Armenians settle here and flourished as businessmen during the 17th and 18th centuries. When Chinsurah lost its commercial importance, the Armenians transferred their businesses to Calcutta towards the end of the 18th century.
The Armenian Church here is the second oldest in Bengal. It was erected in 1695 , the foundation stone being laid by Khojah Johannes Margar. The Church was completed in 1697 by his brother Joseph, and dedicated to St. John the Baptist in memory of his deceased brother Johannes. Khojah Johannes died suddenly on the 27th November 1697 and he was interred inside the church. This church is today the only remaining landmark of the once large and flourishing Armenian colony.
Joseph was the elder brother of the two and they went into partnership together in Hyderabad (Deccan) in 1666. They started a business together in Mylapore, with a joint capital of Rs 27,550 only, the major portion of which (Rs,18,550) was deposited by Khojah Joseph Margar, whilst his younger brother Johannes added only Rs. 9000 as his contribution to the business.
After the suddenly and untimely death of Khojah Johannes Margar in November 1697 the partnership automatically ceased and the final accounts made up. It was found that a net profit of two million rupees had been made in 30 years on the original capital of Rs. 27,500.
The brothers were the sons of the illustrious merchant-diplomat, Margar Avag Sheenentz, known as Marcara Avanchinz, who played an important part in the French East India Company in India in the second half of the 17th century.
Although Armenians lived and died in fairly large numbers at Chinsurah between the years 1695 and 1868, there are no more than 100 graves within the church, 28 of them being inside the church itself.
Records indicate that:
between the years 1826 and 1868 sixteen marriages were solemnized in the Church.
between the years 1817 and 1867 seventy two baptisms took place, and
between the years 1817 and 1881 fifty seven burials
No records appear to exist between the years 1695 when it was built and 1817, but of course there would have been many more births, marriages and burials in that ‘lost’ 122 years.
The church was originally built without a steeple, and this was added and erected in 1822 through the generosity of Mrs. Sophia Bagram a wealthy Armenian lady from Calcutta, in memory of her husband, Simon Phanoos Bagram.
The town of Chinsurah is about 35 miles from Calcutta. Sadly, no Armenians reside there but once a year, on the Sunday nearest to the Feast Day of St. John The Baptist, the Armenians from Calcutta go on a pilgrimage accompanied by their Priest who performs Holy Mass and offers prayers for the repose of the departed buried there. After the service, a large community lunch is served to the congregation which is hosted by the Armenian Church, Calcutta.