Constantia, beyond fables and tales
What stands today as one of the most beautiful schools in the city of Luknow, the campus of La Martiniere College is also an institution of invaluable history and culture in the city. With a legacy of over 218 years, the central structure of the school, popularly called as the Constantia stands in a 400 acres plot in the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Wildly popular through fables and facts, The Constantia is one such structure whose antiquity, history and heritage have only aged like fine wine over the passage of 2 centuries
La Martiniere College's motto, Labore- Et- Constantia roughly translates to 'Through labour and constancy' and that is exactly how this archaic structure was built; the construction started in 1795 and took 7 long years to complete. The central structure, known as The Constantia, is an emblem of this motto that also extends to be the origin of its name. Another unproven romantic notion about this name also exists; the building is said the be named after Constance, a young French maiden who was allegedly Founder Claude Martin's first love.
Designers of Constantia
Though every Matinian is aware of the fact that Constantia was designed by the Founder Major General Claude Martin, he was not the sole architect of the building that now looms in Lucknow. The semi circle wings of the building were not included in Martin's first draft as this structure was initially to be used as the General's residence. However, the construction of Constantia only completed after his death and the model was further expanded under the supervision of Lieutenant Cunningham and later Lieutenant Fraser, engineers working for the East India Company
The architecture of Constantia is a complex weave of the Nawabi fantasy and the Gothic barracks, interlaced with Georgian colonnades with the turrets and loopholes of a medieval Mughal couplas and Palladian arcades. Situated on the banks of River Gomti, an area of 400 acres (1.6 sq km - part of the Lucknow Golf Club, City Zoo and adjoining Martin Purwa Village) is occupied by this single institution.
The Moorish Coupla
Constantia stands on a landscaped terrace overlooking what once used to be a lake, from the centre of which rises a solid fluted column with a Moorish cupola known as 'the Laat'. As tall as 125 feet, the tower was either a lighthouse or a marker of the horse of the French General, Major Martin.
Design and Decor
The library and chapel of the building are decorated in sculptures that were done by the Wedgewood Company, founded by Joshia Wedgewood, the man who industrialized pottery. Though the designs are local, the large mirrors, French carpets, inlaid marble tables and paintings were all imported.
The Tomb of Martin
The stairs and the walls of the short ceiling-ed room are engraved in the names of all those soldiers who sacrificed their lives protecting the Constantia in the Revolt of 1857. In the middle of this toom stands the effigy of Claude Martin and this is where Claude Martin was buried after his death.
Bells and Canons
The East Terrace of Constantia houses a central Cannon which was used by Lord Cornwallis during the Siege of Seringapatam against Tipu Sultan. Right behind this canon is an grand bell that has the name of the Major General Claude Martin engraved on its base
The only school in the world to have received Royal Battle Honours for its role in the Revolt of 1857, La Martiniere College was institutionalised on October 1, 1845. Since then, it is celebrated as the Constantia Day every year. The School also commemorates the death of Major General Claude Martin on September 13, which is celebrated as the Founder's Day every year.
School on Stamps
La Martiniere happens to be the one of the very few schools in the entire world that has left its prints on postage stamps, and the magnificent building of Constantia is acquitted with the credit. In 1995, the President of India released a ₹2 stamp in the school's honour
The premises of the school are open to tourists and visitors and the entry is free. All those who wish to witness the grandeur of this picturesque structure may visit La Martiniere before 4 in the evening.
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