Guide to the Christian Churches of Kerala
Listing of major and old christian churches in Kerala.
Guide to Churches in Kerala
St John’s Cathedral
Located at Pathanamthitta. This new church, replacing the old church, was designed by the famous architect Laurie Baker. The ethos of traditional Kerala combined with modern architecture has gone into the construction. A huge brass lamp, a flag-mast, copper covered roof, outer walls ornated with stone lamps and pillars make this church distinctively special. Inside the church light and colour create attraction together with spacious accommodation for over 4000 devotees in the circular church hall and the crypt.
St Mary’s Orthodox Church
Located at Niranam in Pathanamthitta district. Niraanam is ahbout 7-km from Thiruvalla on Thiruvalla-Mavelikkara route. The church built in 54 AD is one of the oldest in India. It forms part of seven and a half Churches built by St Thomas. 500 years old urns and equally old brass lamps and very ancient chandeliers are marked attractions.
The main Feast of the Church lasts 8 days, starting from 1st September to 8.
The First Church
This church is located 3-km ahead of Niranam Church. Some credit this Church as the oldest in India, though many credit Palayur Church in Thrissur district as the oldest. It has gone into reconstruction several times. The main prayer hall is specious and flooded with lights. Four big pillars, corresponding to four gospels, bear the weight of the structure.
The tomb of Geevarghese Mar Gregorious, the Malankara Church’s first Saint is located here. During November 1st and 2nd, the Main Feast days, lakhs of devotees visit for the favours of the Saint.
The Church is located at Manjarikkkara in Pathanamthitta district. The mortal remains of Mar Ignatius III are preserved here. The holy patriot of Anthiod was died here during his visit to India. This Church is now a well-known pilgrim Centre. The annual Feast called “Ormaperunnal” is in February.
St Mary’s Orthodox Church
Located at Kallada, via Karunagapally-Bharanikavu, in Kollam district. From Kollam town the distance is 320-km.
This several centuries old Syrian Orthodox Church is very famous in many ways. The four-time reconstructed Church has still the wood-work from older version of the Church. To symbolize the harmonious religious co-existence in Kerala, a 700 years old beam of wood bears a Muslim Crescent, a Hindu symbol and Christian symbol, Cross.
The shrine displays the inscription, “In sacred memory of Mar Andrews, a prelate from Jerusalem who arrived in Kerala in 1678 … died in 1692.”
St Mary’s Knanaya Church
This Church is located at Meeanachil in Kottayam district. In local language this Church is called Valiapally (big church).
The descendants of Syrian Knanaya Christians who migrated to India in 345 AD were the builders of this church. Two granite Persian Crosses, each carved out of a single stone slab dating back to 4 and 7 AD are a valued treasure of this Church. Both the Crosses have the inscriptions in Pahlavi which was once the official language of the Sassanian dynasty of Persia. The exquisitely carved altar and ceiling depict scenes from the Bible.
The main Feast, St Georgre’s Feast, is held on April 24.
St Mary’s Orthodox Church
Located at short distance from Str Mary’s Knanya Church. This Church is called as Cheriapally (small church) in local language. Though it is called Cheriapally it is not small at all. Nor it is Church-like. This Church was built by Portuguese in 1579 with the patronage of the local ruler. The structure is actually the blend of temple and Portuguese architecture. The hanging lamps in the hall, the granite pillars and the larger outer brick-walls are similar to the ones in temples. The vegetable dye-paintings on the altar walls and ceiling, depicting the life of Christ, are of Portuguese origin.
St Mary’s Forane Church
The Church is located at Athirumpuzha in Kottayam district.
This Church was built on a land gifted by Ettanasseri Brahmin family as a reciprocation for a male heir born in the family on intensive pray to Virgin Mary. The St Sebastian statue here was brought by Leonard D’cruz, a Portuguese sailor, in 1687. The crucifix here shows Jesus Christ without any wound as contrary to depictions in other Churches.
St Joseph Church
This Church is located at Mannanam in Kottayam district on a hillock which is about 11-km from Kottayam town.
Though renovated many times, the Church retains its original altar with gold filigree work and paintings. To the right of the Church is a small museum which was once a Sanskrit School. The nearby Chavara Art Museum preserves repertory of Church history. This Church is associated with the Blessed Father Kuriakose Elias Chavarachan who was famed in miracle cures.
The place of Church, Mannanam, has few firsts to its credit. Mannanam is the seat of the first Seminary of the Malabar Church (1833), the first Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala (1846), the first English High School in Kerala (1846), the first private printing press, CMS Press started by Benjamin Bailey in Kerala (1846), and the first daily Malayalam Newspaper, Deepika, in Kerala (1887).
