The Milagres Church of Mangalore, South India - a legacy of Portuguese rule

The Milagres Church, Mangalore, India
The Milagres Church, Mangalore, India

The Milagres Church (Portuguese: Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres, English: Church of Our Lady of Miracles) was first built in 1680 by Bishop Thomas de Castro, a Theatine from Divar, Goa.  Quite famous for its beautiful architecture, the church has an impressive altar with  eye-catching French painting of St Monica and St Augustine.  yet another attractive feature is the display of statues of apostles. There are six of them  mounted on pedestals and the facade with the statues similar to the St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. The main altar has the statue of Our Lady  with superscription 'Altare Previlegiatum'. It is a magnificent monolithic marble altar, the gift of the late Mr. Nicholas Britto.
The Milagres Church, Mangalore, India
One of the oldest churches in South Canara, the original structure was built  at the site of the present-day cemetery. During the reign of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, it is said, that this  church was one among 27 churches pulled down by him.  Tipu had built a mosque -  Idgah mosque on the Light House hill opposite to St. Aloysius College,  with stones removed from the  destroyed Milagres Church. It was the Portuguese who introduced Christianity in this part of Karnataka. During the 17th century, Mangalore occupied a significant place with respect to Church management in India.  
The Milagres Church, Mangalore, India.
The Goan Catholics settled in Canara were handicapped by lack of good priestly  leadership, this being due to  return of of migrant priests to Goa  when the Portuguese withdrew from the region.  In 1658, a Carmelite missionary, Fr. Vincento Maria de Santa Catharina on a visit to  Canara was not happy about the leadership and administration. He wrote to Rome, explaining the poor state of Christianity in this  region that had to be improved. Responding to the request, the Holy See decided to help the  Canara Christians, and put  a Theatine, Bishop Thomas de Castro as the Vicar Apostolic of Canara and Malabar in 1674. Bishop de Castro  who came to Mangalore in 1677 approached  the queen of Mysore Wadiyar royal family, Keladi  Chennamma. Being a woman of charitable disposition  and interested in the welfare of the society, she  granted the needed land as a gift to the Bishop.

De Castro immediately plunged into the church construction work which was completed in 1680. Besides, he settled down here to take care of church activities by staying in the near-by quarters. Upon his death on 16 July 1684,  Bishop de Castro's mortal remains were buried in the south eastern corner of the cemetery, where his grave may be identified by its bronze slab next to the St. Monica Chapel.
After Queen Chennamma's death, her successor, King Basavappa    repossessed the land.  However, in 1715, a local priest Fr. Pinto successfully secured the land from ruler  Somashekara II. His nephew Fr. Alfred Pinto who succeeded him,  had a new  church  built at the site of the present church in 1756. Unexpectedly, there was a change in the political scenario and in  1763, Canara  came under the control of  Hyder Ali who  earlier worked for the Wodiyar family. He was considerate toward the Christian community of this area,  However, when his son Tipu Sultan became a successor in 1782, the Mangalore Catholic Christian community had a tough time. When Mangalore came under the British control briefly, many Christians worked as soldiers and some worked as spies for the English company.  This led Tipu Sultan to believe that the entire Christian community was conspiring against him during  the Second Anglo-Mysore War and, in collusion with them, the British are trying to capture his kingdom. Obsessed with this kind suspicion,  Tipu captured about 60,000 Mangalorean Catholics on Ash Wednesday 24 February 1784, and herded them to his capital at Seringapatam where they were kept for 15 long years. When the British captured Tipu's kingdom after his death in the final war in May 1799, it is said, only 20000   Mangalore Christians were alive. Besides, in the same year 1784 Ash day, he  destroyed 27 churches including the Milagres Church in the Canara area.

After British victory in May 1799, the Mangalorean Catholics were freed from Captivity and most  of them subsequently returned to Mangalore. Among the returnees was a baker one  Lawrence Bello, who took so much pain to build a chapel to replace the demolished church. With contributions from many sources, including the new government, step was taken to build a new spacious church for which  the foundation stone was laid in 1811. For unknown reasons in 1911, the facade of the church collapsed and later  the present  church structure  came up which was designed by  Fr. Diamanti S.J.  A portico was added later to the structure. No doubt, this nice church is steeped in the history of the Christian community of this area.