Syrian churches of Kerala

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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
Thoma of Villarvattom · Abraham Malpan · Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar · Kuriakose Elias Chavara · Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly · Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala · Geevarghese Mar Ivanios · Saint Alphonsa
Culture

Margam Kali · Cuisine · Suriyani Malayalam

This article deals with the various old churches that exist among the Saint Thomas Christians.

Niranam St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church[edit]

St Mary's Church Niranam

This church is believed to have founded by St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, in AD 54.[citation needed] The present building, supposedly the fourth, was constructed in 1912 and was reinforced during 2000. Among the attractions at the church are a huge cross made of granite, relics of St. Thomas, remnants of the old church, the golden cross, etc.

Kuravilangadu Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church[edit]

St Mary's Forane Church, Kuravilangad

One of the oldest churches of Kerala is the St. Mary’s Church Kuravilangadu,[1][2] which was supposed to have been established in 105 AD as per the tradition. It is believed by the Christian communities in Kerala that Mother Mary's first appearance in the world was in Kuravilangad. Our Lady appeared to a few children at Kuravilangad, who were tending their flock in the bushes. Mary asked them to build a church at the place from where a miraculous perpetual spring sprouted, a spring which exists even today. The children reported this matter to the elders and a church was built there.

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary kept at the side altar is unique. It is carved from granite and it is believed that it was brought from North India. This is a miraculous statue and the devotees call this statue "Kuravilangad Muthiyamma". The granite cross in a single block of 48 feet in front of the church was erected around 1597. The devotes offer coconut oil in the lamps at the foot of the cross. On first Fridays devotees stand in queue from early morning to late in the evening to offer oil. There is an ancient bell with the engraving in Syriac "Mother of God". Three bells were brought from Germany in 1911. There is a "perpetual" spring, believed to be miraculous.[citation needed] the old church and the eight tongued coconut scraper. Moonnu Nompu" is the main feast of the church.

There are solemnities during Moonnu Nompu (three-day fast) functions during Lent. A 40 feet (12 m) wooden ship, built with prow, stern, masts and rigging, having on one side an effigy of Jonah being vomited by the fish as per the orders of the Lord, and on the deck wooden mariners in western costume, has been for centuries[citation needed] the centre of attraction in the mid-day procession. Amidst the surging mass of humanity the depiction attempts to create the image that the sea is furious, the waves are beating against the sides of the ship and violent winds rip the sails our of control. Thousands of people from all over Kerala come to this three day feast. The ceremonial procession on the second day of the feast when the replica of Jonah's vessel is ceremonially transported is the main event of the feast.

Mar Alexander De Campo (Parampil Chandy Metran) was born in Muttuchira. He was the first indigenous bishop of the whole of India.[citation needed] He was ordained bishop in 1663 by Mar Sebastany a foreign bishop. Mar Alexander lived in Kuravilangad till his death, 2 January 1687.

Champakulam Kalloorkadu St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church[edit]

Champakulam Kalloorkadu St. Mary's Forane Church (also called Champakulam Valia Palli) is one of the most ancient Syrian Christian Churches in Kerala and the mother church of almost all Catholic Syrian churches in Alappuzha District. It was formed from the Niranom Church founded by the Apostle Saint Thomas himself. By oral tradition, Champakulam Church was founded in AD 427. The open air Rock cross at Champakulam is one of the most ancient ones with clear documentation of its antiquity up to AD 1151. There are many archaeological artifacts found around the church about its history. Champakulam Church had very friendly relations with the Jacobite Syrian group and had a pivotal role in many ecumenical efforts in the 18th century. Mar Anthrayose - Kallada Mooppan was resident in Champakulam for some time.

Kallooppara St. Marys Orthodox Church[edit]

Kallooppara St. Marys Orthodox Church (Kallooppara Valiyapally) is situated at the heart of a small village called Kallooppara, Pathanamthitta District, Kerala, India. It is one of the oldest and renowned churches in Kerala and a priced possession of Malankara Sabha. The church have a legacy of around seven centuries, keeping its tradition and culture intact without compromising on its religious values. The church is a perfect example of the ancient temple architecture and is an elegant representation of the beautiful shingled roof tops in the early Travancore style. The church has a splendid blend of beauty and science in it and is a mystery the way it has overcome all the challenges of time. The church which is the worshiping place of thousands has been a topic of research for many.

Even though there are no clear evidence for the origin and age of the church. It is commonly believed that the founding stone of the church was laid on Malayalam month Karkadakam 3rd of 515 (AD 1339).

The church has been declared as the "Pilgrim center of St. Mary" on January 9, 2009, by His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didimos Ist. The administration of the church is done by a governing body which is elected annually from among the church members.

