Saint Thomas Christian churches

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This article addresses the Saint Thomas Christian Churches and denominations that form the Nasrani people or Saint Thomas Christians.

The Saint Thomas Christians are an ancient body of Christians from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] They are also known as "Nasranis" because they are followers of "Jesus of Nazareth". The term "Nasrani" is still used by St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.

They are also called Syrian Christians because of their use of Syriac in liturgy. Their original liturgical language was Aramaic (see also Aramaic of Jesus) which was later changed to Syriac. They are also known as Malabar / Malankara Mar Thoma Nasranis, because these Christians are from Kerala that was also known as Malabar or Malankara. Their language is Malayalam, the language of Kerala.

For the first 15 centuries, they had their own leaders to whom they were obedient and who were well respected by both the people and the rulers of the country. In AD 190, Pantaenus from Alexandria visited these Christians.[8] He found that they were using the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew language. Around AD 522, an Egyptian Monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes visited the Malabar Coast. He mentions Christians in Malabar (Kerala), in his book Christian Topography.[9][10][11] This shows that till the 6th century these Christians had been in close contact with Alexandria.

The Tamil epic of Manimekkalai written between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD of the Sangam Literature era mentions the Saint Thomas Christian (Nasrani) people by the name Essanis referring to one of the early Jewish-Christian sects within the Nasranis called Essenes.[12] In AD 883, Alfred the Great (849–899), King of Wessex, England reportedly sent gifts to Mar Thoma Christians of India through Sighelm, bishop of Sherborne.[13] Around AD 1292, Marco Polo (1254–1324) on his return journey from China visited Kerala, mentions that, "The people are idolaters, though there are some Christians and Jews among them".[14][15]

It is believed that in AD 345, Christians from Edessa arrived in Kerala under the leadership of Thomas of Cana,[16] and in 825, another group joined them. They had their own bishops visiting them from Persia. Though the Saint Thomas Christians welcomed them, these bishops had not made any effort to subjugate them. Saint Thomas Christians remained as an independent group, and they got their bishops from Church of the East until the 16th century.

Saint Thomas Christians were greatly affected by the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498. The Portuguese attempted to bring the community under the auspices of Latin Rite Catholicism, resulting in permanent rifts in the community.[17][18][19]

Churches within Saint Thomas Christian tradition[edit]

Part of a series on
Saint Thomas Christians
നസ്രാണികൾ
St. Thomas Cross
Alternate names
Nasrani · Mar Thoma Nasrani · Syrian Christians
History
Saint Thomas · Thomas of Cana · Mar Sabor and Mar Proth · Tharisapalli plates · Synod of Diamper · Coonan Cross Oath
Religion
Monuments · Churches · Shrines · Liturgical language · Church music
Prominent persons
Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar · Abraham Malpan · Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala · Marth Alphonsa · Mar Kuriakose Elias Chavara · Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly · Thoma of Villarvattom
Culture

Margam Kali · Cuisine · Suriyani Malayalam

Their traditions go back to the 1st-century Christian thought, and the seven churches established by Thomas the Apostle during his mission in Malabar.[20][21][22] These are at Kodungalloor (Muziris), Paravur, Palayoor, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal (Nilackal) and Kollam.

Nasrani people[edit]

Nasranis or Syrian Christians of Kerala in ancient days (from an old painting). Photo published in the Cochin Government Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938

The Nasranis are an ethnic people, and a single community.[1] As a community with common cultural heritage and cultural tradition, they refer to themselves as Nasranis.[1] However, as a religious group, they refer to themselves as Mar Thoma Khristianis or in English as Saint Thomas Christians, based on their religious tradition of Syriac Christianity.[1]

However, from a religious angle, the Saint Thomas Christians of today belong to various denominations as a result of a series of developments including Portuguese persecution[23] (a landmark split leading to a public Oath known as Coonen Cross Oath), reformative activities during the time of the British (6,000 - 12,000 Jacobites joined the C.M.S in 1836, after the Synod of Mavelikara; who are within the Church of South India, now), doctrines and missionary zeal influence (split of Marthoma Church and St. Thomas Evangelical Church (1961) ), Patriarch/Catholicos issue ( division of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church & Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church (1912) ).

St. Thomas Christian families who claim their descent from ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas are found all over Kerala.[24] St. Thomas Christians were classified into the social status system according to their professions with special privileges for trade granted by the benevolent kings who ruled the area. After the 8th century when Hindu Kingdoms came to sway, Christians were expected to strictly abide by stringent rules pertaining to caste and religion. This became a matter of survival. This is why St. Thomas Christians had such a strong sense of caste and tradition, being the oldest order of Christianity in India. The Archdeacon was the head of the Church, and Palliyogams (Parish Councils) were in charge of temporal affairs. They had a liturgy-centered life with days of fasting and abstinence. Their devotion to the Mar Thoma tradition was absolute. Their churches were modelled after Jewish synagogues.[24] “The church is neat and they keep it sweetly. There are mats but no seats. Instead of images, they have some useful writing from the holy book.”[25]

In short, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala have blended well with the ecclesiastical world of the Eastern Churches and with the changing socio-cultural environment of their homeland.[24] Thus, the Malabar Church was Hindu or Indian in culture, Christian in religion, and Judeo-Syriac-Oriental in terms of origin and worship.[24]

Apostolic origin[edit]

Further information: Saint Thomas Christians

According to the 1st century annals of Pliny the Elder and the author of Periplus of the Erythraean sea, Muziris in Kerala could be reached in 40 days' time from the Egyptian coast purely depending on the South West Monsoon winds.[26] The Sangam works Puranaooru and Akananooru have many lines which speak of the Roman vessels and the Roman gold that used to come to the Kerala ports of the great Chera kings in search of pepper and other spices, which had enormous demand in the West.[27]

The lure of spices attracted traders from the Middle East and Europe to the many trading ports of Keralaputera (Kerala) — Tyndis, (Ponnani ), Muziris, near Kodungallur, Nelcynda (Niranam), Bacare, Belitha, and Comari (Kanyakumari) long before the time of Christ.[27][28] Thomas the Apostle in one of these ships, arrived at Muziris in 52, from E’zion-ge’ber on the Red Sea.[29] He started his gospel mission among the Jews at "Maliyankara" on the sea coast.[30]

Jews were living in Kerala from the time of Solomon.[31] Later large number of them arrived in 586 BC and 72 AD. The drawings and its captions on the wall of the only remaining Jewish Synagogue in Kerala, at Mattancherry, Kochi near Ernakulam endorse these facts.

During his stay in Kerala, the apostle baptized the Jews and some of the wise men[32] who adored the Infant Jesus.[33] The Apostle also preached in other parts of India. He was martyred in 72 at Little Mount, a little distant from St. Thomas Mount, and was buried at San Thome, near the modern city of Chennai.[34]

The Apostle established seven churches in Malabar at Kodungalloor (Muziris), Paravur, Palayoor, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal (Nilackal) and Kollam. The visit of the Apostle Thomas to these places and to Mylapore on the East coast of India can be read in the Ramban Songs of Thomas Ramban, set into 'moc', 1500.[34]

Several ancient writers mention India as the scene of Thomas’ labours. Ephrem the Syrian (300–378) in a hymn about the relics of Thomas at Edessa depicts Satan exclaiming, “The Apostle whom I killed in India comes to meet me in Edessa. Gregory Nazianzen,(329–389), in a homily says; “What! were not the Apostles foreigners? Granting that Judea was the country of Peter, what had Saul to do with the Gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus, Thomas with India, Mark with Italy?.” Ambrose (340–397) writes “When the Lord Jesus said to the Apostles, go and teach all nations, even the kingdoms that had been shut off by the barbaric mountains lay open to them as India to Thomas, as Persia to Mathew.”

