Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala
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Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala

Christianity has taken its root in India in the first century itself. i.e., three centuries before it gained official recognition in Europe or became the established religion in Rome. St Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ landed in Muzris (Kodungallur), the famous ancient ports on the West Coast of India during the year 52 A.D. He founded seven Churches on the Kerala coast in the following places: ? Palayur, Kodungallur (Maliankara), Quilon (Kollam), Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Nilakkal, and Paravoor.


Founded by St Thomas, the Apostle in 52 A.D

The present St Thomas Archdiocesan Shrine, Palayur is believed to be the first Christian Church established on the Indian soil. St Thomas Traveled from Kodungallur through the backwaters and reached at Vanchi Kadavu (Boat Jetty) of Palayur. This Boat Jetty in Palayur still exists in the form of a large pond, which is called Bottukulam. A replica of the boat in which St Thomas traveled and his life size statue is the main attractions of Bottukulam.

Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala

The Miracle at Thaliyakulam

One of the miracles performed by St Thomas in Palayur was in Thaliyakulam. One day when the local people were having their morning snanam (bath) at Thaliakulam, St Thomas saw the people throwing water in the air as a ritual, which was called ?Tharpanam?. He was fascinated in their act and himself took some water in his cupped hands and thrown it into the air. Legend has it that the water remained in the air in the form of roses. Most of the people who saw this miracle believed in Christ and were baptized by St Thomas.
The followers of St Thomas grew large in number and Palayur became one of the main Christian Centers of Kerala. Because of the importance of Palayur as a Christian Center, Pope Gregory 13th appointed a Bishop in Palayur but due to certain circumstances the appointed Bishop could not take charge of the post. The present Church was rebuild by the Italian Jesuit Father Fenichio in the year 1607. Rev Fr George Choondal, then Vicar also made some renovations and two wings were added to the Northern and southern sides of the Church during 1952

Palayur Mahatheerthadanam (The Great Pilgrimage)

Palayur Mahatheerthadanam, which is held normally on the third Sunday of the Lent every year, attracts thousands of people from all over Thrissur District and other parts of Kerala. This Pilgrimage commences from Lourde Cathedral, Thrissur and the participants walk 28 Kilometers, all the way from Thrissur to Palayur, carrying wooden crosses. As the Pilgrim procession proceeds further, parishners from Churches enroute also join. Believers from other parishes which are not located on the main route of the procession also come walking from three different directions and join at St Thomas Nagar, a central place near Palayur. There all the four processions join together and the whole human sea moves towards St Thomas Pilgrim Center, led by the Arch Bishop.

Baptism on the ?Muppittu Njayar? (The Sunday after 10th of the month)

Baptism on the Muppittu Njayar is an important event in the Palayur Pilgrim Center. Newly born children from all over Kerala are brought for baptizing them in Thaliyakulam, where St Thomas performed the baptism of the early Christians in AD 52. The ceremonies start at 4 PM and after Baptism at Thaliyakulam, the children are brought to the main Church in a procession, each child under a decorated and colored silk umbrella (Muthu Kuda) with relatives and friends joining the procession. The procession then reaches the granite cross established by St Thomas, in front of the main hall of the Church, where the traditional Kerala lamps are lighted on behalf of each child by their parents, followed by Holy Mass.

Prior registration is required to participate in the Baptism.

Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala

Thukharana Thirunnal

St Thomas was killed at St Thomas Mount, Mylapore, Madras on July 3rd, 72 A.D. Kerala Christians remember this day as St Thomas Day, which is also known as Thukhrana Thirunal.

Sradha Oottu

As a remembrance of his death anniversary every year an Oottu Thirunal is celebrated in Palayur Pilgrim Center. More than ten thousand people take part in this big event every year and each one of them is served free food. Each year the number of people attending this memorial function is on the increase.

Tharpana Thirunnal

The main feast of St Thomas is celebrated on 14 and 15 of Jul every year as a remembrance of the Baptism he performed at Thaliyakulam. Though it is in the middle of the strong monsoon season, People all over from Kerala gather at Palayur to trace their ancestral history.

Puthu Jnayar Thirunal

The First Sunday after the Easter is celebrated as Puthu Jnayar Thiruna.


Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European Settlement in India and St. Francis Church was the first European Church to be built in India.  The history of this Church reflects the colonial struggle of European powers in India, from the 15th to 20th Centuries.

Built in the Year 1503

1503 to 1663  -  Portugese Period (Roman Catholic Church)
1664 to 1804  -  Dutch Period (Dutch Reformed Church)
1804 to 1947  -  British Period (Anglican Church)
1947 onwards  -  Church of South India


The Portugese were the first Europeans to discover the sea route to India when Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut in 1498.  Two years later, on 24th December 1500, Portuguese ships under the command of Admiral Cabral visited Cochin and the Rajah of Cochin permitted them to engage in trade.  In 1503, Alphonso Alburquerque was given permission by the Rajah to build a fort at the mouth of the river which constructed mainly of the stems of cocunut trees bound with iron bands, whilst the rampart of stones and sand formed the inner defence.  Within the Fort they erected a church of wood which was dedicated to St. Bartholomew and which occupied the site on which the more spacious structure of the Franciscans later arose.  In 1506, Dom Francisco Almeyda, the Viceroy, was permitted by the Rajah of Cochin to build a new city of mortar and stone.  The buildings were roofed with tiles, a privilege hitherto confined to the palace of the local prince and to the temples in which he performed puja.  The Portuguese vowed that, apart from the fortifications, the first permanent erection would be a house for Divine worship.  The new Church, was completed in 1516 and dedicated to St. Antony.

