Historical sacred heart shrine (1894 AD), Idaikattur

daikattur, Sacred Heart Church Alamy

Sacred Heart Church, Idaikattur,Tamil Nadu,Indiawww.thehindu.com

As already mentioned in some of my early posts on India's ancient churches, Christianity  came to India with the arrival St. Thomas, the Apostle in the 2nd century AD itself on the Malabar coast of Kerala. Tamil Nadu state being its neighboring state, during  the same period,  a few churches were established in what is now known as Kanyakumari District at the tip of the southern end of peninsular India.

During the  British East India company rule and later directly under the British Crown, several impressive churches were built and many Hindu rulers granted the missionaries lands and other help. The Sacred Heart Church in Idaikattur village of Tamil Nadu is a historical and beautiful  church.

The sacred heart shrine at Idaikattur Village (elevation from MSL is 2290 feet), a quiet village in Sivaganga District is a unique one  with a tall  edifice of huge towers is the exact  replica of the Rheims cathedral in France. In 1866 St. James Church was built in a thatched shed - a humble beginning and in the same year Idaikattur Parish was established. Falling short of funds to have a church built there, Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ went to France in search of donations to fulfill his ambitious project. An English lady by the name of  Mary Anne, who was miraculously cured of her acute heart problem after praying to Christ  at the Sacred Heart Church came to know about  Fr. Ferdinand Celle's mission to have a church built at Idaikattur, a remote place in South India. She was generous enough to give him funds for his mission on condition that the proposed Church would be just a replica of the Rheims Cathedral in France. Back at Idaikattur, because of encroachment into the local temple land, the Church work was delayed for about six long years , tied up in a court case. At last a three man commission was appointed by the government to solve the issue in dispute.One night the chief of the commission had a dream in which he saw hundreds of  angels constructing a building. To his astonishment, following day he saw  the same church there which he saw in his dream.Literally he was dumb-founded and  when the villagers came to know about the work of angels, they immediately offered more lands for the church.

Sacred Heart Church, Idaikattur,Tamil Nadu,India www.flickr.com
Built in  1894 AD by a  French  missionary Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ, the church was constructed with 200 different types of molded bricks and tiles in lime clay mortar with inner Gothic  arches resting over the columns embedded with ribs  in its corners, rising up to the vaulted roof. The Gothic arches are decorated with rows of beads, flowers, garlands. They all are in terracotta works.

Sacred Heart Church, Idaikattur.Tamil Nadu,India. www.thehindu.com
Sacred Heart Shrine, Idaikattur,Tamil Naduwww.hikeezee.com

The fascinating feature of this church is inside the Church it is not warm and  is quite pleasant, considering the fact the southern belt of Tamil Nadu is very hot during summer season. The extensive use of hollow bricks for the construction does the trick of reducing the heat and the hollow spaces between  roofs with small openings  help condition the air below the shelter of the wall. The presence of decorated windows with hollow flower bricks and the stained glass works enhance the beauty and appearance of of this historical church.

Idaikattur, Sacred Heart Church Musings from Antique Origins - blogger

According to one story St.Britto converted  Kattayadevan, son-in-law of king Kilavan Sethupathi  from Hinduism to Christianity against the wish of the ruler. Consequently St.Britto was sentenced to death by king Kilavan Sethupathi. The stained glass woks here depict the various events leading to the death of St. Britto

These are some fascinating facts:

01. There 200 types of bricks went into construction of the church.

02.  Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ, has put in place as many as 153 angels in depiction of that many angels that were purported to have built the church.

03. Depiction of of forty saints in four elliptical shaped wooden bowls, that rest over the wooden heart in the main altar section. So, the prayer is through these heavenly bodies.

04. The main alter section is characteristic of a gigantic Gothic facade of 45 feet high with wonderful stucco work, depicting the doctrine of Christianity

05. Rows of beads, garlands and flowers adorn the impressive  Gothic arches inside the church and this adds more beauty to the already artistically decorated church with long spires outside.

06. The special hollow bricks were used by the designer to cut down the radiation inside the church  during masses particularly in the hot summer season.

A visitor to this church will never return home disappointed because not only does he get the blessings of the  numerous angels, but also the satisfaction that he has visited a historical church that was built centuries ago specifically to handle summer heat - at a time when  oil lamps and bullock carts were widely used. 


01. This village is equally well known for a Hindu saint (Siddhar) by the name of Idaikattur, who had special mystical powers and people of many faiths used to approach  him for help and cure of their ailments.

02.This village is about  30 miles SE  from  the temple city  Madurai.  It  is near  the  Madurai to Rameswaram  National  Highway.