There are other passages in ancient liturgies and martyrologies which refer to the work of Thomas in India. These passages indicate that the tradition that Thomas died in India was widespread among the early churches.[35]

An icon of St.Thomas

Many writers have mentioned that the apostle established seven “and a half” churches in Malabar.[36][37] They are:[38]

  1. Maliankara - Kodungalloor
  2. North Paravur (Kottakayal)
  3. Niranam
  4. Palayoor
  5. Nilackal (Chayal)
  6. Kokkamangalam
  7. Kollam
  8. Thiruvithancode - This is called a half church or a church made on land donated by the local king or arajan (arappally in Malayalam)

During his stay in Kerala, the Apostle baptized the Jews and some of the wise men [32] who adored the Infant Jesus.[33] The Apostle preached also in other parts of India. In the year 72 he was martyred at Little Mount a little distance from St. Thomas Mount, and was buried at San Thome, near the modern city of Chennai[38]' A monastery was later built there by the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century.[citation needed] The body of Apostle Thomas was translated to Edessa, Iraq. It is now in Ortona, Italy. Relics of Apostle Thomas were translated to the San Thome Cathedral in Chennai and to St Thomas Church in Palayur,near Guruvayoor at Chavakkad Taluk, Thrissur District in Kerala.[39]

There are other passage in ancient liturgies and martyrologies which refer to the work of St. Thomas in India. These passages indicate that the tradition that St. Thomas died in India was widespread among the early churches.[35]

St. Ephraem, the great doctor of the Syrian Church, writes in the forty-second of his "Carmina Nisibina" that the Apostle was put to death in India, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa, brought there by a merchant.[40]

Several ancient writers mention India as the scene of St. Thomas’ labours. St. Ephraem, the Syrian (AD 300-378) in a hymn about the relics of St. Thomas at Edessa depicts Satan exclaiming, “The Apostle whom I killed in India comes to meet me in Edessa.” St. Gregory Nazianzen,(329-389), in a homily says; “What! were not the Apostles foreigners? Granting that Judea was the country of Peter, what had Saul to do with the Gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus, Thomas with India, Mark with Italy? St. Ambrose (340-397) writes “When the Lord Jesus said to the Apostles, go and teach all nations, even the kingdoms that had been shut off by the barbaric mountains lay open to them as India to Thomas, as Persia to Mathew.”

Doctrine of the Apostles states that, “India and all its countries . . . received the Apostle’s hand of priesthood from Judas Thomas….” From 345 AD, when Knanaya Christians arrived from Persia, they had continued the relationship with their home Church in Persia, which was also established by St. Thomas the apostle.

Rough chronology[edit]

The Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kodungaloor, Kerala, India. Believed to be one of the seven churches built by St. Thomas.
The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Palayur, Kerala. Believed to be one of the seven churches said to be built by Thomas.
The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kottakayal, North Paravur, Kerala. Believed to be one of the seven churches said to be built by Thomas.
The St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Niranam, Kerala. Believed to be one of the seven churches said to be built by Thomas.
The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kokkamangalam, Kerala. Believed to be one of the seven churches said to be built by Thomas.
Thiruvithamcode Arappally or St. Mary's Orthodox Church, was said to be founded by Thomas in 63. It is known as Arapalli, short form of Arachan Palli (King’s Church).
St Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kudamaloor was built by the king of Chempakassery in AD 1125

Following is a rough chronology of events associated with St. Thomas Christianity.[41]

1st century[edit]

2nd century[edit]

4th century[edit]

  • 325 Archbishop John, of Persia and Great India, at the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea.
  • 345 First migration from Persia – Thomas of Cana landed at Cranganore with 72 families.
  • 340–360 By the Thazhekad Sasanam written in Pali the language the canonical language of Buddhists, the Nasranies granted special rights and privileges.[44]
  • 345[45]Kuravilangad Church (Now Martha Mariam Catholic church) built by the first settlers who came from Kodungalloor.
  • Arrival of Mar Joseph of Edessa.

6th century[edit]

8th century[edit]

  • 774 Emperor Veera Raghava gives copperplate to Iravikorthan.

9th century[edit]

13th century[edit]

  • 1225 North Pudukkad church founded.
  • 1293 Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler, visited the tomb of St. Thomas (at Mylapore).

14th century[edit]

15th century[edit]

  • 1490 Two Nestorian bishops John and Thomas in Kerala.
  • 1494 June 7 Treaty of Tordesillas. Division of the world and mission lands between Spain and Portugal.
  • 1498 May 20 Vasco de Gama lands at Kappad near Kozhikode.
  • 1499 Cabral’s fleet carried a vicar, eight secular priests, and eight Franciscans to Kozhikode,[48]
  • 1499. In Calicut, the friars reputedly converted a Brahman and some leading Nayars.[49]

16th century[edit]

  • 1502 November 7 Vasco de Gama's second visit to Cochin.
  • 1503 Dominican Priests at Kochi.
  • 1503 Mar Yabella, Mar Denaha and Mar Yakoob from Persia in Kerala.
  • 1503 September 27 Work commenced on Cochin Fort and the Santa Cruz church .
  • 1514 Portuguese Padroado begun.
  • 1514 Jewish migration from Kodungalloor to Kochi.
  • 1514 June 12 Portuguese Funchal rule over Christians in India.
  • 1524 December 24 Vasco de Gama buried at St. Francis Church, Fort Cochin.
  • 1534 November 3 Goa Catholic Diocese erected. The Parishes of Kannur, Cochin, Quilon, Colombo and Sao Tome (Madras) belonged to it.
  • 1540 The Franciscan Fr.Vincent De Lagos starts the Cranganore Seminary.
  • 1542 May 6 St. Francis Xavier, Apostolic Nuncio in the East, reaches Goa.
  • 1544–45 St. Francis Xavier in Travancore.
  • 1548 Dominican Monastery founded in Cochin.
  • 1549 Mar Abuna Jacob, A Chaldean Bishop, stayed at St. Antonio Monastery, Cochin.
  • 1550 First Jesuit House in Kochi.
  • 1552 December 3 Death of St. Francis Xavier.
  • 1555 Mattancherry Palace was built by Portuguese for the King of Cochin.
  • 1557 Pope Paul IV erects the Diocese of Cochin. Canonization process of Francis Xavier begun at Cochin.
  • 1565 Archdiocese of Angamaly erected.
  • 1567 Jews constructed a temple at Mattancherry[50]
  • 1568 Synagogue of White Jews built in Cochin.
  • 1577 Vaippicotta Seminary of the Jesuits started.
  • 1579 Augustinians reached Cochin.
  • 1583 Synod at Angamaly by Bishop Mar Abraham.
  • 1597 Bishop Mar Abraham, the last foreign Archbishop, died and was laid to rest at St. Hormis church, Angamaly.
  • 1599 December 20 Fr. Francis Roz was declared bishop of Angamaly.
  • 1599 June 20–26 Archbishop Alexis Menezes convenes the Synod of Diamper (Udayamperoor).

17th century[edit]

  • 1600 August 4 Padroado rule imposed on Nasranis.
  • 1601 Francis Roz was appointed as the first Latin bishop of the St. Thomas Christians.
  • 1609 December 3 Erection of the Diocese of Cranganore. The Archdiocese of Angamaly suppressed.
  • 1610 December 22 The Metropolitan of Goa limits the Pastoral Jurisdiction of Nasranis to Malabar.
  • 1624 Dominican Seminary at Kaduthuruthy.
  • 1626 February 5 Edappally Ashram started for the Religious Community of St. Thomas Christians
  • 1652 August 23 Mar Ahatallah in Madras, not allowed to enter Kerala.
  • 1653 January 3 Coonan Cross Oath at Mattancherry, Cochin.
  • 1653 May 22 Malankara Mooppen (Elder)Thomas Kathanar, ordained as Mar Thoma I at Alangad by the laying of hands by 12 priests.
  • 1653–1670 Mar Thoma I.
  • 1657 Apostolic Commissary Joseph of St. Mary OCD (Sebastiani), a Carmelite, in Malabar.
  • 1659 December 3 The Vicariate of Malabar is erected by Pope Alexander VII.
  • 1659 December 24 Joseph Sebastini bishop and appointed the Vicar Apostolic of Malabar.
  • 1663 January 6 The Dutch conquer Cochin and destroy Catholic churches and institutions in Cochin, except the Cathedral and the church of St. Francis Assisi.
  • 1665 Mar Gregorius Abdul Jaleel, believed to be from Antioch confirms the consecration of Marthoma I.
  • 1670–1686 Mar Thoma II.Portuguese starts campaigning to bring Nasranis again under Catholicism.
  • 1682 Seminary for Syrians at Verapoly.
  • 1685 Eldho Mor Baselios of Syrian Orthodox Church arrives at Kothamangalam from Persia.
  • 1686 Hortus Malabaricus in 12 volumes printed in 17 years. Mathoma III ordained by Mar Ivanios Hirudyathulla (from Antioch).
  • 1686–1688 Mar Thoma III.
  • 1688–1728 Mar Thoma IV.

18th century[edit]

  • 1709 March 13 Vicariate of Malabar is suppressed and the Vicariate of Verapoly is erected by Pope Clement XI.
  • 1718–1723 Ollur St. Anthony's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church was established.
  • 1728–1765 Mar Thoma V.
  • 1765–1808 Mar Thoma VI (Dionysius I)
  • 1772 First Malayalam book Sampskhepa Vedartham (Rome) by Clement Pianius.
  • 1773 Pope Clement XIV suppresses the Jesuit Order, except in Russia and Prussia.
  • 1782 December 16 Kariyattil Joseph elected Archbp. of Cranganore; Consecr. Lisbon 1783; Died Goa on the way back to Malabar,9th Sept. 1786.
  • 1785 Varthamanappusthakam, the first written travelogue in India by Paremakkal Thoma Kathanar.
  • 1795 October 20 Conquest of Cochin by the British.

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

1909–1934 St. Geevarghese Mar Dionysius of Vattasseril (Dionysius VI), Malankara Metropolitan, Jacobite Church.

  • 1910–1944 Mar Thoma XVITitus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan.
  • 1911–1917 Paulose Mor Koorilose Kochuparambil. Malankara Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church.)
  • 1912, September 15 Patriarch HH Abdul Messiah, Patriarch of Antiochea established the Catholicate of the East at Niranam St. Mary’s Church.[54]
  • 1912–1914 Moran Mor Baselios Paulose I, Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Catholicos
  • 1917–1953 St. Paulose Mor Athanasius (Valiya Thirumeni, Malankara Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church.)
  • 1923 December 21 Reinstated the Syro Malabar Catholic Church Hierarchy for Syrian Catholics with Ernakulam as the Metropolitan See, Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil as the Metropolitan and Head of the Church, and Trichur, Changanacherry and Kottayam as sufragan Sees.
  • 1925–1928 Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese I, Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Catholicos.
  • 1927 March 19 Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Destitute.
  • 1929 October 5 Death of Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly.
  • 1929–1934 Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese II, Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Catholicos.
  • 1930 September 20 Mar Ivanios with Mar Theophilus left Malankara Orthodox Church, joined the Catholic Church and formed the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.[55]
  • 1931 Mor Elias III, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East left Mosul on February 6, 1931 accompanied by Mor Clemis Yuhanon Abbachi, Rabban Quryaqos (later Mor Ostathios Quryaqos), and Rabban Yeshu` Samuel, his secretary Zkaryo Shakir and translator Elias Ghaduri. They set sail to India on February 28, 1931 from Basra.
  • 1932 Moran Mor Elias III, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East was buried near St. Stephen’s church Manjanikkara on Sunday Feb 13
  • 1932 June 11 The establishment of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy by Pope Pius XI. Mar Ivanios becomes Archbishop of Trivandrum, and Mar Theophilus Bishop of Tiruvalla.
  • 1934 Malankara Syrian Church accepts new constitution.
  • 1934–1964 Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese II, Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Catholicose of the East & Malankara Metropolitan).
  • 1944–1947 Mar Thoma XVIIAbraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan.
  • 1947–1976 Mar Thoma XVIIIJuhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan.
  • 1947 November 2 Bishop Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala declared first native Indian saint along with Catholicos Baselios Eldho.
  • 1950 July 18 The Portuguese Padroado over the Diocese of Cochin (from 1557 February 4 till 1950 July 18) suppressed and the Diocese of Cochin handed over to native clergy.
  • 1952 December 28–31 Jubilee Celebration of St. Thomas and St. Francis Xavier at Ernakulam.
  • 1961 January 26 St. Thomas Evangelical Church was inaugurated (Separated from the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar)
  • 1964–1975 Moran Mor Baselios Augen I, Malankara Orthodox Catholicose of the East & Malankara Metropolitan).
  • 1972 Fraction split in Malankara Syrian Church as 'Jacobite fraction' (in favour of full submission to the Antiochian Patriarch) and 'Orthodox fraction' (in favour of autocephaly).
  • 1972 December 27, The 19th Centenary of the Martydom of St. Thomas the Apostle is celebrated at Ernakulam under the auspices of Orthodox, Catholic, Jacobite, Marthoma and C.S.I. Churches.
  • 1973 July 3 The Governor of Kerala and the Cardinal release the St. Thomas stamp and the T.En.II for sale.
  • 1975–1991 Moran Mor Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I, Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Catholicose of the East & Malankara Metropolitan).
  • 1975–1996 Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose II, Malankara Syriac Orthodox (Jacobite) Catholicoi and Malankara Metropolitan
  • 1976-1999Mar Thoma XIX – Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan.
  • 1986 February 1–10 Visit of Pope John Paul II to India.
  • 1986 February 8 Fr. Chavara Kuriakose Elias and Sr. Alphonsa are proclaimed blessed by Pope John Paul II.

21st century[edit]

Early history[edit]

Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine (centre) and the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325) holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.

Doctrine of the Apostles states that, “India and all its countries . . . received the Apostle’s hand of priesthood from Judas Thomas….” From an early period the Church of St. Thomas Christians came into a lifelong relationship with the Church of Persia[citation needed], which was also established by Thomas the apostle according to early Christian writings. The Primate or Metropolitan of Persia consecrated bishops for the Indian Church, which brought it indirectly under the control of Seleucia.[56]

The Church of the East traces its origins to the See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, said to be founded by Thomas the Apostle. Other founding figures are Saint Mari and Saint Addai as evidenced in the Doctrine of Addai and the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari. This is the original Christian church in what was once Parthia: eastern Iraq and Iran. The See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon developing within the Persian Empire, at the east of the Christian world, rapidly took a different course from other Eastern Christians.

The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day İznik in Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first Ecumenical council of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. It is documented that Mar John, the Bishop of Great India attended the council. The prelate signs himself as “John the Persian presiding over the Churches in the whole of Persia and Great India.” [57] Some centuries following, the Persian Church suffered severe persecutions. The persecuted Christians and even Bishops, at least on two occasions, sought an asylum in Malabar.[citation needed]

The Rock crosses of Kerala found at St.Thomas Mount and throughout Malabar coast has inscriptions in Pahlavi and Syriac. It is dated from to 7th century.[citation needed]

In 825, the arrival of two bishops are documented, Mar Sapor and Mar Prodh[citation needed]. Le Quien says that “these bishops were Chaldaeans and had come to Quilon soon after its foundation. They were men illustrious for their sanctity, and their memory was held sacred in the Malabar Church. They constructed many churches and, during their lifetime, the Christian religion flourished especially in the kingdom of Diamper[citation needed].

