Saturday, 21 March 2020

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Cochin, Kerala - a legacy of early Portuguese rule

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Cochin, Kerala tourmyindia.com
Santa Cruz Basilica. Cochin, Kerala,  .alamy.com

 It was in Kerala (SW part of coastal India), Fr. St. Thomas built what is called seven and half churches way back in the 2nd century and since then Christianity has been here.  Later, upon the discovery of the first sea route to India by Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese after 1500s began to colonize a part of the  coastal Kerala and built many churches, but only two structures are left behind.
Santa Cruz Cathedral of Cochin, one of the eight Basilicas Churches of Kerala, is a heritage site steeped in history.  This impressive church built originally by the  early Portuguese colonists   was elevated to the status of a  Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. During the Dutch rule, the Danes never destroyed this place of worship, however,  when this place came under the British control, the cathedral was pulled down and in that place one João Gomes Ferreira commissioned a new building in 1887. Consecration took place only in  in 1905 and  Santa Cruz in 1984 was proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II.

Front part. Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica ,Cochin, Kerala,en.wikipedia.org 

This Santa Cruz  Basilica's origin goes back to the arrival of Portuguese missionaries  who accompanied  the second Portuguese fleet under Pedro Álvares Cabral on 24 December 1500.  The Zamorin  ruler of of Calicut who had bitter experience with the first wave of Portuguese led by Vasco de Gama in the later part of 15th century, was quite angry with the ruler of Cochin  King Unni Goda Varma Tirumulpadu (Trimumpara Raja) who gave the Europeans a warm  reception.  He thought that the Portuguese were not trust worthy  and they would foment trouble between rulers. A war broke out between Cochin ruler and Zamorin. The former was helped by   Portuguese Commander Dom Alfonso de Albuquerque who reached Cochin in 1503. The  Zamorin ruler  faced defeat and, as a gesture of appreciation, the Cochin king allowed the Portuguese to  build a fort in Kochi.

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica. Cochin, Kerala /www.robertharding.com

As church services were needed by the growing Portuguese community in Cochin and  in1505, Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy  upon getting permission from the Hindu ruler, began to construct a  church  building using stones and mortar. It was  on 3 May 1505, the foundation stone of the Santa Cruz church was laid,  the feast day of the Invention of the Holy Cross, hence the holy place, when completed, was named Santa Cruz.  Located in Children’s Park, Fort Cochin.  the basilica hosts  a rare Relic of The Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for a long time.

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Cochin, Kerala .gettyimages.in/
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Cochin, Kerala agefotostock.com

 In 1663, unfortunately the catholic building was razed to the ground by the Dutch, but they spared the St. Francis Church and the  Cathedral (in 1558 Pope Paul raised its status). The cathedral  was converted into an arms storehouse by the Dutch. Later in 1795  when the British  gained control they demolished it. You will still find one of the dismantled ornate granite pillars of the Cathedral  as a monument at the SE corner of the present Basilica premises.
Erection of the present day Santa Cruz Basilica : 


About 100 years later, Bishop João Gomes Ferreira (1887–1897), a missionary and the Bishop of Cochin, took  serious steps to have new  Cathedral rebuilt, but  it was the next Bishop, Mateus de Oliveira Xavier (1897–1908)  under whose direction, the new cathedral  came up in the old site.  On 19 November 1905 Bishop Sebastião José Pereira, Bishop of Damao. did the consecration ceremony.  The newly added attractions were  fine, decorative columns with frescoes and murals,  seven  impressive large canvas paintings on the passion and death on the Cross, etc.The structure's artistic grandeur and beauty was enhanced by the painting of the Last Supper, done on the model of the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci and the beautiful stained glass windows.  The paintings on  the ceiling were from  from the Via Crucis of Christ.

Considering its historical importance, Pope John Paul II through a special Decree "Constat Sane Templum Sanctae Cruci" of 23 August 1984, raised the Santa Cruz Cathedral to the status of Basilica. 
The church with  two lofty spires  has a fine  a pastel-colored interior which is designed in Gothic style. The famous Italian painter Fra Antonio Moscheni, S.J., and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore  did the decoration of the main altar; the former died here on 15 November 1905, four days before the newly built Church was consecrated. 
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Cruz_Cathedral_Basilica,_Kochi
 https://www.keralatourism.org/kerala-article/santa-cruz-basilica-fort-kochi/421