Friday, 2 January 2015

Italian Missionney and ascetic,a scholar in Tamil language built 18th century Church,S.India

Rev. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi S.J. (Veerama munivar) .en.wikipedia. org
Poodi Madha church, Tamil Nadu built by Fr. Beschi.rubanraj.hubpages.com
Poondi Madha Basilica, an 18th century building, is located near Thirukattupalli in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu and lots of pilgrims  from all over India visit this famous Roman catholic center at Poondi which lies between two rivers - the Cauvery and Colleroom. Dedicated to Mary, this shrine is very similar to Velankanni, Our lady of good health church at Velankanni, near Nagapatnam, Tamil Nadu.

A significant aspect of this church is it was built  in 18th century (1714- 1718) by an  Italian Jesuit missionary named Rev. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi S.J.  (1680-1742),  popularly known as Veeramamunivar. He mastered the local language Tami, which is an ancient language of India like Sanskrit.  It was considered a great feat on the part of a foreigner to have mastered so difficult a language like  the Dravidian language -Tamil.  He built a church and named it as the church of "Mary Queen of Immaculate Conception".  The miraculous lady of the Church is placed in the main dome of the church and is one of three statues that were made in France.

Pope John Paul II on 3 August 1999 raised status of the church to the level of Minor Basilica  whose  main architecture is a mixture of Gothic and French. The shrine also has a  small relic of the ''True Cross,'' believed to be the one on which Christ was crucified and 12 beautiful statues of the disciples of Christ

A brief note on Fr. Beschi:

Born in Castiglione delle Stiviere,  Mantova, Italy, Beschi became a Jesuit in 1698. He reached Goa  from Lisbon in October, 1710, from where he traveled to South India. He arrived in Madurai in May, 1711 and later built a few catholic churches near  Thiruvaiyaru, a small town on the banks of the river Cauvery. He adopted  the native style of living and became an  ascetic in  principles and by wearing saffron colored dress to teach the Gospel and carry out missionary work.  Though during the infamous Goan inquisition he faced  threats from local rulers, that,  he won the heart of the natives by leading a simple, and unassuming social works, had saved him from trouble. Till his death  he was held in great esteem by the locals and even now Tamil scholars follow his most valuable works on Tamil grammar, etc.

Ref:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constanzo_Beschi