The beginning of Kolla Varsham resulted in the origin of Christianity in Kerala as an individual religion outside vedic Vaishnavism[citation needed]

The Church after Thomas[edit]

In 190, Pantaenus, probably the founder of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, visited India and the Nasranis.[58]

The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day İznik in Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first Ecumenical council of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. Many historians have written that ‘’Mar John, the Bishop of Great India’’ attended the council.[citation needed]

Church life bore characteristics of a church which had its origin and growth outside the Graeco-Roman world. There was no centralized administrative structure on a monarchical pattern. The territorial administrative system which developed after the diocesan pattern within the eastern and western Roman empires did not exist in the Indian Church. “They have the uncorrupted Testament Which they believe was translated for them by St. Thomas the apostle himself.”[59]

Theophilus (ca 354) as recorded by church historian Philostorgius mentions about a church, priests, liturgy, in the immediate vicinity of the Maldives, which can only apply to a Christian church and faithful on the adjacent coast of India. The people referred to were the Christians known as a body who had their liturgy in the Syriac language and inhabited the west coast of India, i.e., Malabar.[citation needed]

Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379. During that period, there was persecution against Christians. So in AD 345 under the leadership of Thomas of Cana 72 families landed at Muziris near Cranganore. They formed the group known as Knanaya Christians. They cooperated with the Malankara Church, attended worship services together but remained a separate identity They had regular visitors from their home land. Some of their priests and bishops visited them. But these visiting bishops had no authority over Saint Thomas Christians.[60]

The Church is mentioned by Cosmas Indicopleustes (about 535). He notes that, "There are Christians and believers in Taprobane (Sri Lanka) , in Malabar where pepper grows there is a Christian Church. At a place known as Kalyan, there is a bishop sent from Persia.”.[61][62]

St. Gregory of Tours, before 590, reports that Theodore[disambiguation needed], a pilgrim who had gone to Gaul, told him that in that part of India where the corpus (bones) of St. Thomas had first rested, there stood a monastery and a church of striking dimensions and elaborately adorned, adding: "After a long interval of time these remains had been removed thence to the city of Edessa." [40]

Early Rituals and Culture[edit]

The life-style of the Saint Thomas Christians might be stated as “Indian in culture, Christian in faith and Oriental in worship”.[citation needed]

Social and culture[edit]

Socially and culturally these Saint Thomas Christians remain as a part of the wider Indian community. They keep their Indian social customs, names and practices relating to birth, marriage, and death. They have Biblical names (Mar Thoma Christian names). At the same time they follow a number of Jewish customs like worship, baptism, wedding and other ceremonies which are entirely different from Western Churches.[citation needed]

Collection of deeds[edit]

The rulers of Kerala, always appreciated the contributions of St. Thomas Christians to the country and society. Thazhekad sasanam and deeds on copper plates bear witness to it. Five sheets of the three copper plates are now in the custody of St. Thomas Christians.[citation needed]

  1. Thazhekad sasanam is one of the earliest surviving edicts granting special privileges to the St Thomas Christians. The edict dating back to about 340-360 AD was written on stone and provides proof of the early existence of St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.[citation needed]
  2. Iravi Corttan Deed: In the year 774 AD. Sri Vira Raghava Chakravarti, gave a deed to Iravi Corttan of Mahadevarpattanam.[citation needed]
  3. Tharissa palli Deed I: Perumal Sthanu Ravi Gupta (844-885) gave a deed in 849 AD, to Isodatta Virai for Tharissa Palli (church) at Curakkeni Kollam. According to historians, this is the first deed in Kerala that gives the exact date.[63]
  4. Tharissa palli Deed II: As Continuation of the above deed was given after 849 AD.[citation needed]

First 15 centuries[edit]

In 883 King Alfred the great of Wessex in England sent donations to the Christians in Malabar.[64][non-primary source needed][65] Marco Polo visited Malabar on his return journey from China. He wrote about the people whom he saw in Malabar, this way. “The people are idolaters, though there are some Christians and Jews among them. They speak a language of their own. The king is tributary to none.” [66][67]

Persian Rock crosses[edit]

The two Rock crosses of Kerala are found at Kottayam, one each at Kadamattam, Muttuchira and at St.Thomas Mount,in Mylapore. and throughout Malabar coast has inscriptions in Pahlavi and Syriac. The earliest is the small cross at Kottayam dated 7th century.[citation needed]

Persian bishops in Malabar[edit]

In 829 CE, the Udayamperoor (Diamper) church was built.

  • Kadamattathu Kathanar

A priest (or bishop) from Persia Mar Abo came to Kadamattom. With the help of a widow and her son, he built a small hut and lived there. He called the boy Poulose. Mar Abo taught him Syriac and later ordained him as a deacon. After this deacon Poulose disappeared for twelve years. It is said that he went to abyss and learned witchcraft. He is well known in Kerala as Kadamattathu Kathanar. Mar Abo died and was buried in Thevalakara church (now St. Mary’s Orthodox Church).[68][69]

History of Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches in Malankara[edit]

Open Air Rock Cross also called Nasrany Sthambams in front of the Martha Mariam Syro Malabar Church at Kuravilangadu, Kerala

When the Portuguese arrived in 1498, the Christians of St. Thomas (Syrian Christians) in Kerala had free exercise of their religion.[citation needed]


Visits from Rome to Malabar[edit]

There are many accounts of visits from Rome, before the arrival of Portuguese.

John of Monte Corvino, was a Franciscan missionary who traveled from Persia and moved down by sea to India, in 1291[56]

John of Monte Corvino, was a Franciscan Odoric of Pordenone who arrived in India in 1321. He visited Malabar, touching at Pandarani (20 m. north of Calicut), at Cranganore, and at Kulam or Quilon.[70]

Father Jordanus, a Dominican, followed in 1321-22. He reported to Rome, apparently from somewhere on the west coast of India, that he had given Christian burial to four martyred monks.[56] Jordanus, between 1324 and 1328 (if not earlier), probably visited Kulam and selected it as for his future work. He was appointed a bishop in 1328 and nominated by Pope John XXII in his bull Venerabili Fratri Jordano to the see of Columbum or Kulam (Quilon) on 21 August 1329. This diocese was the first in the whole of the Indies, with jurisdiction over modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Sri Lanka.[71]

In 1347, Giovanni de' Marignolli visited Malabar.[72]

Another prominent Indian traveler was Joseph, priest over Cranganore. He journeyed to Babylon in 1490 and then sailed to Europe and visited Portugal, Rome, and Venice before returning to India. He helped to write a book about his travels titled The Travels of Joseph the Indian which was widely disseminated across Europe.[56]

Medieval period[edit]

Prior to the Portuguese arrival in India in 1498, the Church of the East's See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon provided "Prelates" to the Saint Thomas Christians in India.[citation needed] This practise continued even after the arrival of the Portuguese till the Synod of Diamper (held in Udayamperoor) in 1599.[citation needed]

There are many accounts of missionary activities before the arrival of Portuguese in and around Malabar. John of Monte Corvino was a Franciscan sent to China to become prelate of Peking about the year 1307. He traveled from Persia and moved down by sea to India in 1291, to the South India region or “Country of St. Thomas”.[56] There he preached for thirteen months and baptized about one hundred persons. From there Monte Corvino wrote home, in December 1291 (or 1292). That is one of the earliest noteworthy accounts of the Coromandel coast furnished by any Western European. Traveling by sea from Mailapur[disambiguation needed], he reached China in 1294, appearing in the capital “Cambaliech” (now Beijing)[73]

Odoric of Pordenone arrived in India in 1321. He visited Malabar, touching at Pandarani (20 m. north of Calicut), at Cranganore, and at Kulam or Quilon, proceeding thence, apparently, to Ceylon and to the shrine of St. Thomas at Mailapur[disambiguation needed], South India. He writes he had found the place where Thomas was buried.[70]

Father Jordanus, a Dominican, followed in 1321–22. He reported to Rome, apparently from somewhere on the west coast of India, that he had given Christian burial to four martyred monks.[56] Jordanus, between 1324 and 1328 (if not earlier), probably visited Kulam and selected it as the best centre for his future work; it would also appear that he revisited Europe about 1328, passing through Persia, and perhaps touching at the great Crimean port of Soidaia or Sudak. He was appointed a bishop in 1328 and nominated by Pope John XXII in his bull Venerabili Fratri Jordano to the see of Columbum or Kulam (Quilon) on 21 August 1329. This diocese was the first in the whole of the Indies, with jurisdiction over modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Sri Lanka.[71]

Either before going out to Malabar as bishop, or during a later visit to the west, Jordanus probably wrote his Mirabilia, which from internal evidence can only be fixed within the period 1329–1338; in this work he furnished the best account of Indian regions, products, climate, manners, customs, fauna and flori given by any European in the Middle Ages – superior even to Marco Polo's. In his triple division of the Indies, India Major comprises the shorelands from Malabar to Cochin China; while India Minor stretches from Sindh (or perhaps from Baluchistan) to Malabar; and India Tertia (evidently dominated by African conceptions in his mind) includes a vast undefined coast-region west of Baluchistan, reaching into the neighborhood of, but not including, Ethiopia and Prester John's domain.[71]

