Portuguese Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Kochi, review

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica,Kochi, Kerala, India .www.unsungindia.com

Santa Cruz Basilica Church Kochi.indianwanderers.wordpress.com
The  southern state of Kerala, India is unique in many respects and differ from other states. The Hindu temples built in Kerala style architecture with slanting roof over the walls, picturesque back waters lined with coconut and  palm tree groves, beautiful beaches and above all impressive churches, many of which  are very old and classified as heritage buildings make Kerala an interesting tourist destination. Here, the old charm is never lost.   Among the old, historical churches, Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, the heritage monument and the pride of  Kochi (Cochin), occupies a unique place in Indian history. Its  origin and growth is woven with the Portuguese history in the region of coastal  Malabar. Located in Kochi city, the cathedral is 500 years old and completed its five centuries of existence in 2004. It is also one of the eight basilicas in the country and a well- known place of veneration, grandeur and beauty and, it is not surprising,  that this church  is being visited by people year round. 

The Portuguese settlers  built the church initially,  using stones and mortar after they had received permission from the King of Cochin. This didn't happen by chance or over night. The church was built by the first Portuguese viceroy, Francesco de Almeida, when he arrived in Kochi way back in 1505. The history of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica  goes back to the Portuguese period  with the arrival of Portuguese missionaries along with the second Portuguese fleet under Pedro Álvares Cabral on 24 December, 1500. Their mission was mainly to spread Christianity among the natives along the coastal areas. The local  ruler was  not on good terms with the neighboring Zamorian king and in the war ensued between them,  the Portuguese commander helped the Kochi king retain his rule. As a good gesture,  King Unni Goda Varma Tirumulpadu (Trimumpara Raja ) of Kingdom of Cochin  allowed  the Portuguese Commander Afonso de Albuquerque  to build  the the edifice which later became  the

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica Church In Cochin .www.dreamstime.com29
 basilica as we know today. Alfonso De Albuquerque was a great military strategist,  who  was instrumental in building forts and  additional fortifications as a means to protect his  trade base, established the Fort Kochi adjacent to this Cathedral. That time many mercantile traders, particularly Arabs,  were against the Portuguese traders who were a threat to their business dealings with the local ruler.
The foundation stone of this church was laid on 3 May, 1505 of the same year during the feast of the 'Invention of the Holy Cross'. Upon completion, it was christened as  'Santa Cruz Cathedral'.

Crucifixion mural, Santa Cruz Catholic Cathedral Basilica, Kochi (Cochin), Kerala,.www.alamy.com

Santa Cruz Catholic Cathedral Basilica, Kochi (Cochin), Kerala, India. -.www.alamy.com

SantaCruz.Cathedral Basilica,Kochi city, Kerala www.thehumansofindia.com
 It was in 1558, Pope Paul IV, raised the Santa Cruz Church to the status of a Cathedral along with the establishment  of the second diocese in India - Diocese of Cochin. This was one of the few Catholic establishments that did not suffer under the Dutch in 1663. They used the cathedral as an armory. However, in 1795, during the British rule, the entire Cathedral was  damaged  to such an extend  what  remained was an elaborate granite pillar of the cathedral.  The stone pillar,  that escaped the ire of the British rulers, is still kept in the south-eastern corner of the present Basilica - poignant remainder of past era. 

It was at the initiative of
Bishop Dom  Joao Gomes Ferreira  in 1887, the then prelate of Cochin,  the cathedral was rebuilt. However, it was only during the reign of his successor, Dom Mateus Oliveira Xavier that the restoration could be done. In 19 November 1905, Dom Sebastiao Jose Pereira, the Bishop of Damao, sanctified the new cathedral.  Using criteria such as artistic excellence, antiquity and historical events associated with Portuguese establishment,  the Santa Cruz cathedral was elevated as a basilica on 19  December 1984 by Pope John Paul II through an ecclesiastical order. Santa Cruz minor Basilica  still serves as the cathedral of the Cochin Diocese - perhaps one of the very few oldest dioceses in India.

Built in an  Indo-European and Gothic style, the cathedral has an impressive pulpit and wood paneling accompanied by magnificent Italian paintings -
frescoes and murals of Last Supper and Jesus on the Cross  done based  on the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci. The the pastel interiors of the church are mostly Gothic, with the main altar decorated  by the famous Italian painter Fra Antonio Moscheni, S.J., and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore.