Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Ancient Basilica of St. Georges (AD 450), Angamaly, Kerala


St.George Basilica.Angamaly,Kerala,S.India,tourmet.com


St.George Basilica.Angamaly,Kerala,S.India,commons.wikimedia.org
Angamaly, which is close to Cochin ( Ernakulam District), a major city in the state of Kerala, was considered to be the origin and main hub  of St. Thomas Christians, who follow the tradition established by St.Thomas, the great apostle who arrived on the coastal Malabar, Kerala in 52 AD. It is believed from here, St. Thomas Christians had moved to other parts and flourished.

Angamaly had the unique distinction of being home to three big
ancient Christian churches within a kilometer, located in a straight street. The first church was dedicated to St. George (AD 450), was used both by the catholics and Jacobites till 1750.
The second one, the church of St.Hormisdas was either built or renovated by Mar Abraham in 1570s, St. Hormisdas or St. Hormis Abbot was a Chaldean saint of the 7th century. He was a monk in the monastry of Robban Bar-Etha. This church was exclusively for Catholics. The third church was dedicated to St. Mary, under Jacobite community.

Previously the St. Thomas Christians were active in the old Cragannore town (Kodungalloor). Soon after the invasion of Muslim armies, the Christians felt unsafe and the local Hindu ruler  gave them protection and allowed them to settle down in a town exclusively for St. Thomas Christians. That is the reason why there is a higher concentration of St. Thomas Christians in Angamaly.
St.George Basilica.Angamaly,Kerala,S.India.www.flickr.com
In 1563, when Mar Abraham was ordained as the Bishop of Angamaly diocese, St. Hormis East church was the cathedral church, where Mar Abraham resided.  It was here the first regional synod was convened in 1583. Mar Abraham died in January, 1597 at Angamaly and his body was buried in the Cathedral church (St. Hormis or East church, Angamaly).
St.George Basilica.Angamaly, Kerala,.www.viewphotos.org
Angamaly (Anga’ means battle and ‘male’ is attributed to a plain ground over a mountain) was 
the first Archdiocese in India and the jurisdiction of the Angamaly at that time, extended over the whole of India. Upon the demise of Mar Abrham, the scenario of the Christian community here changed. The superior of Archdiocese, Goa, Dom Alexis Menzes introduced some  drastic changes in the Church administration, and as per new direction he degraded Angamaly and brought it under the control of Goa Archdiocese and put Fr. Francis Ross as Bishop of Angamaly. The move taken by Dom Alexis Menzes was counter productive. St Thomas Christians and Nazrani soldiers rebelled against this and they  wanted to restore the lost Archdiocese seat of Angamaly. Further, they condemned the tyrannical activities of Dom Alexis Menzes. Hence, when the synod was held at Udayamperoor in 1599, out of 18 priests from Angamaly, nobody attended it. Dom Alexis Menzis became angry and  destroyed a number of Syrian liturgical books and Archives situated at Angamaly. The  unfortunate incident  had a poignant touch. According to Dr. Buchanan (on his visit observed) ... ''the Christians strewed the way up the hill with the flowers as he advanced. And yet he came to burn the ancient libraries and Archives of Angamale. As the flame ascended, the old priests wept; but they were obliged to hide their tears, dreading the inquisition at Goa.”

After the arrival of the Portuguese in India during 16th century, the Portuguese ‘padroado’ came into force. It meant the King of Portugal would give royal protection over the churches in the territories occupied by the Portuguese. After several sea-saw battles between the native St. Thomas Christians and the Portuguese dominated church administration, the Archdiocese seat at Angamaly was restored in 1608 at Angamaly. Its popularity gradually faded in the 18th and 19th century and now Ernakulam, which  was raised to the status of an Archdiocese in 1923,  is functioning as the center of the Syro-Malabar Church. After 1992, the name of the Archdiocese was changed from Ernakulam to Ernakulam - Angamaly.

According to the existing records, the first church of Angamaly was dedicated to Saint George in the year 450 AD and this was the principal church for St.Thomas Christians. This particular sect of Christians were converted by St.Thomas. St. George Church was raised to the status of a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI and it  became  a basilica on August 10th 2009,
  

The following are the main features of this historical Church:

This is the biggest church in Kerala covering an area of 24,000 sq.feet

The main altar  covers an area of  over 2000 sq ft and and  is  adorned  with statues of Holy saints in glittering crystal and in metals. 

The dome  is about 185 ft height from the floor and  is mounted with a globe weighing 750 kg and a stainless steel 450 kg.

 A 24 feet tall statue of crucified Christ along with St.Mary and St.John  is  fixed on the Altar. 

 The church  can accommodate 8,000 people at a time  and 50 priests can celebrate the Holy mass in the spacious Altar.

The windows in the dome  have exquisite  images of Apostles and, holy men and scenes from the new and old testaments.
 

Puthunjayar perunnal - the annual festival celebrated in honor of the Patron Saint St. George is unique and has a touch of the Hindu tradition. St.George was often invoked by the locals to protect against snakes  in and around Angamaly, which was  once a tropical rain forest  infested with  venomous snakes.  Hence this festival attracts devotees from nearby regions who offer small replicas of snakes, eggs and statuettes of St.George Saint and others made of gold and silver, a tradition that continues even today.  The first Sunday or Monday after Easter is celebrated as the feast of St.George with much fanfare.


Tit-Bits

 01. Angamaly was a major Buddhist destination in earlier times.

 02. Angamaly is close to  Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Sri Sankara, a great Hindu saint and philosopher - just 7 km away from the town. 

 03. Malayatoor, 14 KM from the town has  a huge church which serves as an important center for all Christians in India as they visit this town throughout the year. 

 04. Well-known  temples such as Thirunayathodu temple, the Elavuru temple, the Venguru temple, the Muzhikulam temple, the Kidangooru temple, the Krishnaswamy temple, and the Jain’s temple are also located in and around the region.

05. Angamaly is the most thickly populated area of Christians in Kerala and the major denomination is Roman Syrian Catholic.
  
06. Angamaly is surrounded by 18½ typical pockets of Nazrani Christian places known as ‘18½ Serrys’ within a radius of about 10 Km. They were said to be the Viharams of Christians who migrated to this region in olden times.


Ref:


http://www.come2india.org/george-basilica.html

http://tourmet.com/angamaly/

http://angamalybasilica.com/template.php?id=35&page=9&catid=73