In 1347, Giovanni de' Marignolli visited the shrine of St Thomas in South India, and then proceeded to what he calls the kingdom of Saba, and identifies with the Sheba of Scripture, but which seems from various particulars to have been Java. Taking ship again for Malabar on his way to Europe, he encountered great storms.[74]

Another prominent Indian traveler was Joseph, priest over Cranganore. He journeyed to Babylon in 1490 and then sailed to Europe and visited Portugal, Rome, and Venice before returning to India. He helped to write a book about his travels titled The Travels of Joseph the Indian which was widely disseminated across Europe.[56]

When the Portuguese arrived on the Malabar Coast, the Christian communities that they found there had had longstanding traditional links with the See of Seleucia-Ctesiphonin Mesopotamia.[citation needed]

During the subsequent period, in 1552, a split occurred within the Assyrian Church of the East forming the Chaldean Church, the latter entered into communion with Rome. After the split each church had its own patriarch; the Chaldean Church was headed by the Patriarch Mar Yohannan Sulaqa (1553–1555). Both claim to be the rightful heir to the East Syrian tradition. It is very difficult to see the precise influence of this schism on the Church of Malabar as there was always overtones to Rome in earlier centuries. Apparently, both parties sent bishops to India.[citation needed]

The last East Syrian Metropolitan before the schism, Mar Jacob (1504–1552), died in 1552. Catholicos Simeon VII Denkha sent a prelate to India, in the person of Mar Abraham, who was later to be the last Syrian Metropolitan of Malabar, after having gone over to the Chaldaean side. It is not known when he arrived in Malabar, but he must have been there already by 1556. Approximately at the same time, Chaldaean Patriarch Abdisho IV (1555–1567), the successor of Yohannan Sulaqa (murdered in 1555), sent the brother of John, Mar Joseph, to Malabar as a Chaldaean bishop; although consecrated in 1555 or 1556, Mar Joseph could not reach India before the end of 1556, nor Malabar before 1558. He was accompanied by another Chaldaean bishop, Mar Eliah.[citation needed]

Colonialism and St Thomas Christians[edit]

Portuguese[edit]

The Portuguese erected a Latin diocese in Goa (1534) and another at Cochin (1558) in the hope of bringing the Thomas Christians under their jurisdiction. In a Goan Synod held in 1585 it was decided to introduce the Latin liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians.[citation needed]

Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa from 1595 until his death in 1617 decided to bring the Kerala Christians to obedience after the death of Bishop Mar Abraham (the last Syrian Metropolitan of Malabar, laid to rest at St. Hormis church, Angamaly), an obedience that they conceived as complete conformity to the Roman or ‘Latin’ customs. This meant separating the Nasranis not only from the Catholicosate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, but also from the Chaldaean Patriarchate of Babylon, and subjecting them directly to the Latin Archbishopric of Goa.[citation needed]

The Portuguese refused to accept the legitimate authority of the Indian hierarchy and its relation with the East Syrians, and in 1599 at the Synod of Diamper (held in Udayamperur), the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa imposed a large number of Latinizations. The Portuguese succeeded in appointing a Latin bishop to govern the Thomas Christians, and the local Christians’ customs were officially anathematised as heretical and their manuscripts were condemned to be either corrected or burnt. The Portuguese padroado (’patronage’) was extended over them. From 1599 up to 1896 these Christians were under the Latin Bishops who were appointed either by the Portuguese Padroado or by the Roman Congregation of Propaganda Fide. Every attempt to resist the latinization process was branded heretical by them. Under the indigenous leader, archdeacon, the Thomas Christians resisted, but the result was disastrous.[citation needed]

The oppressive rule of the Portuguese padroado provoked a violent reaction on the part of the indigenous Christian community. The first solemn protest took place in 1653, known as the Koonan Kurishu Satyam (Coonan Cross Oath). Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, a part of the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath in Matancherry, Cochin, that they would not obey the Portuguese bishops and the Jesuit missionaries. In the same year, in Alangad, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained, by the laying on of hands of twelve priests, as the first known indigenous Metropolitan of Kerala, under the name Mar Thoma I.

After the Coonan Cross Oath, between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Catholics claimed eighty-four churches, and the Archdeacon Mar Thoma I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Catholic Church have descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur (1772), Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians) (1874), Syro Malankra Catholic Church have originated.[75] In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch arrived in India.[76][77] This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma faction claiming spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introduced the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.

The arrival of Mar Gregorios in 1665 marked the beginning of the association with the West Syrian Church.Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites. Those who continued with East Syrian theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper are known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in communion with the Catholic Church. They got their own Syro-Malabar Hierarchy on 21 December 1923 with the Metropolitan Mar Augustine Kandathil as the Head of their Church.[78]

St. Thomas Christians by this process got divided into East Syrians and West Syrians.

On May 4, 1493, Pope Alexander VI granted Portugal the right to develop and send missions east of a demarcation line. When India had been reached, Portugal assumed that India was theirs to develop.[41]

On May 20, 1498, Vasco de Gama landed at Kappad near Kozhikode (Calicut).[41] In 1499, explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral landed at Kozhikode.[41] In 1500, Joseph, a priest, told the Pope Alexander VI, in an audience, that Indian Christians accept the Patriarch of Babylon as their spiritural leader.[41] On November 26, 1500, Franciscan Friars landed at Cochin.[41] On November 7, 1502 de Gama lands at Cochin.[41]

When the Portuguese first discovered the Christians, they felt satisfied that their centuries-old dream of discovering eastern Christians had been fulfilled. They set great hopes on the St.Thomas Christians. These Christians too on their part experienced a spontaneous relief and joy at the arrival of powerful Christians from the West and desired the newcomer’s help to strengthen their own privileges in India. So their arrival was enthusiastically welcomed by the local church. In fact, when Vasco da Gama arrived at Cochin on his second voyage (1502), a delegation of Thomas Christians went and met him and implored protection. In 1503, Dominican Priests, Catholic missionaries, were in Kochi.[41] In 1503, Mar Yabella, Mar Denaha and Mar Yakoob from Persia went to Kerala.[41] In 1503 the Portuguese commenced work on Cochin Fort and the Santa Cruz church.[41]

There were about thirty thousand St. Thomas families in Malabar in 1504.[citation needed][79] A letter written by East Syrian bishops announces the arrival of the Portuguese and the friendly relationship between them and the St.Thomas Christians.

Cordial relations continued for two decades. However, Portuguese penetrating into the interior where they actually came face-to-face with St. Thomas Christians, realized that these Christians were neither subject to Rome, nor were they following Church traditions. To their dismay they found that these Christians were followers of the East Syrian Church, and its bishops looked after them, and the Patriarch in Babylonia was considered their ecclesiastical superior. Since the Pope had granted to the Portuguese crown sovereign rights over the eastern lands which come under their sway, the Portuguese thought, that is their right to bring the Thomas Christians under their control. To achieve this aim, the Portuguese worked among the local church for one and a half centuries.

The Portuguese missionaries were ignorant of the Oriental traditions of the Indian Church. They were convinced that anything different from the Western Church was schismatic and heretical. Hence they wanted to Latinize the Syrian Christians of India. The visitors were appalled at the tolerance for other religions that was displayed by the locals.

