Notre Dame de Pondicherry
Another significant religious centre in Pondicherry for the Christian community is the Notre Dame de. Also touted as The Church of Our Lady of Angels, the Notre Dame de comfortably stands in White Town, Pondicherry. Reckoned to be the fourth oldest church in Pondicherry, the Notre Dame de was founded in the year 1855 and is one of the most spiritual places to be in the city. This Roman Catholic church follows hourly prayers along with daily services. At present, the church hosts masses in English, Tamil and French. Built in the Greco-Roman architecture, the Notre Dame de is one of the most beautiful Christian shrines in Pondicherry from inside and out. Such is the charm of this place that not just tourists but the passersby also couldn’t resist themselves to pay a visit to this holy site in Pondicherry. Being one of the oldest of its kind in the region, the Church of Our Lady of Angels has become one of the most significant tourist attractions in Pondicherry. Therefore, it not only receives tourists from Christian community but from other religions as well. As a result of French influence on the church, initially, the priests were only of French origin. But with modern time, Tamil priests were also given permission to serve the church. Throughout its lifetime, the church was under the authority of Capuchin Priests, Holy Spirit Fathers and Foreign Mission Fathers. With a strategic location, the church looks over the Bay of Bengal with its facade overlooking the rising sun. The area between the sea and the church includes a small lush green garden. In the middle of this garden, there lies the armoured effigy of Joan of Arc which was installed in the year 1923. The garden is named after her name.
The Notre Dame de traces its history from 1855 and is said to be one of the oldest churches in Pondicherry. The original of the church was constructed by Napoleon III in Greco Roman Architectural design, however, the architect was Louis Guerre. The church boasts a strong influence from Basilica at Lourdes in France and Notre Dame de Paris in Paris. The first place in Pondicherry which was visited by Napoleon III was the chapel. During that time, there were a total of four churches in the vicinity that were demolished by Britishers to convert them into orphanages. There is also a story that states that the oil painting of Our Lady of Assumption was donated to the church by Napoleon III.
With Greco-Roman architectural design, the Notre Dame de is one of the most magnificent shrines in Pondicherry. The main chapel of the church is well supported with two pillars on each side. Originally, these pillars were used to hang the clocks. It is said that the clocks used to bell with the song of Ave Maria in every two hours. Coming on to its architecture, the church is strategically located facing the Bay of Bengal. Inside the church, the altar once had an effigy of Our Lady of Angels, but at present, it houses a holy cross. Also, the chapel, from inside and out, was originally white in color and hence, was given the name White Chapel.
A statue of Joan of Arc was donated by in the 20th century by the then Chief Minister of Pondicherry - Édouard Goubert. Today, the statue is installed in the garden outside the church. Since its inception, the church has undergone numerous renovations. In 1999, the colour of the exterior walls of the church was changed. Similarly, the interiors were changed in 2000. Not just this, the church also includes bells that are believed to be built in France. However, the operation of these bells was suspended during the renovation process in 2012 as the vibration effects used to cause an inconvenience to neighbouring constructions.
Rue Dumas, White Town, Pondicherry - 605001.
The Notre Dame de operates all days a week. Moreover, the timing of the church remains the same for all the season. However, the masses timings differ as per the language.
Monday and Wednesday (French): 6:15 AM
Tuesday and Friday (French): 6:30 AM
Thursday (Tamil): 6:15 AM
Saturday (French, English and Tamil): 5:00 PM
Sunday (Tamil): 6:00 AM
Sunday (French): 7:30 AM and 5:15 PM
Sunday (English): 8:30 AM
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit the Notre Dame de is the winter season. Commences in the month of October, the season receives pleasant and favourable weather conditions that allow travellers to explore the city to its fullest. The month of March brings the end of the winter season in Pondicherry.