St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Thumpamon[edit]

St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, commonly known as '"Thumpamon Valiya Pally", is an ancient church located in Thumpamon near Pathanamthitta. It is the headquarters of the Thumpamon Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. It is an ancestral place of worship of the Nazarene Christians who had settled down in Thumpamon. The popular belief that the Nazarene Christian came and settled in and around Thumpamon about 1600 years ago. The church first was built in AD 717 and it is among the one of oldest churches in Kerala.

St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Kanjoor[edit]

St. Mary's Forane Church, Kanjoor is an ancient church located in Ernakulam District. The church was built in AD 1001 and is one of the oldest churches in Kerala.

Kanjoor Church Kanjoor is one of the most popular pilgrim centres in Kerala. People of all faiths and religions come to this pilgrim centre to pray to Kanjoor Punnyavan. The Kanjoor Church is situated on the banks of the River Periyar. This beautiful village is endowed with green pastures and lush paddy fields and it has been attracting tourists from time immemorial. Every nook and cranny of the church breathes history and heritage. St Mary's Forane Church, Kanjoor is one of the most outstanding and ancient Catholic churches in Kerala. Built in AD 1001, this church is portrayed as the symbol of strong Christian faith and spiritual renaissance of Kanjoor. It belongs to the Archdiocese of Ernaku- lam - Angamaly and is about 3 km south of Kalady in the Aluva - Kalady route. This church has a fascinating Kerala Temple style, wonderful fresco painted walls and tall towers. The magnificent structure of the church is a gorgeous blend of Indian architecture, Persian design, and Portuguese artistry. The fabulous collection of ancient sculptures and paintings which adorn the sanctum of the church, are made from a combination of fruit pulp, rare plant leaves and gold dust. The unique paintings on the main altar exhibit the Blessed Virgin Mother, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Presentation of the Lord in the Tem¬ple. The side wall contains the paintings on the offer¬ing of the Lord Abraham, Noah, Melchisedech, the Ten Commandments to Moses. The church has a rare antique and valuable collection of manuscripts, books and paintings which are eye¬catching. The granite cross made out of a single stone, the majestic and grandiose main door, the baptismal font made out of a single stone sculptured in the shape of a lotus, the epitaph in ancient round script (vattezhuthu), the ancient and invaluable documents written on the palm leaves (tholiyola) and many other antique properties chart the greatness of the church and highlight the cultural heritage and the noble Christian traditions that belong to Kanjoor over the years. The presence of Saint Sebastian, with his divine powers, makes Kanjoor a famous and important pilgrim centre. He is known as the Saint of Kanjoor (Kanjoor Punnyavan). There are a lot of incidents which illustrate the powerful and divine nature of the saint. One such incident happened when the ruler of the local kingdom Sakthan Thampuran visited the Puthiyedam Kovilakam during the annual feast of the saint was celebrated. Irritated by the uninterrupted firing of the saluting mortar (kathina vedi), he ordered that the mortars to be thrown into the river. At the time of the procession, all the mortars immersed in the water started firing. Startled by what happened, the Thampuran realized his mistake and came down to the church and paid obeisance to the saint. He donated the Elephant Lamp (Aana Vilakku) which is made of Pancha Loha (analloy of five metals). There was another incident when the Thampuran ordered that the Padippuro (gate house) of the church to be demolished. The very moment that the demolition of the gate house started, the elephant at the Kovilakam started destroying its padippura. On in¬quiring about this astonishing occurrence, he was informed that the Kanjoor Punnyavan had been offended by his action. As a sign of his repentance the Thampuran presented the perpetual lamp (Keda Vilakku) to the church. It is believed that to meet the expense of oil for the lamps, theThampuran permitted the church to possess the paddy fields of one hundred para, and made the land on which it was constructed tax free. In the 18th century Tippu Sultan during his invasion reached Kanjoor to destroy the church. The Sultan ridiculed their faith in the saint and shouted at the statue of the saint, "If this clay statue has divine powers, let it speak to me". The people prostrated before the saint crying out to protect them. Suddenly a voice came from the sacred statue, "Won't you allow me to rest?" Seeing this miracle Tippu retreated with¬out damaging the church. It is depicted on the walls in front of the church to commemorate this event. [3]

Kaduthuruthy St. Mary's Thazhathupally[edit]

The stone is believed to have been laid for Kaduthuruthy St. Mary's Thazhathupally on 15 August 1009 AD. This church continued to be renewed from time to time. The present existing old church took its shape in 1590 with the characteristics of Gothic Art. “The altar of this church shows the excellence to which altar carving has ever reached.”[4]

Aruvithura St. George's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church[edit]

Aruvithura Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

Aruvithura Church is located at Aruvithura, Erattupetta. The first edifice of the church at Irapeli was made of granite stones in the manner of Hindu temples. As it is traditionally believed that St.Thomas, the apostle of India who preached the Christian faith in the important and popular villages of Malabar. It is believed that St.Thomas visited Irapeli and converted a prominent Jewish trader family named "Thengummoottil" in to Christianity and laid a cross in the banks of Meenachil. The local tradition also proven this belief. This is the first church in Palai diocese built in the 1st century. St.Thomas founded seven churches and a half (laid a cross on Irapoli) that the church of Irapeli is the half church. The church was rebuilt once or twice before the 16th century as it is reported. The ancient churches were constructed and maintained by the Thengummoottil family until the 16th century. In the beginning of the 16th century a new church was built under the leadership of Kallarackal Kathanar by the parishioners.

