|Our Lady of Lourdes Basilica (Poondi Matha Church), Poondi, Tamil Nadu.en.wikipedia.org|
This is one of a few historical churches in Tamil Nadu built during the British period by an Italian Jesuit Missionary Rev. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi S.J. popularly known as 'Veerama Munivar' (in Tamil). Fr. Beschi, realizing the importance of knowing the local language spoken there - Tamil (highly advanced and an ancient language) for his missionary work, began to learn it, and at one stage, he developed a passion for it and mastered the language. Amidst his missionary and social works, he did innumerable, valuable literary work in Tamil, including compilation of Tamil-Latin dictionary. Hence he was known by the Tamil name 'Veerama Munivar.' He adopted the life of a Hindu saint and closely mingled with the natives. He took so much efforts to build a church at Poondi and named it as the church of 'Mary Queen of Immaculate Conception' in the beginning of the eighteenth century (1714-1718).
|Inside the church.Poondi Matha Church, Poondi, Tamil Nadu. www.poondimadhabasilica.org|
|Car festival in prgress..Poondi Matha Church, Poondi, Tamil Nadu.www.thehindu.com|
The church architecture is a blend of French and Gothic. The rows of 12 statues of Jesus Christ's disciples and the relic of original cross - it is believed - are still in the Church which underwent major modification after 1955. The old building built by Fr. Beschi could not withstand the vagaries of time and became weak.
This shrine was declared as Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II - August 03, 1999 and became the fourth basilica in Tamil Nadu.
The Adaikalamadha shrine in Elakurichi near Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu is yet another well known church and is is a sacred pilgrimage center for Roman Catholics. The state government had spent lots on money to improve the infrastructure for the benefit of devotees coming to the church during festival times.
The Adaikalamadha shrine in Elakurichi near Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu. www.thehindu.com
Constantine Beschi is believed to have come to Ariyalur region on missionary work between A.D. 1710 to 1742 and here at Elakurichi he built this Church on a vast land of about 60 acres granted by a local rich landlord as a token of his gratitude to Fr. Beschi, who cured him of a dreadful disease by invoking the blessings of the Holy Mother Mary. An inscription engraved on a stone slab written in A.D. 1763, preserved in this church makes a mention of this grant.