Are you a travel buff in the mood to celebrate Christmas in its true spirit, visiting churches, and experiencing timeless traditions and peace in Kerala, while diving into a bit of history? If so, ‘Ezhara Pallikal’ aka ‘Seven and a half Churches’ of the state, believed to be instituted by St Thomas The Apostle, would be great spots to visit.
Devotees believe that he established the 7 churches in Kollam, Niranam (in Pathanamthitta), Palayoor (Thrissur), Kodungallur (Thrissur), Nilakkal (Pathanamthitta), Kokkamangalam (Alappuzha), Kottakkavu (Ernakulam) and Arappallikal (half churches) aka shrines in places like Thiruvankottu, Malayattoor, Kunnamkulam and more. These churches also get decked up in the festival season with decorations, illuminated lights, and more, though you can also enjoy the tranquil atmosphere within them. Here’s what to see in some of these major churches:
Kodungallur, which was known as Muziris in the past, is filled with history and Christians believe that St. Thomas landed at the ancient port here. The St. Thomas Church or Marthoma Pontifical shrine at Azhikode is on the bank of River Periyar and it is considered the first church built by the apostle. The church also houses the bone of the right arm of St. Thomas for devotees to worship.
The Our Lady of Purification church, also known as the Kollam Port Church was destroyed in a sea erosion in the past and the present church was built in 1993. But, it still has a lot of history intact, like a statue delivered to the parish in 1806, a ‘pallikallu’ or ‘Stone of great church’ retrieved from the adjacent river in 2021, numerous stories surrounding its origin, and more.
The church maintains the old structure in a pristine condition, unlike the other churches. Its chapel has a traditional temple structure. The church also has sculptures showing an old story, according to which St Thomas made non-Christians believe in Jesus Christ through prayers and miracles. The temple lamp inside the church is also about 200 years old.