Church of the Immaculate Conception
The Church of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception (Azerbaijani: Müqəddəs Bakirə Məryəm kilsəsi, Russian: Церковь Непорочного Зачатия Пресвятой Девы Марии) is a Roman Catholic church in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The original church operated from 1915 to 1931, when it was ordered destroyed by the Soviet government. In 2006, a new Catholic church bearing the same name was rebuilt in a different spot of Baku. On 29 April 2007 the new church was consecrated by Apostolic Nuncio in Transcaucasia Monsignor Claudio Gugerotti.
Baku's Catholic community was recognized as a separate parish in 1882, thus seceding from the Tetritsq'aro Catholic parish. The fifty-metre high church was built as a place of worship primarily for Polish residents of Baku (then part of the Russian Empire) who had initially held their masses in parochial houses and had sought legal permission for the construction of a Catholic church. Even though the permission was given in 1894, due to money shortage, it was not until 1909 that the construction of the church started. The only financial source were donations from the congregation, which consisted mostly of middle- and low-income families. Civil engineer Jozef Poszko and general contractor Haji Gasimov were in charge of the project. The church was built in the Neo Gothic architectural style. As a result of the Soviet Union's anti-religious campaign, in 1931 the Church of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception was destroyed. In 1937, its only senior priest Stefan Demurov (a Georgian Catholic) was sent to a labour camp, where he died a year later. The site is now occupied by the Shahriyar Club (earlier known as the Dzierzhynski Club).
In 1997, the Catholic community of Baku was re-established. After Pope John Paul II's visit to Azerbaijan in 2002, it was granted land to build a new church. The cornerstone of the new church was blessed by John Paul II. The new Church of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception was built in 2006, in a different spot of Baku according to the Italian architect Paolo Ruggiero's project. The style of the building will be New Gothic and will in some ways recall the facade of the original church. The church was designed to have a pastoral center and a residency for priests. The statue of the Virgin Mary by local sculptors was set up over the entrance of the Church which has 200 benches. The church bells were a present from Lech Kaczyn'ski, then President of Poland. On 29 April 2007 the Apostolic Nuncio in Transcaucasia Monsignor Claudio Gugerotti administered the rite of consecration of the Church. The church was then also dedicated on Sunday, March 7th, 2008 by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.