St Francis CSI Church of Kochi where Vasco de Gama's body was exhumed and taken to Portugal -1539

  Gama was buried here. St. Francis Church in Ft Kochi 

The Church of St. Francis of Kochi city, Kerala, a historical monument from the Portuguese  period in India is steeped in history. After the discovery of the first sea route to India by Vasco da Gama who landed on the coastal Malabar near Kozhikode in 149, within the fortified settlement the Portuguese had built a new church made of stone and bricks on the site of  St. Bartholomew.  Completed in 1516 and  named after St. Anthony,  soon it changed hands and the Dutch made it into a Protectant Church in 1663 and destroyed all catholic churches in Kochi. By providence, the Church of St. Anthony remained unaffected, but became a protectant church. But when the British took control over Kochi  and other places in 1795, the church was renamed again and became the Church of St. Francis, retaining this name to this day. The Society for Archaeological Research of India  in 1923, declared it a  historical monument and had to be protected. 

St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi

war memorial. St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi 

Above images: St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi. There are well-preserved  tablets with blessings  inscribed in Portuguese and Dutch, and the  granite epitaphs  were on the coffins of high-ranking officials who had their burial here. The church has a war memorial as well (WWI) within the compound set by the British for the soldiers including the native....... 

Gama's grave. monastery church Santa Maria

Vasco da Gama's Original Tomb, St. Francis Church ,Ft. Kochi, India,

Interior.St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi

The church that was initially a  thatched-roof structure in Kochi saw expansion under the Dutch after 1660 later under their control till  1795  The stepped pinnacle on both sides of the façade, tall  structure with a gabled tiled roof supported by quality  timber-frame with beams and rafters, etc., are the features of this European styled structure around which the town and fort grew. later the British who made it a cathodic church called St Francis, made some alternation in the interior. They included grand view of the altar with choir on it and the vicar at a higher platform. The church maintains the old hand-operated punkhas. 

Punkha.St. Francis Church in Fort

Above image: Traditional hand-operated punkahs in St Francis church in Kochi to ventilate the air; installed by the British....

Historically, what is special about this old church is it was here explorer  Vasco da Gama was buried, his death having been occurred in 1524 in Kochi on his his third visit to India. But 14  years later his mortal remains were  carefully exhumed  and transported to Lisbon, Portugal for eternal rest in his home land. 

Yet another interesting fact is  the Protestant-Catholic conflict that raged through the Europe  in the early 1600s like the summer bush fire, also had  spilled into the Malabar region and fortunately St Francis Church is one of the few Catholic churches that emerged unscathed during this inter religious conflict.

Above image:  Inter religious warfare became too serious an issue and later took an ugly turn  after the Catholic Church began the Counter-Reformation in 1545 against the growth of Protestantism. The prolonged conflicts culminated in the Thirty Years' War, which devastated  Germany and  led to the death of one third of its population, a mortality rate twice that of World War (Wikipedia)..... 

The historical St  Francis CSI Church of  Ft. Kochi was a silent spectator of not  only the gradual growth of Kochi city but also of joyous victories and conquests and of pangs of pain and death resulted during  battles  among the European powers - the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the British. It was the Portuguese Franciscan Friars, who accompanied the  Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvarez Cabral, second European explorer to arrive in India, were instrumental in building the oldest Portuguese church here. 

Portuguese explorer. Pedro Cabral.

Above image: Pedro Álvares Cabral (c. 1467 or 1468 – c. 1520 ) was a Portuguese nobleman and navigator; the first European to reach Brazil on April 22, 1500. However, the Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón could have arrived in Brazil before Cabral. His voyage was the second from Europe to reach India by the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope

 The Portuguese settlers, who had arrived with Vasco da Gama and settled  down here needed  a church for their spiritual needs. The Kochi Rajah, being magnanimous, permitted  the Viceroy Alphonso Alburquerque (from 1509 to 1515)  to build  a church