Elevated to the status of Cathedral on 3rd March 1964 and consecrated on 28th November 1964

A brief history

The Cathedral of the Holy Name or Holy Name Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) and the seat of the Archbishop of Bombay and headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay. The cathedral is located in the Colaba area in South Mumbai, and is built in the Gothic Revival style.

It sits inside the premises of the Holy Name High School founded in 1939.

The Exterior of 'Cathedral of the Holy Name'

At the turn of the century, Colaba was not the busy quarter it is today. In 1767, the Fort Chapel in Medows Street was the center of Catholic life. As the congregation grew, it was found to be too small particularly for the Sunday Mass. The Archbishop, at that time, had not only to obtain a new site for a larger Church, but also for a school and residence.

In March 1900, Archbishop Dalhoff negotiated with the Bombay Improvement Trust for two plots at Wodehouse Road. He secured three adjacent building sites of 4,642 square yards on which the Fort Convent, the Cathedral and the Priests’ Residence now stand.

Mr. W. A. Chambers, a well-known architect, prepared plans for the three buildings: the Church in the center, the School to the north and a residence for the clergy to the south.

Preparations for the foundation commenced on December 12, 1901 and the foundation stone was laid on Wednesday, 9th July 1902. The Church was blessed and opened to public worship on

15 January 1905.

In January 1942, the Parish Church of the Holy Name was raised to the status of a Pro-Cathedral and in the same year, a member of the Diocesan Clergy - Fr. Valerian Gracias - was appointed Parish Priest and Rector. Earlier, the parish had been entrusted to the Society of Jesus (better known as the Jesuits).

In view of the activities in the Church and its strategic involvement in the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, with the visit for the first time to India of Pope Paul VI, a petition was made to Rome to elevate the Pro-Cathedral to the status of a full-fledged Cathedral, which was granted by Decree dated 3rd March 1964.

The consecration took place on the morning of the inception of the38th International Eucharistic Congress at Bombay, November 28,1964.

The Cathedral and the buildings on either side form a symmetrical and well-balanced group. They are in Gothic style. The dimensions of the Church are: from West door to Sanctuary 127 feet long.

Nave 97 feet. Total width 60 feet and two side aisles each15 feet wide. Height of the nave to crown of vaulting 55 feet (to roof ridge outside 70 feet). The inside height of the aisles is 22 feet.

The plan is not cruciform but rectangular with an apsidal sanctuary of demi-hexagonal form, lit by the three stained glass windows above and two beneath. Two doors provide an entrance on either side of the nave. Earlier, the Sanctuary was flanked by a sacristy on either side. Today, one Sacristy remains in use and the other is converted into a 24-hour adoration chapel where the Eucharist is kept exposed for worship.

The main portal stands under a massive porch which extends to the street line. In 1950, four new doors, two on either side were opened in place of windows for better movement and ventilation.

The West front is of imposing design, the gable being flanked by two towers containing the belfries, and surmounted by two octagonal spires which, like the main roof, are covered in Mangalore tiles that terminate in finial crosses of ornamental design, to a total height of about 124 feet above street level. The finest external features of the Church are the flying buttresses and the pinnacles which are impressive for strength and lightness combined, while internally the bold venture of solid groined vaulting built of arched work supported by stone ribs is perhaps unique in India.

One of the bell towers leads, via a spiral stairway, to the choir loft and magnificent pipe organ, while the other housed the baptistery. The baptismal font has now been relocated to the sanctuary.

(The statues of St. Anthony and the Pieta are recent additions.)

The interior of the Church

The nave consists of five bays of arches supported on square piers which carry corbels for statues. The statues were made in Munich and represent the following Saints.

Facing the altar, on the left side starting from the Sanctuary, and moving towards the entrance:

1) St. Ignatius 2) St. Andrew 3) St. John 4) St. Sebastian 5) St. Vincent de Paul 6) St. Francis of Assisi.

Facing the altar, on the right side starting from the Sanctuary,

and moving towards the entrance:

1) St. Francis Xavier 2) St. Thomas 3) St. Patrick 4) St. Benedict 5) St. Anthony of Padua 6) St. Dominic.

Each statue is about five feet tall and is crowned by a projecting canopy. Above these, is a row of clear-storey windows filled with rough-rolled glass in lead frames. The arms of these arches between the statues are covered with dainty floral designs and on these areas are painted several Saints:

From the left-hand side:-

Sanctuary: St Anne, and St. Joachim

1st Bay : St. Gregory and St. Jerome

2nd Bay : St. Anthony Abbot and St. Thomas Aquinas

3rd Bay : St. Louis, King, and St. Barbara

4th Bay : St. Elizabeth and two Angels

From the right-hand side:-

Sanctuary: St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen

1st Bay : St. Ambrose and St. Augustine

2nd bay : St. Charles Borromeo and St. Aloysius Gonzaga

3rd Bay: St. Francis Borgia and St. Theresa of Avila

4th Bay: St. Rose of Lima and two Angels

The three large art windows in the apse over the high altar, each about 20 feet in height and about 4 feet wide, are of Munich-stained glass.

