One of the most popular landmarks in the Kolkota area of India, the St. James Church, has just been opened again to the public after over a year of restoration and termite treatment procedures. The church was originally closed down because of inspections of the structure revealing that the extent to which termites as well as rainy weather had eaten out the edifice, leading to it being pronounced unsafe for both tourists and churchgoers in the area.
The cruciform church should actually have been given a restoration much earlier. It had suffered from more than the results of a lack of proper termite treatment and relentless rains each year: it had also weathered several earthquakes, leading to many cracks and injuries to the overall structure. However, as is the way with most structures of this type, restoration had to wait for funds to be gathered first.
A common outcry conservationists and those dedicated to causes of heritage in all countries is about the lack of funds for preserving structures of the same type as the St. James Church. According to these people, these sorts of buildings actually have a definite value that goes beyond the monetary, rooted in the historical significance and cultural investment to be found in these structures. Unfortunately, a very limited number of these buildings get the attention they deserve, and are thus more or less ignored when it comes to government funding for restoration projects. Churches in particular are subject to these circumstances: in this year alone, several small but historic churches in the United States too have had to undergo restoration and repair for issues such as termite damage, with the money being provided not by government institutions dedicated to conservation or heritage but by private donors.
This is the usual way when it comes to this sort of building: funds have to be raised by the actual churchgoers, parishioners, and other locals in order for there to be any restoration at all. And restoration can cost quite a lot for these structures. It is not just about repairing termite damage and installing termite prevention for the future: it is usually also about replacing cracked pieces of flooring, replacing broken stained glass windows, re-plastering the whole edifice, and various other things. In some cases, as a matter of fact, a complete overhaul of the wiring system may even be required for safety’s sake.
Clearly, conservation is an expensive business, and the Kolkota community is most fortunate to have managed to get up enough funds and donations to have had their church restored and given a proper termite treatment. The St. James Church, by the way, is also locally referred to as Jora Girja, in reference to the pair of spires that make it so easily distinguishable.