Our Lady of Purification Church (Port Kollam Church), Kerala - A brief Historical perspective

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Our Lady of Purification of church Port Kollam Kerala, You tube.co

Our Lady of Purification Church, popularly known as the Port Kollam Church, stands as a testament to the enduring faith and rich history of the Roman Catholic community in Kollam, Kerala. This historic church, located near Kollam Port, is deeply rooted in ecclesiastical tradition, tracing its origins back to the early Christian era in India.

Early Christian Roots and Establishment by Thomas the Apostle:  According to ecclesiastical tradition, Christianity in Kerala was established by Thomas the Apostle, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who is believed to have traveled to the Malabar Coast in 52 CE. Thomas the Apostle is credited with founding seven churches in Kerala, known collectively as the Ēḻarappaḷḷikaḷ, which include the church in Kollam. These churches formed the bedrock of early Christian communities in the region.

Port Kollam Church,, Keralayoutube.com

Our Lady of Purification Church, Kollam, Keralayoutube.com

The initial church in Kollam was constructed between 52 CE and 78 CE to provide a place of worship for the newly baptized Christians. This early church, however, faced the destructive forces of nature. Violent sea erosion claimed the church, compelling the Christian community to seek alternatives.

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The Second Church and Its Demise:  In response to the loss of the initial church, the believers sought and obtained permission from the King of Kollam to build a second church. This church was constructed with the hope that it would withstand the ravages of time and nature. Despite these hopes, the second church also succumbed to sea erosion. The ruins of this second church remain visible in the sea during low tides, a haunting reminder of the community's resilience. Local fishermen refer to these ruins as "Pallikallu," which translates to "the stone of the great church." In February 2021, a group of local divers retrieved a rock from these submerged ruins, which was subsequently installed in the current church, symbolizing the unwavering faith of the community.

Establishment of the Diocese of Quilon: The significance of Kollam in the history of Christianity in India was further underscored in 1329 when Pope John XXII established the Diocese of Quilon (Kollam) as the first diocese in India. This designation marked Kollam as a pivotal center for the Roman Catholic Church in India, with the Kollam Church playing a central role in the diocese.

Pre-Portuguese Era and the Arrival of the Portuguese: Before the arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, Kollam already had an established church known as the Kollam Church. The arrival of the Portuguese brought significant changes to the region, including the construction of additional churches. The Portuguese influence led to the renaming of the Kollam Church as "Port Kollam Church," reflecting its proximity to the port and its importance in the burgeoning maritime activities of the time. The Port Kollam parish was visited by Saint Francis Xavier, a prominent Jesuit missionary, d in the 16th century. 

Construction of the New Church in 1912:  In recognition of the importance of this holy site, a new church dedicated to Our Lady of Purification was constructed. This church served the community for more than 70 years, becoming a cornerstone of faith and worship for generations of Catholics in Kollam. However, by the end of the 20th century, the need for a more modern and robust structure became apparent. In response to the demand of the growing community and withstand the test of time,  a reconstruction plan of the church was initiated. The foundation stone for the new church was blessed by Pope John Paul II on 8 February 1986, during his Apostolic Pilgrimage to India. The church came into being  on 23 January 1993 and blessed  by the Bishop of Kollam, Joseph G. Fernandez.

Architectural and Cultural Significance: The architectural design of the current Our Lady of Purification Church blends traditional elements with modern aesthetics, reflecting the rich cultural heritage and the dynamic spirit of the community. The church's facade is adorned with intricate designs and symbols that narrate the story of its storied past. Inside, the church houses several artifacts and relics that connect the present-day congregation with their historical roots.  The church has been a center for various social services, including education, healthcare, and community development programs..

Festivals and Celebration: The Feast of Our Lady of Purification, celebrated annually on February 2nd, is one of the most significant events in the church's calendar. 

Throughout its history, the Port Kollam Church has faced numerous challenges, including natural disasters, colonial influences, and socio-political changes.  It continues to be a place of worship, reflection, and community gathering, upholding the traditions and values passed down through generations.

Conclusion:  From its establishment by Thomas the Apostle in 52 CE to its present-day significance, the church has been a central figure in the spiritual and social life of Kollam.