French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler unveiled plaques declaring three buildings in Chandernagore heritage structures on Wednesday.
He was accompanied by members of the West Bengal Heritage Commission.
“The French consulate in Calcutta had sent a proposal for enlistment of 14 buildings in Chandernagore as heritage structures in 2017. Acting on it, the commission has made the declaration for eight buildings. Plaques will be laid today on three of them,” commission chairman Shuvaprasanna said at a programme at the start of the tour at Institut de Chandernagore.
The blue enamel plaques reminded the ambassador of the street name signage in France. “They are very French,” he smiled, unveiling one at the first stop on the tour — the Registry Office and French Court.
The derelict structure rich in history at the starting point on the Strand, facing the river, has been saved from demolition after the petition from the French.
It was also the focal point of a workshop called House of the Moon during Bonjour India, the French festival in India, in 2017, for which students of design from India and France cocreated and collaborated to develop an intervention in Chandernagore.
Once restored, Ziegler envisions it as a focal point of tourist interest, with a coffee house and an information centre.
But he insisted that the day’s exercise was not just about restoring history. “It’s about what you can do with heritage while looking at the future. It is much more than architecture, for our vision involves economic revitalisation of the town. We will be working on giving ownership to the whole community by working with students and children, (From left) French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler; consul general Virginie Corteval; Shuvaprasanna, chairman, West Bengal Heritage Commission; and Fabrice Plancon, director, Alliance Francaise du Bengale at Sacred Heart Church on Wednesday Ziegler unveils the plaque declaring the Registry Office a heritage structure, and (right) the heritage structure plaque at Chandernagore College. Pictures by Sudeshna Banerjee and making Chandernagore the focal point of our common history and bilateral relations.” The other two buildings where plaques were unveiled are Chandernagore College and Sacred Heart Church.
The college, originally established as St Mary’s Institution by the French Catholic Missionary, Rev. Magloire Barthet in 1862, had received an affiliation to Calcutta University as a First Arts Level College in 1891.
The principal, Debasish Sarkar, had a piece of good news to share with the ambassador — the college had just been granted Rs 1.68 crore for the upkeep of the building by the higher education department.
“This is a memorable day for Chandernagore. The laying of the plaques invests the buildings with importance and insures their future. It also gives the young generation something to take pride in,” said Basabi Pal, the head of the college’s French department, which is the oldest in Bengal. The department now grants even postgraduate degrees.
Father Orson Welles received the ambassador at Sacred Heart Church, which dates back to 1875.
The consul general of France in Calcutta, Virginie Corteval, and district magistrate J.P. Meena were present at the programme.
A team of technical experts will visit Chandernagore “by the summer” to help with the restoration, the ambassador said..
Source: Telegraph India