The church was first dedicated to the Virgin Mother, assumed into heaven. In the 14th century when the church of Nilackal or Chayal, one of those churches founded by St.Thomas was destroyed, several families migrated to Irapeli. They carried with them a statue of St.George. Ever since the advent of the statue, the people began to have unflinching faith in the saint and he has been particularly beneficial in bestowing favours on his clients. Because of the numerous favours obtained through the intercession of the saint, in the 16th century, a church was dedicated to him and his statue was placed in the central niche above the main alter. And in this way St.Mary’s church Irapeli became known as St.George’s Church Irapeli (later Aruvithura).

The 16th-century church was demolished in 1951, preserving the sanctuary with its vaulting within the right transept of the cruciform church to enshrine the statue of St. George, its second patron. Some believe the statue to be miraculous. This is a cruciform church in the Gothic style, facing to the west towards Jerusalem, and was completed in 1952.[citation needed]

St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Kudamaloor[edit]

Altar of Kudamaloor church (Old)

St. Mary's Church Kudamaloor is one of the ancient churches of the Syro-Malabar Rite. It is a Marian pilgrim center. It is situated 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north of Kottayam town. "Alphonsa Bhavan" - the birthplace of Blessed Alphonsa is under this parish. Mannanam, a pilgrim center, where the tomb of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara situates, is also under this parish.

The old church was built by King Chempakasserry on 1125.[5] There is a legend associated with the establishment of this church. Once, the Chempakassery Rajah was about to start an important journey. When he entered into the cart, the horses stood stationary and many attempts failed to move them. The King had to postpone his journey. The King ordered the chief astrologer to find the reason behind his journey disruption. The astrologer found that the place where the horses stood was a battlefield. The King excavated the area and found many skeletons of many warriors. The King listened to the advice of the astrologer and he decided to establish a church and immigrated five Nasrani families namely, Mukkunkal, Chakkunkal, Palathunkal, Thekkedam and Vadakkedam and gave land and wealth these families. In addition, families like Alumkal, Thuruthumali, Perumali, Thayyil, etc. also settled as a result of Christian immigration during the establishment of Kudamaloor church. Out of these families only traces of Mukkunkal and Thekkedam are around the Church of Kudamaloor and the rest all have disintegrated to various parts or have changed their family names after successive partitions, to worship. The present day Syrian Christians in this area are these immigrants.

The church is dedicated to "Mukthiamma" (Blessed Virgin Mary). The church used to have a pulpit built on a wooden elephant and the main beam is still decorated with elephant’s head; these features are very characteristic of the Hindu influence. The church is very famous for the rituals during the Holy week.

St. Mary's Forane Church, Muttom, cherthala-688524; Alappuzha District

St. Mary’s Forane Church, Muttom, is situated in the heart of the Cherthala town in Alappuzha District. It is one of the most popular Marian pilgrim centres, in Kerala. Built in 1023 this church is portrayed as the symbol of strong Christian faith and spiritual renaissance of Muttom, Cherthala. St. Mary’s Forane Church, Muttom, Cherthala, is one of the most beautiful and largest Church made under Portuguese artistry around 1600. The carvings in the altars with beautiful paintings which adorn the sanctum of the church, are made from a combination of fruit pulp, rare plant leaves and gold dust, are marvellous. A very large relief work of asension of Virgin Mary is rarest and cannot be seen anywhere. The statue of Mother Mary Immaculate was established in a shrine facing the road adjacent to the church. The statue is there since 1904 and a miracle happened in 1945. The presence of Mother Mary Immaculate, with her divine powers, makes Muttom a famous and important pilgrim centre. There are lots of incidents which illustrate the powerful and divine nature of the Virgin. People of all faiths and religion come to this Church to pray to Amma (the Virgin Mary). Everything seen here, wordlessly says the history and heritage. It belongs to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly and is about 35 kilometeres from Kochi, Ernakulam and 22 kilometers from Alappuzha.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.palaidiocese.com/Parishes1.htm
  2. ^ St. Mary Kuravilangad website
  3. ^ "St.Marys Forane Church, Kanjoor". stmarysforanechurch.com. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  4. ^ Thomas Christian Architecture P.145
  5. ^ Tourist Guide to South India, Sura Books, ISBN 8174781757, p.154

External references[edit]

St. Mary's Forane Church, Muttom, cherthala-688524; Alappuzha District