Towards the end of 1524, Vasco da Gama returned to Cochin (Which he first visited in 1502) where he died on Christmas eve of that year and was buried in this Church.  Fourteen years later, his remains were removed to Portugal and deposited at Vidigveria where they remained until 1872 when they were removed to Lisbon.

The Church remained in the Order of St. Francis until the arrival of the Dutch in 1663.  One of the first acts of the Dutch was to order all European Catholic priests to quit their territory, after which they demolished all the convents and churches of the place, except the Church of the Fransiscans which they reconditioned and converted into their Government Church.  On 8th January, 1664 they celebrated their first service with a parade of all arms on the Anniversary of their entry into the city.  During the reconditioning, the stone alter and the wiring guilded screens were removed and taken to the Church of Vypeen, which the Dutch permitted the Roman Catholic to build in 1665, and the Communion table and rostrum furniture were installed in their stead.  A tablet over the west door indicates that the Church was renovated in 1779.

Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala

When the British captured Cochin from the Dutch in 1795, they permitted them to retain possession of the Church for a time.  In 1804 the Dutch voluntarily surrendered the Church to the Anglican Communion when it was passed to Ecclesiastical Department of the Government of India.  But when the Rev. Thomas Norton came to Cochin in 1816 on his way to inaugurate the work of the Church Missionary Society at Alleppey, he found that the Church was just bare walls, the interior was very dilapidated and part of the roof had fallen in.  The building was sufficiently restored to enable Bishop Middleten, the Metropolitan, to use it for a confirmation service during his episcopal visit to the Malabar Coast.

The Church and Architecture

The change of name of the patron saint was presumably due to the Anglicans, for it was not until 1870 that any reference was made to St. Francis Church.  The gravestones let into the walls of the church were taken from the floor of the nave in 1886.  On the northern side can be seen Portuguese gravestones.  The Dutch gravestones are on the Southern Wall.  The Vasco da Gama stone is on the ground at the southern side.  A tablet inside the building over the west door shows that it was repaired by the Government of Madras in 1887, being the fiftieth year of the reign of Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India.

The Church possess an interesting link with the past in the form of the Doop Book the old baptism and marriage register from 1751 - 1804 which may be seen in the vestry.  It was maintained for 40 years in the handwriting of Predikant Cornelies and was sent to London in 1932 for the leaves to be repaired by experts.  It was then rebound in the original style.  A photostat copy takes the place of the original for scrutiny by visitors.

The Church became a protected monument in April 1923 under the Protected Monuments Act of 1904.  The Cenotaph in memory of the residents of Cochin who fell in the First Great War was erected on 1920 and was unveiled by Governor of Madras on October 21st of that year.  The boundary walls were erected in 1924.

The Clock on this Church was erected in the year 1923 in memory of Hal Harrison Jones, a former managing director of Aspinwal.  A few memorial brass plates and marble slabs were erected in the memories of very important persons who had contributed their own lives to this Church and the Society.  The present furniture were installed when it was under the Anglican order of worship.  Now the Church is owned by the Church of South India (CSI) and there is regular worship in this church on every Sundays and commemorative days.  On week days it is kept open for visitors and tourists.

Santa Cruz Basilica, Kerala

The Santa Cruz Basilica is a historic church that was built by the Portuguese. The church was elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558 AD. In 1795 AD, it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Cochin and was demolished. About a hundred years later, Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887 AD. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.

Parumala Pally,Mannar, Kerala

The most important of the spiritual centers of the Malankara is the Tomb of His Holiness the "Parumala Thirumeni". The Church was constructed as a result of the efforts of Parumala Geevarghese Mar Gregorios. On 27 January 1825 a provisional consecration of the Church was conducted. Later, on 19 August 1912 His Holiness Abdheth Misheha, the Patriarch consecrated the Parumala Church. The Church is built and named after the Apostle St. Peter and St. Paul. The burial place of Yuyakim Mar Ivanios can also be seen here.

Christian Pilgrimage Tours Of Churches In Kerala


On 8 September 1912 Kallasseril Geevarghese Mar Gregorios and on 3 November 1930 Puthencavu Geevarghese Mar Philexinos were consecrated in Parumala. On 29 April 1991 at the seminary the installation of His Holiness Baselios mar Thoma Mathews II Catholicos took place. Here 5 Episcopas were consecrated on 30 April 1991 and on 16 August 1993 2 more Episcopas were consecrated.

Here the Malankara Association met in 1873 and on 18 February 1878 with Pulikkotil Joseph Dionysius in the chair and again on 10 September 1992 and on 26 May 1994. The Church is situated 1/2 a K.m away to the east from the Mannar Junction and is 10 Kms towards the south from Tiruvalla on Thiruvalla- Mavelikara Road and 9 towards the north from Mavelikara. Here on Fridays the Holy Qurbana with three celebrants (Munninmel) is conducted and meditative discourse is given. During the day of 'Pentecost' the 'tarrying Meet' and during the '3 day Fast' and the 'Lenten season', 'Meditation Meets' are conducted.

November 1 and 2 are the main feast days. In connection with this feast a whole week is being observed as 'Pilgrimage Week'. Various Seminars are conducted and lectures given. Medical camps are also held under the auspices of the Mar Gregorios Hospital in Parumala. The New Church in Parumala is being constructed at the cost of Rupees Three Crores.

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