St John in the Wilderness, Dharamsala

I wonder why it is called St John in the Wilderness. Is it because the church is dedicated to a boondocks saint or is it because it was located in boondocks? Whatever may be the reason this is one place you should visit when you visit Dharamsala and McLeodganj.

One of the attractions in McLeodganj – apart from the scenic beauty – is the church of St. John in the Wilderness. It is the first thing you’d notice on your way to McLeodganj after a liquor shop just as you cross the intersection from where a road leads you to Dal Lake and Naddi (where I stayed during my visit).

St John of Wilderness, McLeodganj

St John of Wilderness

Located around 8km away from Dharamsala, St. John in the Wilderness is a beautiful piece of architecture made out of stones of multiple colors The stained glass window with depiction of saints and gods look wonderful.

The surrounding Kangra Valley and Deodar forest conjure an awe inspiring atmosphere where you could sit down for hours. And I’d definitely recommend you to visit St John in the Wilderness if you are headed for McLeodganj.

The Church of St John in the Wilderness is one of the few structures that survived the massive 1905 earthquake that hit Kangra Valley. Such was the magnitude that over 20,000 people and 50,000 livestock lost their life and most of the buildings were destroyed.

But as the gods wills it, church of the St John in the Wilderness survived with only the bell tower destroyed in the massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

Church of the St John in the Wilderness is an Anglican Church dedicated to John the Baptist. It was built in neo-Gothic Style of Architecture and is renowned for the Belgian stained-glass windows.

The windows were donated to the church by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Algin. Lord Elgin became the Governor-General & Viceroy of India in 1861. He soon died on November 20, 1863 in Dharamsala and found his final resting place in the courtyard of this same church.

You could easily walk up the church of St. John in the Wilderness from Mcleodganj within 30 15-20 minutes or hire an auto rickshaw. There’s no entrance fee for this church and parking is available on the road side. Look to your right as you approach McLeodganj from Dharamsala to locate this church.

You’d notice a graveyard just as you enter the church. Buried in this graveyard are the British residents who died in the 1905 Kangra Valley earthquake.

As you’d near the church you’ll come face to face with the towering front façade of the church. The Belgian Stained-Glass Windows looks brilliant to behold and add to the overall appearance of this foreboding church. Just behind the church lies interred Lord Elgin, a massive memorial at the graveyard enlightening the visitors about the departed soul.

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