Cracks on walls of 211-yr-old St Mark’s Cathedral

Monument in danger

St. Mark’s Cathedral, Horizontal and Vertical cracks in different parts of the building, Separation between plaster and Masonry, and water leakage and dampness in the ceiling joint, in Bengaluru on Thursday. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

The 211-year-old St Mark’s Cathedral has developed cracks in its structure, leaving the faithful and heritage lovers concerned.

The cathedral’s walls and pillars – inspired by England’s 17th century St Paul’s Cathedral – is showing vertical and horizontal cracks spanning several metres. The puffing of masonry in many places and pest infestation has significantly marred the landmark building’s beauty.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage (INTACH) has done a preliminary investigation of the structure and has given an interim report after visual assessment of the damage.

Rev Dr Vincent Vinod Kumar, the presbyter in-charge, told DH that the cathedral management is working overtime with the experts to stabilise the structure.

“The INTACH experts experienced in heritage structures sought permission for further excavation of the damaged places to determine the actual reason for the problem. We’ll think about the remedial issues once they submit the final report,” Rev Vinod Kumar said.

The INTACH preliminary report, a copy of which is available with DH, said horizontal cracks were found in various parts between the plinth and the sill, especially in the cathedral’s outer external walls.
Vertical cracks have also been noticed at a few places.

“Puffing of masonry has separated from the plaster and masonry in many places. There have been insect attacks in many of these open junctions,” the report said.

Structural experts of INTACH attributed the damages to a combination of various factors such as “ingress of water from foundation through capillary action, causing moisture entry into masonry” or “material incompatibility and poor workmanship while building a joint between cement plaster and old lime”.

Though the cost of the restoration is yet to be determined, the cathedral management said it would raise the funds for the repair works by holding a fiesta.

Founded in 1808, the cathedral has a load-bearing masonry structure built with bricks in lime mortar and lime plastering. It has a combination of flat roof and dome at different levels.

A major fire in February 1924 threatened to destroy the cathedral that could seat 700 people.

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