Being a part of La Martiniere College-Lucknow, Constantia building is one of the most valuable historical heritages of India that needs to be visited by every tourist coming from all parts of the world.
The idea of building Constantia occurred first to Claude Martin– a former major-general of French and British East India Company, and also gained the reputation as richest Frenchman of India. The construction of this edifice which Martin dreamt off as his residence started in 1785. But, It is saddening to know that he himself couldn’t survive to witness the grandeur of this architectural marvel.
Here, are a few intriguing facts regarding the building:
1) The oldest school of Lucknow
At the time of his death, the Major General wrote a will (January, 1800) stating that, his properties (Lyons at France, Constantia at Calcutta and Constantia at Lucknow) must be converted into Educational Institutions. Britishers took 45 years in honoring his last wish and Constantia Complex, Lucknow was converted into an educational institution better known as “La Martiniere College for Boys“.
Source: Photo by Shabaz Khan
2) A Mausoleum – Tactical plot to save his work
According to another instruction of his will, Martin demanded his body to be embalmed and buried beneath the vault prepared in Constantia (still under construction). People suggest that he did this to save his love from being taken over the Nawab of Lucknow who hinted his intentions when Martin refused to sell the property.
He obviated the threat by making it a tomb as Muslims never uses houses consecrated as a living place of a soul.
3) Defense Fortress
Constantia has served defense fortress against Raja of Banaras who attempted to invade Lucknow during the mutiny of 1857. Constructed as a six storied building, including the basement, four spiral columns goes right upto the terrace and also made as only staircase to get to the top of the building. A single man can defend the fort standing at the top once after shutting the Iron doors. Martin’s idea is to show off to fellow Englishmen that Constantia is a biggest threat to attackers.
Due to its unparalleled contribution in the safety of the city, the building was awarded the “Royal Battle Honors”.
4) Architectural Style
The most fascinating thing about Constantia is that, even though General Martin laid the foundations, the architectural finish has a mix of Indian, Turkish and Persian styles.
Source: Photo by Shabaz Khan
The colonnades at the front face of the building is constructed with Georgian style loopholes and turrets (small tower head over big tower) above which Mogul copulas were placed.
5) The magic of Plaster of Paris
The classical and mythological characters depicted in plaques which ornament the Constantia building are made of Plaster of Paris. The 18th century world renowned English potter, Josiah Wedgewood is said to be the designer of these plaques. There are concrete evidences of Martin ordering tonnes of imported Plaster of Paris (POP) in his personal communication through letters.
6) Banks of River Gomti and the light House
Another paramount tourist attraction is the 125 feet narrow flute like column in the front which was actually built with the intention to serve as light house for the travelers on Gomti River. Due to its proximity to the banks of the River, the Obelisk (tower) got flooded by several times in recent history.
7) Martin Purwa
This Village in Lucknow is a part of La Martiniere College estate. Named after Claude Martin, the village originally inhabited the staff members and workers of Martin and provided labor and other services. The Daroga (superintendent) of the estate still lives in this village.
The village has benefited from its proximity to Lucknow Golf Club, another part of the Constantia estate.
8) Constantia in Movies
In spite of its historical significance, the building has been criticized for its outlook and tagged as a “Bizarre Monument”. Philip Davies, an architect and columnist of ‘Illustrated London‘ points that Constantia is a Disturbing building of a most peculiar design.
Unlike many other historical monuments in India, there are no uncalled scribbling and carvings or unwanted markings on the walls of Constantia, an effort being taken by La Martiniere College’s principal Carlyle McFarland, the staff and the students. They certainly deserve an ovation for their efforts in preserving our heritage.