Sunday, 1 October 2017

St. Mary's Forane Church, Chalakudy - one of the oldest in the world


St. Mary's Forane Church,Chalakudy. 
St. Mary's Forane Church,

 St. Mary's Forane Church, a Syro-Malabar Catholic place of worship, Chalakudy is one of the old churches in India whose history goes back to more than  1400 years. It is one of the 10 Foranes or deaneries. In 1937, the parish was elevated to the status of a Forane.  Chalakudy is a small town where  a large population of Christians live. It is a well-known destination for tourists who love to hike in the forested areas close-by. The famous Athirappilly and Vazhachal Falls are near-by and attract a lot of people.

This place has close with the earliest origin of Christianity in India with the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. In 52 AD he  landed in Kodungallur, formerly known as Musiris, then a busy commercial center and an important sea-port, famous for spice export. St. Thomas  began to preach Christianity to the natives by visiting various places in Kerala and later was instrumental in establishing seven and half churches, one being now in Tamil Nadu. In 600 AD, the small early christian community established a church at Chalakudy. The church came up in a place where a large community of brahmins lived and they they never objected to the functioning of a church. Until 1300 AD, the  old church functioned there and later it was shifted  to the present location.  The church was reconstructed in 1987 to take care of additional facilities, space, prayer hall, etc but the historical original intricately carved wooden altar was left untouched to maintain its heritage value, authenticity and veneration.

The old altar carries a special title  Swayamvara Altar", sparingly bestowed by the Pope as the
intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary is claimed to have taken place long ago. The imposing  belfry is the tallest structure  in this area built in Gothic style almost a century ago with a huge statue of Mary on  top. Its church bell on the bell tower was said to have been  imported from France almost 200 years ago on  special request made by the King of Kochi, who ruled that time.

The Holy Land theme at this church is an interesting one introduced by Rev. Fr. Thomas Panjikkaran ,then the  vicar of the parish. It was open to public on 8 September 2006 afte 3 years of construction. This innovative theme is a blessing in disguise to those who can't make a trip to Israel.  A casual walk around this theme land will give a feel of visiting the holy land in Israel invoked by various well-chosen authentic models that cover important events from Christ's life.

 The church is famous for two annual feasts St. Mary's and St. Sebastean's feast.'s_Syro-Malabar_Forane_Church,_Chalakudy