Historical monument St. Francis Church, Kochi, oldest in India- original burial site of Vaso de Gama

St. Francis church within Ft. Emmanuel (Kochi),Kerala. en.wikipedia.org

St. Francis church, Fort Emmanuel, Kochi, Kerala state. tourmyindia.com

 Above image: St. Francis Church within the Fort premises, Koch. Kerala  was  between 1503 to 1663 under the Portuguese, between 1664 to 1804 under the Dutch and finally between 1804 to 1947 under the British. After independence in August, 1947, the ownership was under the CSI - The Church of South India) ...................................

Fort Kochi, part of Koch corporation is an interesting tourist destination in this city  with distinctively different, but historic  houses, etc., reminiscent of old colonial time. Centuries have gone by, but still they retain the old charm and and typical colonial ethos. .At  the end of the Parade Ground among them stands  the old Portuguese church - St. Francis . The building,  particularly, the front part  was and still remains the  striking landmark of this old section of Kochi.

Dom Francisco de Almeida en.wikipedia.org

Above image: The Great Dom Francisco  de Almeida(c. 1450 - 1 March 1510),a Portuguese nobleman, soldier and explorer. was  a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1505 he was appointed as the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia). Credit goes to him  to have  established  Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean, with his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509. On his return journey  Almeida  lost his life in a conflict with indigenous people at the Cape of Good Hope in 1510. he got the special permit to have a church built in Kochi (also known as Cochin)..............................(en.wikipedia.org).  

Ft. Immanuel/ Ft. Kochi, Kerala, location map lonelyplanet.com

St Francis Church, in Ft. Emmanuel or  Fort Kochi is one of the oldest European  churches in India built in 1503 by the Portuguese Viceroy  Francisco de Almeida. The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, on instructions from the King of Portugal, was particular about establishing trade with India especially on the west coast of  the Malabar region to procure Indian spices, etc. He and other seamen landed on Kappad beech close to Kozhikode in 1498. Later explorers   Pedro Álvares Cabral  and Alfonso de Albuquerque, taking advantage of the enmity between the Zamorin ruler and the ruler of Kochi, decided to consolidate their trade activities in Spices,pepper etc., over which the Arabs had a monopoly. The Portuguese began  moved from Calicut to Cochin after being expelled by the rulers of Calicut in the early 1550s. The Kochi ule gave them permission to build the fort, the first one by thee European power in India. 

interior, Portuguese church St. Francis, Kochi fort, Almamy.com, 

St.Francis Church, Kochi, Kerla .detination2india.com

As the small Portuguese community needed  a church, the then Viceroy, de Almeida with permission from the local ruler had a humble church built in 1503 within the confines of Ft. Emmanuel/Ft. Kochi. It was a wooden structure dedicated to St. Bartholomew. The local rule allowed de Almeida to replace the wooden structure with bricks and lime-sand mortar. In 1516 the new church dedicated to St. Anthony was built to cater to the increasing Portuguese population.  Presumably,  these improvements were made by the  Franciscan friars who had been managing the church. 

It is to be admitted the exact origin of the church is debatable, however it had been there prior to 1524 when  the man who discovered the first sea route to India from Europe died in 1524 on his 3rd  voyage  to India and was originally buried in this church later. But,  after fourteen years, his  mortal remains were moved to  over to Lisbon for burial there.. So the church must be older than 1524.  

St. Francis church, Kochi, front view notesonindianhistory.com

This church assumes a historical importance and was the silent spectator of the struggle among three European powers, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British to control the highly profitable Indian spice Trade. The Franciscan's control over the church   did not last because  the Dutch captured Kochi in 1663.Being  Protestants, the Dutch destroyed the Catholic churches except this one. They converted it into a protestant church. It was again renovated in 1779  In 1795,  when the British captured Kochi from the Dutch, they allowed the latter to retain the church. Thus this church, which is being managed by the Archaeological society of India (ASI)  since April 1923 (under the Protected Monuments Act of 1904)  survived the ravages of time and the two mighty European powers, particularly, the British who had already become  a powerful force running the proxy government under the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent..  In 1804, the Dutch voluntarily handed over the church to the Anglican Communion. The control of the church transferred to  the Ecclesiastical Department of the Government of India. It is believed that the British  changed the name of the patron saint to St. Francis.

Inside the church you will find yourself facing only a cross, and there is a rare and special  fan that is made of cloth, and has been preserved. Moreover, the church’s wooden ceiling and the floor tiles also date back to hundreds of years.

St. Francis church, Kochi, India  History.thinkingpaticle.com

Owned by the Kochi diocese of Church of South India. the historical church offers services on Sundays and commemorative days. On weekdays  visitors are allowed inside.  De Gama's gravestone  can still be seen here  on the ground at the southern side. The gravestones of other Portuguese are on the northern sidewall and the Dutch on the southern wall. There is also  a cenotaph  erected in 1920  in memory of those residents of Kochi who died in the World  War I.

Add captionVasco de Gama tomb, St. Francis church, Kochi, India you tube. 

Vasco da Gama's Original Tomb at St.Francis Church, Ft. Kochi,,India,Wikipedia
Some historian point out since Vasco de Gama was interred in the chancel of the church in 1525, perhaps, this is the oldest European church in India.. ''A. Sreedhara Menon, State Editor, Kerala Gazetteers, records that on May 3, 1506, the Portuguese Viceroy Almeida was permitted by the Maharaja of Cochin to create a new city of mortar and stone and ‘above all roofed with tiles – a privilege hitherto exclusively confined to the local prince and the temples in which he did puja.''(vide The Hindu dated 20 Nov. 1915).


 statue of Vasco de Gama atop the Viceroy's Arch (1597),Old Goa,columbia.edu/ 

The monastery church Santa Maria .alamy.com

Above image: :Vasco da Gama's grave in Jeronimos Monastery Church, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal, Lisbon: Tomb of Vasco da Gama,  The monastery church Santa Maria .alamy.com

Above image: Belém Mosteiro dos Jeronimos monastery church interior.  'Tomb of Vasco da Gama (1460-1524), Portuguese explorer, in the Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal. On his voyage of 1497-9, Vasco da Gama found a maritime trade route around Africa to India, which helped make Portugal a world power. This monastery was built in 1502 on the site of the hermitage where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent the night before their departure in prayer. Both this tomb, and the one opposite of the poet Luis de Camoes (1527-1570), were designed by the 19th century sculptor Costa Mosta, and the remains of the two men were transferred here in 1880.'' (.https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/137954/view).......