Mar Thoma I

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His Beatitude
Mar Thoma I (Mar Thoma the Great)
Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church
Installed 1637
Term ended 1670
Predecessor ArchDeacon Geevarghese Kathanar.
Successor Mar Thoma II
Ordination 1637.
Consecration 22 May 1653
Personal details
Birth name Thomas
Born Kuravilangad
Died 25 April 1670
Buried St.Marys Syrian Orthodox Church, Angamaly.[1]

Mar Thoma I, also known as Valia Mar Thoma, was the first native bishop of Malankara Church. Before that Malankara Church was ruled by Archdeacons.[2]


Thomas the Apostle arrived to Kerala to preach the gospel to the Jewish community. Some of the Jews and locals became followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They were known as Malabar Nasrani people and their church as Malankara Church. They followed a unique Hebrew-Syriac Christian tradition which included several Jewish elements and Indian customs.

In Malankara (Kerala) St. Thomas did not appoint any bishops, but an elder (Mooppen in Malayalam) was selected to lead the people. The parish leader was called Edavaka Mooppen and the church as a whole had a Malankara Mooppen. This was the tradition till 1653.

Canons of the Synod of Diamper, Malayalam versions[3] use these titles throughout the report except in three places where they use the Latin word archidiāconus.[4][5] There is no chance for the Malankara Church to use this Latin word. Portuguese were not familiar with Malayalam word Malankara Mooppen and so they might have used Latin word Archidiāconus. The Malaylam name Jathikku Karthavian, given by some historians was not used in the Malayalam version of the canons.

Early life[edit]

Kuravilangad is a town located in the Kottayam district of Kerala, South India. The town is situated in the Meenachil Taluk, about 22 km north of Kottayam. Pakalomattom family was one of the oldest families at Kuravilangad. Thomas who later became the first Mar Thoma, was born at Parampil house of this family.

As Malankara Mooppen[edit]

Kuravilangad Pakalomattom Parampil Geevarghese Kathanar, the Malankara Mooppen (elder) died in 1637. His relative Thomas Kathanar was then elected as the next Malankara Mooppen. He and his followers opposed the Portuguese attempts to bring the Indian Christian church into the Roman Catholic Church. He spent most of the time doing his pastoral work mainly outside the country of Cochin where Portuguese had no influence. In 1653, Thomas Kathanar and his followers swore the Coonen Cross Oath, declaring an independent church, and stating "We and our children shall never be under Rome."

After the Coonen Cross Oath the elders of the church met and decided to consecrate him as a bishop. Four months after Coonen Cross Oath, on 22 May 1653, twelve kathanars, (priests) placed their hands on Thomas Kathanar and elevated him as the bishop. This was the practice that they were following for the past 1600 years. They chose the name Mar Thoma as he was the successor of Thomas the disciple of Jesus Christ. Till 1662, Mar Thoma survived a number of assassination attempts.

Rise of Dutch power[edit]

The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in old-spelling Dutch, literally "United East Indian Company") was established in 1602. By 1652, VOC trading posts were established in Malabar Coast in India. On 7 January 1663 Cochin was attacked and the king of Cochin surrendered to the Dutch on 20 March 1663.


By 1665, Cochin was under Dutch control. That year Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, said to be a delegate of the Patriarch of Antioch was able to come to Malankara and validate the Metropolitan consecration of Mar Thoma.

Four very efficient trustworthy and responsible priests, Kalliseril Anjilimoottil Itty Thomman Kathanar, Kaduthuruthy Kadavil Chandy Kathanar, Angamaly Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar and Kuravilangad Palliveettil Parampil Chandy Kathanar[6] were selected as his advisors.[7]

Last days[edit]

The last days of Mar Thoma I was comparatively peaceful period for the Malankara Church.

Valia Mar Thoma, Mar Thoma I, died on 25 April 1670 and was laid to rest in Ankamali St.Marys Syrian Orthodox Church.[8]

Preceded by
Metropolitan of the Malankara Church
Succeeded by
Mar Thoma II
Preceded by
Archdeacon Geevarghese
Temporal Head of the Malankara Church
Succeeded by
Mar Thoma II

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The acts and decrees of the Synod of Diamper, 1599
  3. ^ Five of the Malayalam versions were available in 1952.
  4. ^ Daniel, K.N. Canons of the Synod of Diamper, prepared using five of the available Malayalam versions.
  5. ^ Antonio de Gouvea (1606) Jornada do Arcebispo Aleixo de Menezes quando foy as Serra do Malaubar.
  6. ^ Mar Chandy Parambil
  7. ^ Mathew N.M. History of the Marthoma Church, Vol. I. Page 183.
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

    1. Mathew N.M. (2003). St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages, C.S.S. Tiruvalla. ISBN 81-782-1008-8 and CN 80303
    2. Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006), Volume II (2007). Volume III (2008) Pub. E.J.Institute, Thiruvalla