Blessed Kuriakose (Chavarachan) Feast is held on 3rd Sunday after Easter.
St Thomas Benedictine Monastery
This Monastery is located at Kappad, 5-km from Kanjirapally junction in Kottayam district.
The new Chapel here is Hindu influenced. In the front courtyard a multi-tietred stone lamp (Kalluvilakku in Malayalam) capped by a Cross arrests the attention of passers-by and the pilgrims alike. Inside the niche of a marble pillar can be found an unusual artifact of a traditional Hindu Ornament Box with a triangle-shaped lid.
Kanjirappally Pazhayapally (St.Mary’s Church)
This Church is located next to Petta junction.
The Old Church (St.Mary’s Church) and the market nearby have been constructed on a piece of land donated by the erstwhile King of Thekkemcore Sri. Veerakerala Perumal who was ruling the eastern areas including Kanjirappally on the 21st of Medam in the year K.V.624. (K V is for Malayalam year Kolla Varsham) - 1449 AD. On this plot the location of the Church building was decided by the King himself by planting a green stick (behind the name Kanjirappally) on the chosen spot.
The church was constructed in 54 AD. This is the first Ecumenical church in the world and is has been dedicated by all the denominations as an example of heritage by St. Thomas. The Nilackal church is located in the interior of the Sabarimala hills. This Church is also referred to as Arappally ( one among Eezharappally established by St. Thomas).Ara in Tamil language before Malayalam came in to existence; is traced out to mean important or head quarter- Aramana means place where royals stay]
The Nilackal hills, and planes of Pampa were connected to Pandi - Tamil Nadu,by well-established trade routes. These places were connected to Muzris portat Kodungallor via Sea and Kayal.Nilackal was a centre for spices and timber.
St Mary’s Church
This Church is located in the Kottayam town.
The Church structure is simple like a Hindu shrine. The motifs are similar to the ones seen in Syrian Christian Churches.
St Thomas Cathedral
This Cathedral is situated at Pala in Kottayam district.
This Church is known as Pazhayapally (old Church) in Malayalam language. It was built with the patronage of Hindu feudal chiefs and was modeled after temple. Close-by a new Church was constructed on Portuguese architecture. The charm of the old Church is still in tact despite the giant steeple of the new Church.
St Mary’s Forane Church
The Church is located at Kuruvilangad, near Pala, 10-km north of Ettumanoor. A 48-ft high gigantic Cross carved out of a single block of granite welcomes the pilgrims and offers surprise to the passers-by. Though this Cross was installed in 1597, the age of the Church is almost equal to the Christianity. The Church was built by three Christian families who came to Kuruvilangad from elsewhere in 2nd century. There is yet another story behind the creation of this Church which shrouds in miracle. An old lady beckoned the children who were engaged in building a Church playingly. At this moment a spring was sprouted from the earth where a Church was built in 345 AD. The spring still flows and its water is considered holy. The pilgrims troop to the holy water.
A rare blend of Roman and Portuguese sculptures can be noticed in the main altar of the Church. There are statues of Virgin Mary and St Sebastian carved from granite. Holy relics of the Saint are also preserved here.
St George’s Forane Church
This Church is located at Edapally in Ernakulam district. The distance is about 5-km from Ernakulam, on NH 47.
Built in 595 AD, this is one of the oldest Churches in Kerala. The mother tongue of Jesus, Aramaic, is employed even today in Holy Mass. As evidence of non-European origin of iconography, the Church has four-armed pectoral Cross, the pediment and slatted louvers.
The10-day lasting main Feast starts from April 25.
Santa Cruz Basalica
Located on Rampart Road, south of Fosse Street, in Kochi. This Portuguese-built Church has already completed 5-centry. The Gothic façade with soaring spires is really imposing and attractive. The interiors are highly impressive. The Dutch overpower of Kochi in 1663 resulted in becoming the places of worship as warehouses. This Church was spared fortunately in the holocaust by Dutch. The beauty of the Church’s stained glass and the life-like Caryatids watching over the quaint confessional boxes might have persuaded the Dutch to spare it.
St Francis Church
This is located on Church Road at the north end of Kochi.
The 1503-Portuguese wood-built Church was later reconstructed with stone. It was reconstructed by the Protestant Dutch in 1779. The British converted it into an Anglican Church in 1795. At present it is governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524, though his remains were taken to Lisbon later. His tomb still exists.
