About the Cathedral
Since 1791 the Cathedral stands in the middle of the town surrounded by its four boulevards. On the western side of the street called formerly: “Rue Des Missions Etrangers”, and now called either Mission Street or Cathedral Street, stands the Cathedral Church facing the Bay of Bengal.
The Pondicherry people popularly and familiarly call this Church ‘Samba Kovil’, which is a phonetic corruption of “San Paulo Kovil”. As a matter of fact, the Cathedral is under the title of ‘Our Lady of Immaculate Conception’. But when the Jesuits came to Pondy 300 years ago they were called ‘Saint Paul’s Fathers.
The Immaculate Conception Church @ Samba Kovil has 300 years of long history. The Jesuits came in 1689 and they bought a very large garden to the West of the French Fort (Now the Bharathi Park). In 1692 they, with the financial help of the King of France, erected a beautiful Church which was demolished by the Dutch in the following year. A second church was quickly built in 1699 but could not last long.
From 1728 to 1736 a large beautiful Church was built on the very site the present Cathedral stands now. It was third by serial. This Church was razed to the ground by the British in 1761. Erecting in 1765 provisionally (fourth in serial) a functional kind of irregular shaped shed where the Mission Press is now, since the year 1770 the mission was earnest in building the present Cathedral on the foundations of the 3rd Church. The mission took as model the Church of Val De Grace (Now chapel of the famous military hospital) in Paris. Though the general plan was one of the French XVIII Century Church, the façade kept the classical Portuguese ordinary style of the Portuguese Colonial times. On 20th June 1791 the Main work was finished and the Church was consecrated by Bishop Champenois.