st olaves church

The story of St. Olave’s Church in Serampore is the story of the Danish connection with Serampore. On 6th September 1755 Serampore, which was a village at that time on the western bank of the river Hooghly, was selected for a new Danish settlement. The administration of this small area fell on Lt. Col . Ole (Olave) Bie who became the Governor of Serampore (then known as Fredericksnagar) from 1776 -1805. He made it a beautifully developed town among then Danish settlements in the East. The most outstanding achievement of Col. Bie was the construction of a church at Serampore.

He started to collect subscriptions for the church in Serampore from Calcutta and Copenhagen from 1800, when its construction started. The cost of building was Rs.18,500. The Marquis of Wellesley gave Rs.1000. the Serampore Missionaries also contributed. But unfortunately, its work could not be finished before his demise in 1805. The tall steeple of the Church could be clearly seen from the Governor’s palace in Barrackpore and the story goes that Col. Bie, looking out upon the Church as he was dying said, “It is finished”. Thus this Church was named St. Olave’s Church. It was a Lutheran Church at that time.

It was William Carey who took the first service in the Church. One of the walls of this Church bears a plaque in the name of three Baptist Missionaries. When Denmark soled her possessions in India in 1845, St. Olave’s Church came under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Calcutta as a part of his Diocese. For some years the church was served by Chaplains from Calcutta and also by members of the Serampore College. This Lutheran Church in Denmark offering to make a contribution for the repairs and upkeep of St. Olave’s, provided the College authorities became responsible for the management of the Church, in consultation with the Metropolitan of India, Bishop of Calcutta. The Metropolitan gave his strong approval to the plan and the Church was repaired and restored to beauty once again by the gift of the Church of Denmark. An annual grant for seven years from Denmark would be sent (as was the agreement reached at that time) and the situation would be reviewed again.

Today, the Serampore College (Theology Department) and the congregation of Serapore-Johnnagar Baptist Church (CNI), use the Church for their worship services. Recently, in 2008, due to the poor condition of the building, the Church was closed for repairs. The Serampore College authorities and the Bishop of Calcutta are exploring the means to renovate the Church.