The ‘Doop Book’ or the old Baptism and the Marriage Register from 1751 to 1804 are kept in the Vestry. To the history chewers they are highly delicious. Visitors are allowed to scrutinise a photo-copy.
The main Feast – Ambarimatha – is on February 2.
Jacobite Syrian Church
This Church is located at North Parur, 24-km from Ernakulam.
The lofty structure and the highly exquisite altar are worth seeing.
St Thomas Archdiocesan Shrine
Situated at Malayattoor, 45-km from Ernakulam. Malayattoor literally means the meeting place of land, mountain and river. The place of the shrine is known as Kurisumudi or Kurisumala.
900 AD-built Church located at the venue where St Thomas rested for prayer amidst the beauty of Periyar which flows behind the mountain. Near the Church there is Marthoma Mandapam (pavilion). The Pavalion preserves the Kalpadam (foot-prints) of St Thomas which is 20 steps above the ground. The 20 steps are symbolic of the 20 years St Thomas spent in South India. In an enclosure in the Mandapam a pedestal-mounted Golden Cross is encased. This Golden Cross, it is believed, is appeared on a rock where St Thomas drew a Cross with his finger.
Lakhs of pilgrims go to Kurisumudi every year during Puthunjaya Festival on the first Sunday after Easter. Most of the pilgrims carry big Cross on their back.
Vatican has designated this Church an International Sanctuary, granting similar rank as that of Lady of Lourdes Church in France.
Accommodation is available at the Pilgrim Centre at a nominal tariff of Rs 100/-.
St Dominic Church
Located at Aluva, about 17-km from Ernakulam.
The Church is a heritage centre. Its annual Feast on the first Sunday after Easter is very famous.
Marthoma Mariam Big Church
Located in Thrissur town.
This Chaldean Syrian Church is age-old and is the head quarter of Chaldean Syrian Churches in India. Part of the Mass still conducted in Syriac. There is no idol or pictorial representation of Christ or anyone else inside the Chapel. The wood for the construction was given by Shakthan Thampuran, the then ruler of Kochi, when he cleared the forests in the Thrissur Round. The prayer hall has Chandeliers and coloured glass-balls hang from the ceiling. The ornate carving on wooden beams, pulpit and the choir gallery are rewarding.
This 1875-built Roman Catholic Church called Puthen Pally (new church) is located in the Thrissur town, near Jubilee Mission Medical College. The 140-ft white steeple can be seen from anywhere in the town. The Chapel is with 15 altars.
Located in Thrissur town.
It has a unique underground prayer chamber.
These Churches are located at Arthat, 28-km from Thrissur town.
Three small and two old Churches consist of the Churches at Arthat. Out of these, Holy Cross Church and St Mary’s Church are as old as 1700 years. Both these Churches have large Villakus (lamps) crowning Cross.
Different sects of Jacobites worship in these shrines.
Located near Guruvayur, about 27-km from Thrissur.
This is the oldest Church in India and one of the seven founded by St Thomas, the Apostle, in 52 AD. The Church is little away from Guruvayur. A silver statue of St Thomas on the roof and charming stone lamps are noteworthy. Each Tuesday a Novena and Mass are held in honour of St Thomas. A boat is moored in a pond in commemoration of St Thomas’ arrival at Palayur. A multi-faceted museum in the name of St Thomas is coming up.
Marthoma Pontifical Shrine
Located at Azhikode, about 45-km from Thrissur.
This Church is built with colonnades and modeled after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Church was erected to commemorate the lading of St Thomas in India in 52 AD. The painting inside clearly depicts the scene of the arrival of St Thomas.
The bone of the right arm of St Thomas is preserved as a relic in this Church. It was deposited in a separate shrine built here within a short duration of just 90 days in 1953.
St Mary’s Forane Church
Located at Koratty, about 37-km from Thrissur, and 15-km from Nedumbasseri Airport.
The Church is popularly and lovingly known as Koratty Muthy. The 1381-built shrine’s annual Feast is on the Saturday and Sunday following the 10th of October. During the Feast the statue of Koratty Muthy is taken out in procession. There is a peculiar system of offering here. The offering is of Poovenkula (a bunch of Pooven variety of plantain). The festival is attended by large crowd.
St Thomas Church
This Church is situated at Mylancombu in Idukki district, 8-km from Thodupuzha.
This is the oldest Church in Idukki, a 600 AD origin. The Church is also nicknamed as the Parent Church of the East. It was built by St Thomas, it is believed, though there is no evidence to prove it. Altar decorations, carvings, beams and an ancient baptistery of the period are noticed inside. The bronze bell in the Church bears Calligraphic inscriptions.