Basilica of Our Lady of Graces, Meerut
The Basilica of Our Lady of Graces is the largest Roman Catholic Church in the entire North India. This majestically built marble monument stands tall in the heat and dust of the northern plains like a refuge of concord and tranquility. Also, known as the ‘Churches among the churches,’ the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, this mini basilica was designed by Italian architect Antonio Reghellini, who used a touch of Palladio along with Indian architectural influence to construct the monument. An out-and-out marble structure, the altar, and its surrounding area are etched with vibrant marble colored stones. The octagon-shaped dome adds further beauty to the church as it illuminates the interiors when sunlight streams in. The entire church is adorned with semi-precious stone work, stylized by a Greek colonnaded veranda, an elevated altar and three Roman domes that add to the building’s grandeur. Outside the church, sprawls a lush green sanctuary that houses the majestic 18 feet high edifice of Begum Samru smoking hookah, which was carved by Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini and transported to Sardhana from Italy to Kolkata via ship.
It was erected by Begum Samru, a Nautch girl who married a European mercenary soldier and converted to Roman Catholicism to be known by the name of Joanna Nobilis. She is regarded as the only Catholic ruler in India who led the Principality of Sardhana in the 18th and 19th century.