You raise your eyes to the stained-glass windows that run down the sides of the church.
Cathedral of the Holy Name is a 113-year-old cathedral in Colaba. Its location on the quiet Wodehouse Road and stunning architecture make it a comforting place to visit to calm your frazzled nerves when the pace of the city gets to be too much to handle.
The Cathedral of the Holy Name makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a different era. It is located on Wodehouse Road (now Nathalal Parikh Marg) that runs parallel to Colaba Causeway but feels like a world apart. Colaba’s usual colour, cacophony, and perpetual storm of activity are missing. On Wodehouse Road, the buildings are a solemn grey. There is a comforting calm about it. I walk down to the middle of the road, opposite the YMCA, to the Cathedral, which has become my personal source of peace, quiet, and reflection.
I only recently learned that cathedral and church aren’t interchangeable terms. This church was opened to public worship in 1905 and was later upgraded to cathedral in 1964. When I ask Father Michael D’Cunha what this means, he says, “It’s like any other church, except this is the church of the bishop who governs the area. So, Cathedral of the Holy Name is the main church of the Mumbai diocese (geographical area).”
The cathedral was granted the status of a Heritage Building in 1998, and one look at the building is enough to tell you why. Its imposing edifice — looming grey stone walls, huge arches, and sturdy pillars — gives off an eerie, gothic vibe. It makes your inner Jane Eyre imagine echoes of Bertha Mason’s mocking laughter.
But if the exteriors resemble the setting of a 19th Century Victorian novel, the interiors transport you straight to Italy’s Renaissance period. Past the heavy wooden doors, all sense of spookiness fades. You look up to see sights resembling the pictures in your school textbook. The cathedral's ceiling has fresco paintings (where the paint is applied directly onto wet plaster so that the colours penetrate through the plaster for a fresher look) by Brother A. Moscheni S.J. of Bergamo that feature stories from the Bible. Careful though; I caught a crick in my neck from staring too long in awe.
Row after row of pews lead up to a marble altar. You raise your eyes to the stained-glass windows that run down the sides of the church. On some days, the filtered sunlight is a sight to behold. You imagine the sparkling motes in the sunbeams dancing off weddings, christenings, and funerals with equal benevolence and grace.
COLABA’S USUAL COLOUR, CACOPHONY, AND PERPETUAL STORM OF ACTIVITY ARE MISSING
I’ve been visiting churches all my life, but the Cathedral of the Holy Name is my favourite. I usually decide where to sit based on how I’m feeling. If I have a lot on my mind, I’ll go right to the front, facing the altar. If there isn’t much bothering me, I sit somewhere at the back so I can take in the magnificence of the church in its entirety. Sometimes I’ll sit for a few minutes, sometimes longer. Sundays are a good day to go. I think about the week that went by and leave behind every worry, what if, and woe. On Sunday evenings, there are also fewer people here, and it might sound strange, but it’s almost like there’s less vying for Jesus’s attention.
Does God exist? I don’t know. But do I feel lighter and more hopeful about the week to come after my visit? Yes, I do.
Cathedral of the Holy Name, 19, Nathalal Parikh Marg
— By arrangement with thecitystory.com