Tuesday, 16 June 2015

St. Xavier Church, Kottar first in the world dedicated to Jesuit missionary, India

St Xavier's Cathedral,Kottar, Nagarcoil, Tamil Nadu. en.wikipedia.org
St.Francis Xavier,  a Spanish Jesuit missionary, who first  landed  in Goa in May, 1542  came  to Kanyakumari  and Travancore  on  missionary work. He was  doing missionary work at  Kottar, Nagarcovil, now in the state of Tamil Nadu, India  and  its neighborhood and earned the respect of people  living there. According to local people, with his miraculous power,  Xavier once  prevented the further invasion of a huge band of decoits  from the adjoining places  just  by  wielding the Cross. The invading  Padagas,  ab army of armed robbers  wanted  to attack  the local  ruler Unni  Kerala Varma  and  the people. The local Rajah's attempt, having been failed to stop them, St. Xavier stepped in  and drove  them out. For reasons known only to the almighty, they retreated, however, they set fire to the  missionary's  humble dwelling  near the church. 


St Xavier's Cathedral,Kottar,Nagarcoil, Tamil Nadu,S.India.catholiconline.in
Diocese of Kottar,Tamil Nadu, S.India www.ucanindia.in
 Despite the leaping flames, intense  heat and fire, the saint fell on his knees and prayed to the holy ghost. That how the priest did not get hurt or burnt in the hot flame was a riddle and the onlookers literally stood there dumbfounded. Thus St. Xavier saved the frightened people of  Vanad from impending  plunder,  threats  and consequent violence and death. The local ruler, very  much impressed by his mystical power and devotion to God - Holy Ghost, granted him land as a token of his gratitude and goodwill so that he could  build a church for the Christians living there.  To mark the place, a Cross was put up, to which miraculous powers were attributed.

An oil  lamp  has been perpetually burning since the construction of this church. One Fr. Andreas Pucchario S.J. constructed the first church at Kottar in 1603 with mud and wood at the place where St. Xavier performed prayers and masses.In 1605, Fr. Pucchario dedicated the church to St. Francis Xavier.  The church records point out the shrine of Mary was renovated and enlarged in 1865. This old church became a cathedral in 1930. Many miracles have taken place there as per records and devout Christians  from  other parts of  India, in particular, Kerala and Karnataka and countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, etc., visit this Church and participate in the annual festival in December every year.  Original church, which still exists, was built by St. Francis Xavier himself between the years AD 1542 and AD 1550. The Church was endowed with precious ornaments and utensils donated by the Portuguese rulers. Better and more spacious Church was the contribution of subsequent Bishops of Cochin (Kochi), now in Kerala.

It is one of the oldest churches in the whole of erstwhile Southern Travancore, and perhaps, the oldest Cathedral church of Roman Catholic Diocese of  Kottar in the present-day`s Kanyakumari district (of Tamil Nadu) since there are three more dioceses got established here later on; lots of Hindus visit this  Church to pray with devotion  to Mary  to redress their grievances. They pour oil to the oil lamps  in the Church as part of the prayer in the hope the God will light up their life that i ridden with problems up to their neck.

 Tit-Bits:

 01. In this area and in the adjoining state Kerala, Christianity was introduced by the disciple of Jesus Christ, St.Thomas in 52 AD and he built some of the oldest Churches in the world in this region.

Francis Xavier in South India, en. wikipedia.org.

 Above image: Conversion of the Paravars (Hindus) by Francis Xavier in South India, in a 19th-century colored lithograph.

02. Decoity (anglicized version of the Hindustani word)  is  a colloquial Anglo-Indian word commonly used for "banditry" in Hindi, Kannada and Urdu. It refers to criminal activity involving armed robbery by groups of armed bandits. The East India Company  not only established the Thuggee and Decoity Department in 1830, but also introduced the Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–1848. The company officials were instrumental in  eradicating  the menace of thugs who killed more than a million innocent  people - mostly travelers in North India. Areas with ravines or forests, such as  Chambal and Chilapata Forests, mostly  in Madhya Pradesh, were once known for decoits. Though the decoity problem existed here, they were not dangerous as the thugs of N. India.  

 03.The same Saint Francis Xavier, became intolerant toward Christian converts of Goa and was responsible for the introduction of ''Goa Inquisition,'' a dark chapter in the history of Indian Christians. In a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested an Inquisition to be installed in Goa. From 1560 to 1774, Inquisition was strictly in force.

04.This church was dedicated to  St. Xavier even as early as 1605 prior to his attaining sainthood in 1622hence it is  the  first one dedicated to St. Xavier in the whole world. 

05. In 1640, the church made of mud and wood, was reconstructed into a new church with stones and in 1643 the sacred relics of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier were safeguarded there.   

Ref:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Xavier%27s_Church,_Kotta

Agur C.M., `Church History of Travancore`, Madras,1903. Reprint: Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1990, ISBN 81-206-0594-2. Page:209-211.

http://catholiconline.in/st-xaviers-cathedral-kottar/