In 1514, the Portuguese Padroado began. In 1514 Jewish people migrated from Kodungalloor to Kochi.[41] On June 12, 1514 the Portuguese colony at Funchal began their dominion over Christians in India.[41] On December 23, 1524 de Gama was buried at St. Francis Church, Fort Cochin.[41] In 1534 the Goa Catholic Diocese was erected. The parishes of Kannur, Cochin, Quilon, Colombo and Sao Tome (Madras) were part of it.[41] In 1540 Franciscan Fr. Vincent De Lagos started the Cranganore Seminary to train native priests.[41] On May 6, 1542 St. Francis Xavier, Apostolic Nuncio in the East, reached Goa. He was in Travancore between 1544 and 1545.[41] In 1548 a Dominican Monastery was founded in Cochin.[41] In 1549 Mar Abuna Jacob, a Chaldean Bishop, stayed at St. Antonio Monastery, Cochin.[41] In 1550, the first Jesuit House was erected in Kochi. Xavier died on December 3, 1552.[41]

Mar Jacob, the last East Syrian bishop, led the Church until his death in 1552. After his death, the Roman Catholics tightened their efforts to subdue the Church. They directed their energy towards terminating the arrival of bishops from Babylon. Even those who came disguised were caught and executed or tortured into embracing Roman Catholicism. Two or three bishops did arrive from the East Syrian Church after the death of Jacob and were harassed. Mar Abraham, who was among them, led the local church until 1599.[citation needed]

During the subsequent period, in 1552, a split occurred within the Church of the East. Part of it joined Rome, so that besides the Catholicosate of the East another, Chaldean Patriarchate was founded, headed by the Patriarch Mar Yohannan Sulaqa (1553–1555). Both claim to be the rightful heir to the East Syrian tradition. It is very difficult to see the precise influence of this schism on the Church of Malabar as there was always overtones to Rome in earlier centuries. Apparently, both parties sent bishops to India.[citation needed]

The last East Syrian Metropolitan before the schism, Mar Jacob (1504–1552), died in 1552. Catholicos Simeon VII Denkha sent a prelate to India, in the person of Mar Abraham, who was later to be the last Syrian Metropolitan of Malabar, after having gone over to the Chaldaean side. It is not known when he arrived in Malabar, but he must have been there already by 1556. Approximately at the same time, Chaldaean Patriarch Abdisho IV (1555–1567) sent the brother of John, Mar Joseph, to Malabar as a Chaldaean bishop. Although consecrated in 1555 or 1556, Mar Joseph could not reach India before the end of 1556, nor Malabar before 1558. He was accompanied by another Chaldaean bishop, Mar Eliah.[citation needed]

The Portuguese erected a Latin diocese in Goa in 1534 and another at Cochin in 1558 in the hope of bringing the Thomas Christians under their jurisdiction. In a Goan Synod held in 1585 it was decided to introduce the Latin liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians.[citation needed]

The Portuguese built the Mattancherry Palace for the King of Cochin in 1555.[41] Pope Paul IV erected the Diocese of Cochin in 1557.[41] The canonization process of Francis Xavier began at Cochin.[41] The pope erected the 1565 Archdiocese of Angamaly in 1565.[41] [41] The Jesuits started the seminary at Vaippicotta in 1577.[41] The Roman Catholic order of Augustinians reached Cochin in 1579.[41] In 1583, Bishop Mar Abraham convoked a synod at Angamaly.[41]


Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa from 1595 until his death in 1617 decided to bring the Kerala Christians under obedience after the death of Bishop Mar Abraham (the last Syrian Metropolitan of Malabar, laid to rest at St. Hormis church, Angamaly), an obedience that they conceived as complete conformity to the Roman or ‘Latin’ customs. This meant separating the Nasranis not only from the Catholicosate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, but also from the Chaldaean Patriarchate of Babylon, and subjecting them directly to the Latin Archbishopric of Goa.[citation needed]

In 1597, Bishop Mar Abraham, the last foreign Archbishop, died and was buried at St. Hormis church, Angamaly.[41]

The Synod of Diamper (1599)[edit]

Immediately after the death of the local bishop, Mar Abraham, in 1599, Archbishop of Goa Aleixo de Menezes (1595–1617) convoked a Synod of Diamper and imposed Latinization and Western ecclesiastical traditions on the local Church of India. The Portuguese extended the Padroado Agreement in their evangelization programme over India brought the Indian Church under this jurisdiction.[80]

Menezes controlled the synod completely. He convoked it, presided over it, framed its decrees and executed them.

The synod lasted for eight days. Almost all of the decrees were framed not in the synod after due discussion but 15 days or earlier prior to the meeting. Many of the decrees were framed after the Synod as the archbishop desired. The synodal decrees were passed by threats and terror methods, and autocratically as desired by the archbishop. The decrees forced conformance of the local church to the practices of Roman Catholics, in faith, polity, and discipline. It decreed submission to the pope. The Patriarch of Babylon was condemned as a heretic and contact with him declared highly perilous inviting spiritual dangers.

The Catholic Church appointed Fr. Francis Roz bishop of Angamaly in 1599.[41] In August, 1600 Padroado rule was imposed on the Nasranis.[41] The church appointed Roz as the first Latin bishop of the St. Thomas Christians in 1601.[41] The church erected the Diocese of Cranganore in 1609. They suppressed the Archdiocese of Angamaly.[41] The Metropolitan of Goa limited the pastoral jurisdiction of Nasranis to Malabar in 1610.[41] A Dominican Seminary was started at Kaduthuruthy in 1624.[41] In 1626, Edappally Ashram was started for the religious community of St. Thomas Christians[41]

Rome then used non-Portuguese European missionaries. About half of the people did not yield to Rome.[citation needed] Through this period the local church lacked adequate knowledge of theology and church history, yet it still maintained its Eastern character and ecclesiastical freedom. Among all the efforts that were undertaken to subdue the Thomas Christians, the efforts of the Jesuits, a religious order that had been framed in the context of reformation in Europe, were notable. They established a clergy training centre at Vaipikotta to train native clergy in Occidental style. The major architects behind the convocation, deliberations, framing and executing the decrees of the Synod, were the Vaipikotta Jesuits. Apart from these the administration of the local church was also entrusted to them. Until 1653, three Jesuit bishops ruled over the church executing the decrees of that Synod.

The Malabar church was required to follow the norms declared by the Council of Trent. Priests must be celibate. The church had to be divided into parishes with the parish priest directly appointed by the Portuguese church authorities, replacing the native regime and bishopric. The powers and offices of the Roman bishop clashed with that of the archdeacon, so the latter's office was weakened, though there was still an incumbent. The church was required to abandon perceived "errors" which Jesuits believed had crept into its life from the Indian milieu. All Syriac books had to be handed over for burning so that no memory of those rites remained.

These events immediately followed the synod:

  • The appointment of a Latin bishop over the Church of St.Thomas.
  • Suppression of the Metropolitan status of Angamali and bringing of it as a subordinate under Goa.
  • Padroado of the Portuguese was extended over the Thomas Christians.
  • The Thomas Christians’ protest and Restoration of the Metropolitan status to Angamali and change of the place to Crangannore under the Latin bishop Roz.

The Synod has since been criticized by modern scholars, both ecclesiastical and secular. The impact of the synod on the local church was decisive. Roman Catholicism was firmly established. The Synod was a turning point in the history of the Malabar Church. This relationship continued till the beginning of the second half of the 17th century.

Francis Roz was the first Roman Catholic bishop over the Thomas Christians soon after the Synod. Because he had been the main architect behind the success of Udayamperoor, he was given the see over the local church. His rule lasted for 24 years. During that time he tried his best to Romanize the Thomas Christians in worship, administrative systems, customs, and discipline. Although the Synod had instructed the liturgy to be modified in accordance with the Roman custom, this was sternly opposed by the St.Thomas Christians. Therefore Roz advocated a modified form of the ancient liturgy of the Saint Thomas Christians. He centralized in himself all authority reducing almost to nothing the powers of the archdeacon, palliyogams and kathanars of the St. Thomas’ Church. This authority continued during the episcopates of Roz' two successors, Stephen Britto (1624–1641) and Francis Garzia (1641–1659).

Archdeacon George of the Cross, who had been subordinated under Roz and Britto died in 1640. He was succeeded by his nephew, Archdeacon Thomas Parambil. Parambil did not cooperate with Garzia. Garzia used both ecclesiastical and civil powers to suppress the archdeacon.

The Portuguese refused to accept the legitimate authority of the Indian hierarchy and its relation with the East Syrians, and in 1599 at the Synod of Diamper (held in Udayamperur), the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa imposed a large number of Latinizations. The Portuguese succeeded in appointing a Latin bishop to govern the Thomas Christians, and the local Christians’ customs were officially anathematised as heretical and their manuscripts were condemned to be either corrected or burnt. The Portuguese padroado (’patronage’) was extended over them. From 1599 up to 1896 these Christians were under the Latin Bishops who were appointed either by the Portuguese Padroado or by the Roman Congregation of Pro da Fide. Every attempt to resist the latinization process was branded heretical by them. Under the indigenous leader, archdeacon, the Thomas Christians resisted, but the result was disastrous.