The center window represents the emblem of the Holy Name of Jesus supported by two angels. That on the left side depicts the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to Mary while that on the right, shows the Nativity of Christ at Bethlehem. The two smaller windows below are rich in geometrical design. During the war years these windows were removed, kept safely, and reinstalled at the end of the war.

At the time of the bombings in Bombay in 1993, some of the glass pieces were damaged. This could now only be repaired if all three windows were brought down. This was done in 2004.

The High Altar is of florid Gothic carved Porbunder stone, with elegant canopies and pinnacles in crochet work. The table of the altar is of marble as are also the twin pillars which divide the front into three panels ornamented with geometrical tracery. The pedella, steps and flooring of the sanctuary are polished white marble tessellated with small black squares — the same design used throughout the flooring of the Church. The tabernacle is of white marble and the throne is

surmounted by a canopy of four pillars of stone in which stands a large size statue of Salvator Mundi. The side canopies are occupied by the figures of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The side altars are also of carved Gothic design, one dedicated to Our Lady and the other to St. Joseph, whose statues are housed under the central niche. Our Lady is flanked by the statues of St. Rita and the Sacred Heart, while St. Joseph is flanked by the statue of the Little Flower.

These altars are no longer used as, post Vatican Il, the Eucharist is celebrated facing the Congregation. However, they remain as a legacy of the loving hands that built them and to maintain the solemnity of the Cathedral which is also the Mother Church of the Archdiocese and seat of the Archbishop.

The 14 Stations of the Cross, seven on each of the side walls, have a realistic life-like quality. They are works of art painted on canvas and enclosed in heavily carved wooden frames. They were blessed by the Archbishop on Friday January 20. 1905 and set up two days later.

THE PULPIT is octagonal in shape and attached to the second pier of the nave. Chiselled in Gothic design, and resting on a slender central pillar, it is approached by a winding staircase of marble. On its six panels are shown in relief many different symbols of our faith.

These are -

1) Acombination of Chi (X), Rho (P), Alpha (A), Chi-Rho (X and P) is a symbol for Christ. It is the monogram abbreviation of the Greek word Christ -XPISTOS. Alpha (A) and Omega (W) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They are an ancient emblem of God, and particularly of Jesus

Christ, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, symbolizing the beginning and the end.

2) Representing the Old Testament: two tablets of the law upon which the Lord inscribed the Ten Commandments given to Moses. The first tablet contains the three commandments regulating our relationship with God: the second, the commandments referring to our relationship with each other.

3) IHS is an abbreviation of the Greek word IHCOYC; it is a common symbol for the Holy Name of Jesus. The abbreviations consist of the first two and last (or first three) letters of IHCOYC ( IESOUS) - JESUS. The letter sigma (C in cursive Greek script)) becomes ‘S' in the Roman alphabet. The symbol dates back to the days of the Catacombs and gained great popularity after the 12th century, when St. Bernard fostered devotion to the Holy Name. St. Ignatius Loyola adopted the monogram as part of the seal of the Society of Jesus.

4) The next panel teaches us the three Christian virtues infused in our souls at Baptism: Faith, symbolised by the Cross: Hope, by the Anchor; and Charity, by the burning torch.

5) The fifth panel is the outstanding ancient symbol of the Holy Eucharist. It is taken from the Catacombs of St. Callistus. The fish represents Christ, As an acrostic, the Greek word for fish, IXOYC, yields the initials of the words -

A symbol so simple and so meaningless in itself and yet having so much significance to those who knew, could not but serve as a sign in a multitude of ways. And so it did. It is a very common sign in the Catacombs. The representation of the fish and the baskets signifies that Christ Himself brings to the faithful. His Body (Bread) and Blood (Wine). In all symbols of this kind the fish is shown with its head above the water

6) The last panel which shows a crown intertwining a lily branch indicates the rewards of the faithful in heaven


XRICTOC - Christ

OEOY - Son

YIOC - of God

COTHR - Saviour


The vaulting is covered with rich and elaborate designs on a background of what appears like frosted-gold mosaic of varying shades, the whole effect rich and glowing. The work is true fresco. It is not merely colour applied to a dry plaster surface, but colour applied to the plaster while it is wet; permeating and impregnating its substance, so that it can never fade or fall off. The pigments used are all mineral throughout; and the process is one requiring great skill and experience, for the colours dry several shades lighter than they appear while wet.

The execution of this masterpiece completed in just over a year was the work of one man, aided by two assistants who did the plain murals of the side walls. Brother A. Moschemi, the artist was a lay Jesuit brother, from Italy, born in Bergamo in 1854, He also decorated the Church of St. Aloysius in Mangalore before he took up this assignment in Bombay.

(We can assume that Brother A. Moschemi was inspired by the ceilings in the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s, and also had to lie on his back to carry out this masterpiece)

THE AISLES. The vaulting of the two side-aisles is ornamented by twenty Old Testament subjects, represented in tabulated form, beginning from the two side altars.

Brother A. Moschemi