My visit to Roman catholic cementery has been long pending and finally I was able to make it here during my colonial tour with the Tourism Guilt of Agra, in February this year. Roman Catholic Cementery was known to me mainly because of the Red Taj, which is apparently the star attraction of this place but my visit here proved that this cementery has got more to offer
The Roman Catholic Cementery
The Roman Catholic Cemetery of Agra is the oldest burial ground of the city, which came into existence when the Europeans came to Agra during the Mughal rule and settled here. Honestly, a walk around this burial ground didn’t really give me good vibes and I wasn’t at ease while I was at this cementery. On your every step here, you would find a graveyard and you need to be vigilant, else chances are that you might step on one.
But, the most ironical thing that stuck me about the Roman Catholic Cemetery was its resemblance to the Mughal architecture, which remained its highlight, despite the fact that it was set up by the Europeans. Enter the Roman Catholic Cemetery and you would find number of tombs, which are the highlight of Mughal legacy.
I guess, if I wouldn’t have spotted cross (the holy symbol of Christianity) on the graveyards, it is really difficult to sense that these have been built by the colonial officers. Even the inscriptions on the walls are written in Persian language, which was the official language of the Mughal empire
In a way, it can be said that Roman Catholic Cemetery is symbolic of its pairing, bringing together two cultures under its roof.
Prominent structures inside Roman Catholic Cemetery
The Red Taj or the Hessings Tomb
Without a doubt, the Red Taj is the star attraction of this cemetery, which structure of which resembles the world famous Taj Mahal but minus the minars (four pillars) and white marble. But like Taj Mahal, the Red Taj of Agra is also an embodiment of love. The difference is that Red Taj was built by a wife in the loving memory of her husband.
The Red Taj is tomb of Dutch mercenary John William Hessing, serving as a commander of the Agra Fort. His grave can be seen inside the dome of the Red Taj. It is said that his wide Anne was devastated by his death and therefore she donated all her savings a property to build this tomb, for her beloved husband. The construction of Red Taj remained uncompleted as she ran out of funds during its construction and hence it’s a Taj without any minars
The Grave of JOHN MILDENHALL, First Englishman to be buried in India
John Mildenhall was the first Englishman to be buried in India. He came to Agra the year 1603 as the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth I, with an objective to obtain free access for English ships to the Mughal ports.
It is said that during his touring across India, he fell severely ill and died in June 1614, in Ajmer. His body was brought to this cementery where he was eventually buried. Infact, after his burial a number of other Englishmen were also buried here.
Marty’s Chapel is the oldest structure inside this cemetery, which has got its name from Armenian merchant by the name of Khoja Mortenepus (A.K.A. Khwaja Mortenepus or Khoja Martyrose), who was buried here in 1611.
Also buried in the chapel is an Armenian Bishop by the name of Zakur of Tabriz, along with a large number of other priests of various nationalities.. Also, inside the tombs, there are places where Hindus and Muslims have been burning It is commonly visited by Christians who light candles and incense sticks and leave flowers on the tombstones.
The Ellis Family Tomb
This octagonal domed tomb of Ellis family was built on a red sandstone plinth. Inside is the gravestone of Francis Ellis who died in Agra in 1868.
Surrounding the edifice, on the plinth are the markers of seven more members of the Ellis family.
From those of the men, it would appear that this was a family of English merchants settled in Agra, but no other information is readily available about the family.
I am sure there are other prominent graves inside here at Roman Catholic cementery which are noteworthy and I have missed out. Do let me know in the comment section below if you know of one or ever heard or visited Roman Catholic Cementery of Agra ?
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