In 1562, a Syrian bishop named Ahatallah arrived in India, claiming to be a new Patriarch of India sent by the Pope. Deciding he was an impostor, the Portuguese arrested him and arranged for him to be sent to Europe for his case to be decided. Archdeacon Thomas strongly protested and demanded to see Ahatallah in Chochin, but the Portuguese refused, saying that he had already been sent to Goa. Ahatallah was never heard from in India again, and the rumor soon spread that the Portuguese had murdered him, fomenting discontent in the Saint Thomas Christian community and leading directly to the Coonan Cross Oath.[41][81]

The Coonan Cross revolt[edit]

The oppressive rule of the Portuguese padroado provoked a reaction on the part of the Christian community. The first protest took place in 1653, known as the Koonan Kurishu Satyam (Koonan Cross Oath). Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, a part of the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath in Matancherry, Cochin, that they would not obey the Portuguese bishops and the Jesuit missionaries. In the same year, in Alangad, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained, by the laying on of hands of twelve priests, as the first known indigenous Metropolitan of Kerala, under the name Mar Thoma I.

After the Coonan Cross Oath, between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Catholics claimed seventy -two churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thoma I thirty-two churches and twelve churches being shared. The seventy-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Catholic Church have descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur (1772), Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians) (1874), Syro Malankra Catholic Church have originated.[82]

In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch arrived in India and the group under the leadership of the Archdeacon Thomas welcomed him.[76][77] This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma party claiming spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introduced the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.

The arrival of Mar Gregorios in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal association of the Thomas Christians with the West Syrian Church. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites. Those who continued with East Syrian theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper are known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in communion with the Catholic Church. They got their own Syro-Malabar Hierarchy on 21 December 1923 with the Metropolitan Mar Augustine Kandathil as the Head of their Church.

St. Thomas Christians by this process got divided into East Syrians and West Syrians.

Further divisions[edit]

St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam,where mortal remains Blessed Chavara are kept. St. Thomas cross is seen in the picture on the top of church.

In 1772 the West Syrians under the leadership of Kattumangattu Abraham Mar Koorilose, Metropolitan of Malankara, formed the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhiyur Sabha).[76]

From 1816 onward, the Anglican C.M.S. missionaries helped the Malankara Church through their "Help Mission". But as a protest against the interference of the Anglican Church in the affairs of the Jacobite Church, the Metropolitan, Cheppad Mar Dionysius, convened a Synod at Mavelikara on 16 January 1836. There it was declared that Jacobite Church was a subject of the supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. The declaration resulted in the separation of the CMS missionaries from the communion with the Jacobite Church. However a minority from the Jacobite Church, who were in favor of the reformed ideologies of the missionaries, stood along with them and joined the CMS. These Syrian Anglicans, were the first Reformed group from among the Saint Thomas Christians. They joined the missionaries in their evangelical activities among the non-Christians in the region and worked along with the missionaries in their reformative and educational activities. On 27 September 1947, the C.M.S Church united with other similar Churches and formed the CSI. Since then, the Syrian Anglicans has been members of the CSI; in which they practically stay distinct, ethnically.

In 1876, those who did not accept the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch remained with Thomas Mar Athanasious and chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. They removed a number practices introduced at The Synod of Diamper to the liturgy, practices and observances. In 1961, there was a split in this group with the formation of St. Thomas Evangelical Church.

In 1874 a section of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from Thrissur came into communion with Patriarch of the Church of the East in Qochanis as a result of schism followed after the arrival of Bishop Rocos ( 1861 ) Mar Elias Melus ( 1874) sent by the Patriarch of Chaldean. They follow the East Syrian tradition and are known as Chaldean Syrian Church.[citation needed]

However, in 1912 due to attempts by the Antiochean Patriarch to gain temporal powers over the Malankara Church, there was another split in the West Syrian community when a section declared itself an autocephalous church and announced the re-establishment of the ancient Catholicosate of the East in India. This was not accepted by those who remained loyal to the Patriarch. The two sides were reconciled in 1958 but again differences developed in 1975. Today the West Syrian community is divided into Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion, autocephalous), Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion, under Antioch).[citation needed]

In 1930 a section of the Malankara Orthodox Church under the leadership of Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilus came into communion with the Catholic Church, retaining all of the Church’s rites, Liturgy, and autonomy. They are known as Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.[55]

St. Thomas Christian Groups: Listed according to the evolutionary order. See Saint Thomas Christians for the historic details.
West Syriac (Antiochian) East Syriac
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church) Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church (Syriac Orthodox Church) Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhiyoor Church) Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church [Apostalic Throne of St. Thomas] Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Chaldean Syrian Church Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

Nasrani religious jurisdictions[edit]

(in the historically known evolutionary order by Communion)

Demography[edit]

On a rough reckoning, about 70% to 75%[citation needed] of the Christians in Kerala belong to the St. Thomas Christianity spread across different denominations, including the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Marthoma Syrian Church, the Chaldean Syrian Church and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church. And about 5.2 percent of St. Thomas Christians are within the Diocese of Madhya Kerala of Church of South India.

