Looming over one of the most crowded areas of Calcutta, yet isolated from its noisy surroundings, the Sacred Heart Church is located at no 3, Lenin Sarani, very near to the famous Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque in Dharmatala. Originally it was a Roman Catholic Church, built for the Portuguese community in Calcutta
The devotion to the Sacred Heart, also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is one of the widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions. It involves taking Jesus Christ′s physical heart as the symbol of his divine love for humanity. In Christian art, the Sacred Heart is often depicted as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding.
With the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, the Sacred Heart Church on Lenin Sarani was built by Mrs. Pascoa Barettoe DeSouza, in fulfillment of a vow for her son Louis de Souza. Mrs. Pascoa Barettoe DeSouza was a member of the prominent Portuguese family, the Barrettos. This Barretto line actually started from Portugal, to India, Macau, Hong Kong, Philippines, England, USA, Brazil and everywhere else. Nevertheless, the foundation stone of the proposed church was laid on the 12 February 1832, and it took two years to complete the construction of the Gothic building. Finally, the church was solemnly blessed on Easter Sunday, the 30th March 1834. A Parish of the Padroado, it became a parish of the Vicariate in 1844. The Bengal & Agra Guide and Gazetteer of 1841 lists the church's vicar as Rev Joao Correia, the church's coadjutor was Rev Jouquim Videira and the wardens were Messrs Laurence DeSouza, Michael DeSouza and Anthony DeSouza.
Today, any passerby can easily miss to spot the church, since the front pavement is heavily congested with illegal encroachments. In fact, it is not really possible to get a good look or a clear view of the beautiful building. But, the courtyard of the church offers a different world of peace and serenity. The church is attached to a school, along with a basketball ground for the kids.
There are two statues in the courtyard – one of Jesus and the other of ‘Mother of Sorrow’, referring to Virgin Mary. Both the statues are placed in small enclosures, demarcated the pathway from the basketball court. The prayer chamber is separated from the outer chamber by a grille and a door. Small benches and a few chairs are the only furniture in the small outer chamber. The walls are adorned with several idols along with panels and paintings depicting the life and struggle of Jesus hung from nails around the room. The prayer chamber is also very small, housing rows of benches in straight lines. The beautifully designed stone altar is complete with a magnificent golden cross.
Due to non maintenance for a prolonged period of time, the condition of the majestic building deteriorated drastically. As the roof of the building was badly damaged, continuous seepage and leakage of rain water damaged the wooden beams and the roof tiles were falling apart. Finally, the Church was renovated and re-dedicated on 3rd October 1971.