

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Congratulations Fr. Edwin D'Souza beautiful church of St. Joseph at Belman.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [3]

  • stephen mascarenhas, News

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Willie, you had been an relentless crusader for restoration of old facades (without demolishing them) which had artistic beauty in them. I think your struggle is bearing fruit, slowly, steadily. Kudos to Fr Edwin who firmly believed that restoration is better than destruction. Also I commend the role of his parishioners who otherwise see big dreams for their church and in the bargain, amass unending loans. I am also happy to note that the cemetery is beautified else we find cemeteries in most of the parishes, including in the city, the dreaded places where even dacoites not dare to enter.
    May your crusade continue till a few more people change their attitude towards life.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [5]

  • Alwyn, Canada

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Congts! So happy to see the old church renovation and keeping it for memories. So many our elders prayed in those churches. Thank god priest able to renovate and make it nice. God bless all of you evan though I'm from another parish. Some churches older than this church in mangalore area but people like to demolish and build new. It is a crazy idea. Keeping these olders churches one of best architects one can retain for future generations as a master pieces for memories of their ancestors. Keep supporting your surrounding older churches to retain rather demolishing

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [5]

  • Joe Gonsalves, Mangalore

    Thu, Jun 27 2019

    Indeed a commendable job. Congrats to The Parish Priest and his Parishioners.

    The Cathedral is a monument in Mangalore.... the most important Church and it is good to see that another edifice - A PLACE OF WORSHIP has come in Belman.

    I join scores of people in saying kudos to all concerned.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [4]

  • Rita, Germany

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    I feel so happy to see my birth place and Church is shining in new looks.Thanks a lot to all who gave their best to do this great work,and May ST.Joseph bless all and give good health.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [7]

  • griffith, KULAI

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Really a great job...and great vision..

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [5]

  • VALERIAN RODRIGUES, UJIRE

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    congrats belman parishioners

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [3]

  • Anthony Almeida, Kanjurmarg Mumbai

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Congrats Fr. Edwin , PPC & the parishioners this is really commendable you have restored so well a piece of art, architecture & history thank you & I pray that other parishes do the same

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Rev Fr Richard Aloysius Coelho, Director Father Muller Charitable Institutions, Kankanady, Mangalore D.K

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Dear Fr Edwin congrats God bless your efforts. May the people find joy and solace when they come to the church. all the best God bless you

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • CHARLES SALDANHA, MALAD-MALWANIh

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Recently I visited the church and was so happy to see the wonderful work that has been carried out. Congratulations to all parishioner and the Parish Priest.The place where I use to pray around forty years looks marvellous by the grace of God and with the blessings of our Patron St.Joseph.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [13]

  • Brayan Alphonso, Mukamar, Udupi

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Congratulation To Belman Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Edwin D'souza, Vice president of the parish council Mr. Alwyn Agera, Parish Council Members and all Parishioners. Great work done by all of you. It was my privilege to work along with you . You Every Parishioners are awesome. i learnt a lot from you and you all are lucky to have Fr. Edwin D'souza As you Parish Priest. He is the Diamond and don't loose him . Thank you and God bless you all. Keep doing good work to the menkind. Thank you Fr. Edwin D'souza for your support and encouragement. keep up the good spirit.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • K K, KATTEL ROAD, BAJPE

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    ಸಂತ ಜೋಸೆಫರೇ
    ನಮಗಾಗಿ ಪ್ರಾರ್ತಿಸಿರಿ
    ನಾವು ಪಾಪಿಗಳು
    ಮೋಕ್ಷವನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕುವವರು
    ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಕರುಣೆಯನ್ನು ತೋರಿಸಿರಿ
    ಸ್ವರ್ಗ ಲೋಕವನ್ನು ನಮಗೆ ದಯಪಾಲಿಸಿರಿ

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [14]

  • Titus Noronha, Taccode

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    This great work deserves the recognition. Congratulations Fr Edwin and thank you William

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Joseph Britto, Bangalore

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Hearty Congrats to Fr. Edwin D'souza on this great Achievement.

    Indeed this is one of the most beautiful Church in South Kanara.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Rya, Kuwait

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Good Job. The similar thing should have been done to Belthangady Church too instead of building new structure and demolish the old Church.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Fr Felix Monteiro, Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU FR EDWIN AND YOUR PARISH COMMUNITY FOR THAT GREAT WORK.....HAPPY TO LEARN THAT KEEPING UP THE ORIGINAL BEAUTY AND ART RENOVATED WITH BEST WAY..YOU ARE GREAT FR EDWIN....GOOD LUCK...

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • judith, Navi Mumbai

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Belman is trendsetting in many good works remembering "humanity is only religion to mankind"

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • Shankar, Mangaluru

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Wow, this what is required now.
    I congratulate and appreciate Fr Edwin D’Souza for thinking of restoration rather than renovating.
    In recent times, many of the churches have been renovated into modern buildings, ignoring the efforts of artisans of olden times. Not only churches, even temples also are being renovated in the name of jeernodhaara and given new shape.
    We have to learn from Europe how they maintain their historic buildings and churches.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [34]

  • judith, Navi Mumbai

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    very much agree with you and all those who maintain our ancient culture, tradiitons , architecture, these are unique, antique and cannot be replicated. also, Alvyn Agueira, vice president of the parish council if every parish has such parish council members the community will be blessed. Also the parish council should instill other works of helping community members because afterall church is the parishners and not only bricks and sand.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Sandeep, UDUPI

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    completely agree as there are so many churches dates back to colonial era and few of them are more than 300 years old .But only in our place particularly in Udupi Diocese trend has started of demolishing old beautiful churches and building new ones with budget of not less than crores comprising completely unique architecture like boat shape, star shape , round shape etc..Hope the efforts of Belman priest and parishioners will sent an example for others

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Sandeep, UDUPI

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Read as so many churches in Goa

    Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • judith, Navi Mumbai

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    Well done Fr. Edwin and parishners of Belman in preserving the old architecture and heritage of Church. This is how chuches should be renovated not like mordern day block structure.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [13]

  • George Dsouza, Kulshekar

    Wed, Jun 26 2019

    congrats Father Edwin,preserving and maintaining the old structure is a challenge.you have the talent and brain.keep it up may God bless you.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [15]

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Title : Karkala: Commendable restoration of St Joseph's Church building at Belman


 
 
 
 

 
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