India's official census data[83] places the total Christian population in Kerala at 6.06 million in the year 2001. Accordingly, the population of St Thomas Christians in Kerala (who form 70%–75% of the total Christian population in the State as suggested above) may be in the region of 4.2 to 4.5 million. Since 1950's a sizeable population of St Thomas Christians have settled in Malabar region of Kerala following the Malabar Migration[citation needed]. A large number are working or settled outside the State in cities like Mumbai, as well as outside India in West Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Menachery G (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, B.N.K. Press, vol. 2, ISBN 81-87132-06-X, Lib. Cong. Cat. Card. No. 73-905568; B.N.K. Press – (has some 70 lengthy articles by different experts on the origins, development, history, culture... of these Christians, with some 300 odd photographs).
  2. ^ Leslie Brown, (1956) The Indian Christians of St. Thomas. An Account of the Ancient Syrian Church of Malabar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1956, 1982 (repr.)
  3. ^ Thomas Puthiakunnel, (1973) "Jewish colonies of India paved the way for St. Thomas", The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery, Vol. II., Trichur.
  4. ^ Medlycott, A E. 1905 "India and the Apostle Thomas"; Gorgias Press LLC; ISBN 1-59333-180-0
  5. ^ N.M.Mathew. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. CSS Tiruvalla. (2003). ISBN 81-7821-008-8.
  6. ^ Origin of Christianity in India - A Historiographical Critique by Dr. Benedict Vadakkekara. (2007). ISBN 81-7495-258-6.
  7. ^ NSC Network (2007) St. Thomas, India mission- Early reference and testimonies
  8. ^ a b Church History by Eusebius. Book V Chapter X.
  9. ^ McCrindle, J.W. (Trans. & Editor) The Christian Topography of Cosmos, an Egyptian Monk. The Hakluyt Society, First series No. XCVIII. 1897. pp 91–128, Book 3.
  10. ^ Travancore Manual, page 248.
  11. ^ http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/cosmas_11_book11.htm
  12. ^ Manimekalai, by Merchant Prince Shattan, Gatha 27
  13. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Part II, AD 750–919
  14. ^ Marco Polo. The Book of Travels Translated by Ronald Latham. 1958. Page 287.
  15. ^ N.M.Mathew. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. CSS Tiruvalla. 2003. p. 78-79
  16. ^ Hough. ‘’Christianity in India’’. Vol I. Page 93, 94
  17. ^ Frykenberg, p. 111.
  18. ^ "Christians of Saint Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  19. ^ Frykenberg, pp. 134–136.
  20. ^ Stephen Neill. A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 ISBN 0-521-54885-3
  21. ^ Biography of St. Thomas the Apostle
  22. ^ Stephen Andrew Missick. Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India. Journal of Assyrian Academic studies.
  23. ^ Claudius Buchanan, 1811., Menachery G; 1973, 1998; Mundalan, A. M; 1984; Podipara, Placid J. 1970; Leslie Brown, 1956
  24. ^ a b c d Menachery G; 1973, 1998; Leslie Brown, 1956; Vellian Jacob 2001; Poomangalam C.A 1998; Weil, S. 1982
  25. ^ Herberts, Some Years Travels into Asia and Afrique. 1636. Page 304. See also N.M. Mathew, St, Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages, 2003. p. 91.
  26. ^ Sarayu Doshi. ‘’India and Egypt’’. Bombay. 1993. p. 45.
  27. ^ a b Miller, J. Innes; (1960),Periplus Maris Erythraei The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
  28. ^ N.M.Mathew. ‘’St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages’’. CSS Tiruvalla. 2003. p. 54.
  29. ^ N.M.Mathew. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. CSS Tiruvalla. 2003. p. 58-59
  30. ^ History of Christianity. Vol.1. By Kenneth Scott Latourette, page 80
  31. ^ P.M. Jussay, The Jews of Kerala, University of Calicut, 2005. ISBN 817748091 [1]
  32. ^ a b Bible St. Matthew 2:1
  33. ^ a b Bowler, Gerry. (2000). ‘’The World Encyclopedia of Christmas’’. Page 139.
  34. ^ a b Menachery G; 1973, 1982, 1998; Leslie Brown, 1956
  35. ^ a b Menachery G; 1973, 1982, 1998; Mackenzie G.T 1905 ; Aiya Nagam 1905 ; Medlycott Dr. 1905 ;
  36. ^ Orientale Conquistado (2 vols., Indian reprint, Examiner Press, Bombay
  37. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity By FAHLBUSCH, Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley page 285
  38. ^ a b [Menachery G; 1973, 1998; Mundalan, A. M; 1984; Podipara, Placid J. 1970; Leslie Brown, 1956]
  39. ^ Eastern Christianity in India: A History of the Syro-Malabar Church - Eugène Tisserant
  40. ^ a b MEDLYCOTT, India and the Apostle St. Thomas (London, 1905).
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Menachery G; 1973, 1982, 1998; The Nazranies
  42. ^ Neill, Stephen (2004). A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. 
  43. ^ Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.10.3
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  45. ^ a b As written on the slab on its wall.
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  49. ^ L. Lemmens, Geschichte der Franziskanerermissionen (Miinster, 1929), p. 95-96. Donal F Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe Voliume I. The University of Chicago Press. 1965. p. 231.
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  51. ^ Mathew, N.M. History of Mar Thoma Church, (Malayalam) Vol I, Page 241.
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  53. ^ Mulanthuruthy Padiola
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  59. ^ Herberts. Some years Travels Into Asia And Afrique. London, 1638. p. 300.
  60. ^ Mathew, N.M. (History of the Marthoma Church. (Malayalam), Volume 1. Page 92-94and souvenirs published by Knanaya parishes in Kerala.
  61. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006). Page 91.
  62. ^ J.W. McCrindle, Christian Topography of Cosmos, an Egyption Monk (1897) Book 3, pp. 99-128.
  63. ^ Sreedhara Menon, A. A Survey of Kerala History.(Mal).Page 54.
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  65. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006). Page 97.
  66. ^ Marco Polo, The Book of Travels, Translated and with an introduction by Ronald Latham, 1958. p. 287.
  67. ^ Mathew N.M. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages, C.S.S. Tiruvalla, 2003. Page 78.
  68. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.Page 91-92.
  69. ^ Shankunni, Kottarathil. Iythiha Malla (legends). p. 380-391
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Would like all those interested in tha Tharisappalli Copper Plate Grants of 849 CE and about the presence of the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians in the port towns of Kerala and about the royal (72)rights and privileges granted to Christians &c. and for a comprehensive view of Kerala Society in the first millennium to read the “Tharisappallippattayam” by Raghava Varier and Veluthatt Kesavan published by the NBS, Kottayam, 2013. It has some good reproductions of all the pages of the Grant in addition to reproductions of amny of the earlier articles and readings on the topic. It has been strongly recommended as essential reading of his students by Professor George Menachery, and for all Malayalam and History PG students of Malayalam Sarvakalasala, Kerala University, M.G.University and the Calicut University. It is a must read for the readers of the history of St. Thomas Christians of Malabar.

External material[edit]

References and bibliography[edit]

  • Menachery G (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, B.N.K. Press, vol. 2, ISBN 81-87132-06-X, Lib. Cong. Cat. Card. No. 73-905568 ; B.N.K. Press --(has some 70 lengthy articles by different experts on the origins, development, history, culture... of these Christians, with some 300-odd photographs).
  • Mundadan, A. Mathias. (1984) History of Christianity in India, vol.1, Bangalore, India: Church History Association of India.
  • Leslie Brown, (1956) The Indian Christians of St. Thomas. An Account of the Ancient Syrian Church of Malabar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1956, 1982 (repr.)
  • Podipara, Placid J. (1970) The Thomas Christians. London: Darton, Longman and Tidd, 1970. (is a readable and exhaustive study of the St. Thomas Christians.)
  • Menachery G (ed); (1998) "The Indian Church History Classics", Vol.I, The Nazranies, Ollur, 1998. [ISBN 81-87133-05-8].
  • Medlycott, A E. (1905) India and the Apostle Thomas; Gorgias Press LLC; ISBN 1-59333-180-0. Also reproduced in full in Menachery, George Ed., ICHC I, 1998.
  • Menachery, George (2005) Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage", Ollur, [ISBN 81-87133-08-2].
  • David de Beth Hillel (1832) Travels; Madras publication;
  • Menachery G (ed) (1982) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, B.N.K. Press, vol. 1;
  • Lord, James Henry (1977) The Jews in India and the Far East; Greenwood Press Reprint; ISBN 0-8371-2615-0).
  • Acts of St. Thomas (Syriac) MA. Bevan, London, 1897
  • Poomangalam C.A (1998) The Antiquities of the Knanaya Syrian Christians; Kottayam, Kerala.
  • Tisserant, E. (1957) Eastern Christianity in India: A History of the Syro-Malabar Church from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Trans. and ed. by E. R. Hambye. Westminster, MD: Newman Press.
  • James Hough (1893) The History of Christianity in India.
  • Michael Geddes, (1694) A Short History of the Church of Malabar together with the Synod of Diamper, London.Reproduced in full in Menachery, George Ed., ICHC I, 1998.
  • K.V. Krishna Iyer (1971) "Kerala’s Relations with the Outside World", pp. 70, 71 in The Cochin Synagogue Quatercentenary Celebrations Commemoration Volume, Kerala History Association, Cochin.
  • Periplus Maris Erythraei The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, (trans). Wilfred Schoff (1912), reprinted South Asia Books 1995 ISBN 81-215-0699-9
  • Miller, J. Innes. (1969). The Spice Trade of The Roman Empire: 29 B.C. to A.D. 641. Oxford University Press. Special edition for Sandpiper Books. 1998. ISBN 0-19-814264-1.
  • Menachery G (ed) (2010) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Ollur, vol. 3;
  • Thomas Puthiakunnel, (1973) "Jewish colonies of India paved the way for St. Thomas", The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery, Vol. II., Trichur.
  • Koder S. "History of the Jews of Kerala". The St.Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. G. Menachery,1973.
  • Vellian Jacob (2001) "Knanite community: History and culture"; Syrian church series; vol.XVII; Jyothi Book House, Kottayam , also cf. his articles in The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery, Vol. II., 1973, Trichur.
  • Weil,S. (1982) "Symmetry between Christians and Jews in India: The Cananite Christians and Cochin Jews in Kerala". In Contributions to Indian Sociology, 16.
  • Claudius Buchanan, (1811) Christian Researches in Asia (With Notices of the Translation of the Scriptures into the Oriental Languages). 2nd ed. Boston: Armstron, Cornhill
  • Bjorn Landstrom (1964) The Quest for India, Doubleday English Edition, Stockholm.
  • Menachery G (1987) (Chs. I & II) Kodungallur City of St. Thomas, Mar Thoma Shrine Azhikode. Reprinted 2000 as "Kodungallur Cradle of Christianity in India".
  • T.K Velu Pillai, (1940) The Travancore State Manual; 4 volumes; Trivandrum

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