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St. Peter's Church at Royapuram, Chennai from whose name Royapuram is derived based on the Tamil word Royappar, began as a chapel in 1780. It was built exclusively by the industrious and hard working Hindu community called Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars. By profession, they were boatmen migrated from a place called Durgapatinam near Pulikat on the Coromandel coast, Tamil Nadu, helping the British mercantile traders there. The East india Company got a piece of land at Chennapatnam and founded Fort St. George in 1644. In 1710, the boatmen community settled near Fort St. George and served the East India company. Their job was to help naval and cargo ships reach the dock and bring in the cargo. Over a period of time, they not only became prosperous but also Christian coverts. The chapel was built to take care of their religious obligations. The land comprising 720 acres was allotted in 1799 to them by the Marine board secretary for their residential needs as they made the boatmen move out the Chapauk area. With funds raised by them and support from the Marine Board, the boatmen built a Gothic styled church St. Peter's in 1829 and was consecrated in the same year by Bishop of Mylapore Dom Manuel de Ave Maria Upon consecration, its keys to the church were delivered to the headmen of the community. Rev.Fr. Anthonis Martin de Silva was appointed as the Vicar.
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Unfortunately, with regard to Christian tradition and denomination to be followed in the new church, there was neither a general consensus nor unity among the Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars and Arch diocese. One group wanted to support the Irish Mission and the other preferred Goan mission. The control of church's money went to the government as there was some dispute over the collection of money on a regular basis from boat owners and boat operators to main the church. The simmering differences between two factions continued unabated from 1860s till early 1900s with court cases, appeals, etc. During 1848, the fighting became so bad that the Goan mission supporters built St. Antony's church just right across the St. Peter's Church with proper compound walls.
It is a matter of great regret and highly condemnable that a place of worship and veneration has become a bone of contention and the matter remained unsolved for a pretty longtime. Neither the Mudaliars who built the church nor the Arch diocese of Mylapore who had control over the matters related to religious tradition to be followed by the church wanted to make a compromise and settle the dispute amicably. This unsolved issue resulted in the closure of this church for 14 long years from 1935-49. St. Peters Church was originally under the dominions of the Cathedral and later changed hands to Petite Seminary School Fathers up to 1860. At last both parties again approached the court for acceptable legal remedy. It was ruled by the High Court that the income from the shops and schools around the Church were given to the Archbishop for the management of church schools and orphanage, etc.. Then there was a higher appeal in the Supreme Court at Delhi, which affirmed the ruling of the Madras High Court.