Planning on a spiritual tour this Easter season? There are a lot of churches across Kerala which are famous as pilgrimage spots. Some date back to the legend of St Thomas and trace the history of how the religion spread across the God's Own Country, and then there are some churches which over the centuries have been honoured with the special status of a basilica.
What is a basilica?
The word basilica has its roots in an ancient Greek word which means 'Royal House'. In the Catholic world, a basilica is a church that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope. A church is raised to the level of a basilica based on its antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth and their significance as centres of worship. There are just 21 basilicas in India, and 8 of them are in Kerala. So why not take a trip to the nearest one this Holy Week?
1) St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral Basilica
Founded in 1112, the 'Nasrani Palli', 'Thekke Palli' or the 'Thuramukha Matha Palli', as it is locally known, is the headquarters of the Major Archdiose of the Ernakulam -Angamaly. The church was renovated in early twentieth century and elevated to the status of a basilica by Pope Paul VI in March 1974. Pope John Paul 11 held mass in this basilica when he visited Kerala in 1986.
Situated near the High Court junction on the Marine Drive, Ernakulam, this basilica is easily accessible by road. There are two tall towers on either side, with statues of St Peter and St Paul on the top. The altar is decorated with scenes from the birth, crucification and resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. The altar also boasts of a picture of Jesus appearing to St Thomas.
2)The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica
This basilica has history etched into each and every space. In 1505, Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy got permission of the King of Kochi to construct a church which was elevated to a cathedral in 1558. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1887 and consecrated in 1905. Pope John Paul 11 elevated the cathedral to a basilica in 1984.
You will be in awe of this place which boasts of a blend of Indo-European and Gothic style of architecture. The sun's rays kiss the stain glass windows to change the mood inside the basilica. Situated in Fort Kochi the Santa Cruz Basilica is one of the oldest churches in the country.
3) Our Lady of Dolours Basilica
The first catholic church of Thrissur established in 1814. Spread over an area of 25,000 square feet, this basilica is one of the biggest churches in Asia. This artistic marvel built in the Indo-Gothic style has soaring belfries at the entrance, aisles along the nave and eleven altars. The interiors are done up with murals.
4) Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam-Ernakulam
People from all walks of life, irrespective of religion throng this basilica to offer their prayers to Vallarpadathamma.
Built in 1524, this church was dedicated to the Holy Spirit, a first of its kind in Asia. The original church was destroyed in a flood in 1676 and the Portuguese brought a picture of the Virgin Mary which was erected in the church. It was declared a special church by Pope Leo X111 in 1888 and in 1951, the Union government declared it a major pilgrim centre. Situated close to the new Vallarpadam container terminal, the basilica faces the sea. Through out the history of this church, there are instances where fishermen and other people were miraculously saved by the presiding deity when they were braving stormy waters. They used to pray for safe passage through the seas here.
5) St. Mary, Queen of Peace Basilica
Up the stairs and into the church, you will be awed as the sudden quiet envelops you. You are away from the din of the city traffic. And it will surprise you because the basilica is situated right next to the University library and Palayam in Trivandrum. This church is still called the 'Thakara Pally' by some of the locals; the story is quaint too. Way back in 1933, this church had a tin roof, hence the name. The church was consecrated in March 11, 1933, this was where Archbishop Mar Ivanios was enthroned. It was in 1991 that the huge Neo-Gothic church came into being.
6) St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Basilica
St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Basilica covers an area of about 24,000 square feet. Angamaly has always been one of the places in Kerala where Christian roots run deep. The myth of St Thomas, the first Holy See in India, Angamaly is where all these legends have mementos standing tall. And this huge basilica is one of them.
7) St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal
Originally built by the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century, this church was rebuilt in 1584 under the then vicar Fr Jacoma Fenicio. Fenicio, according to the legends was called Veluthachan and he could perform miraculous cures. The church faces the sea and was elevated to the status of Basilica in 2010. The church surprisingly used to be part of the Sabarimala pilgrimage, but that, calls for a detailed story on this ancient place of worship.
8) Basilica of Our Lady of Snows, Pallippuram
The Portuguese built a fort at Pallipuram and then followed it up with a church in 1503. It was renovated in 1931 and rebuilt in 2006. During the reign of Tipu Sultan, his army had gathered close to Chalakkudy river the local people gathered at this church and prayed to Our Lady and soon there was a mist which spread far and wide around the church, Tipu thought the area was part of the Arabian sea and returned to Mysore; and the Virgin Mary who presided in this church was renamed Manjumatha, which means Our Lady of Snow.