St. Mary's Forane Church, Chalakudy - one of the oldest in the world

St. Mary's Forane Church,Chalakudy. 

St. Mary's Forane Church,Chalakudy

 St. Mary's Forane Church, a Syro-Malabar Catholic place of worship, Chalakudy, Kerala  is one of the old churches in India whose history goes back to more than  1400 years. It is one of the 10 Foranes or deaneries   under the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, which was established in 1978  after the bifurcation of Thrissur Diocese, one of the oldest in India.   There are 16 parishes under the Chalakudy Forane.  In 1937, the parish was elevated to the status of a Forane.  Chalakudy is a small town where  a large population of Christians live. It is a well-known destination for tourists who love to hike in the forested areas close-by. The famous Athirappilly and Vazhachal Falls are near-by and attract a lot of people.

 St. Mary's Forane Church,

St. Mary's Forane Church, Chalakudy, Holy

This place  also known as Shrine of the Nativity of Our Lady  has a close  link with the earliest origin of Christianity in India with the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. In 52 CE  he  landed in Kodungallur, formerly known as Musiris, then a busy commercial center and an important sea-port, famous for spice export. St. Thomas  began to preach Christianity to the natives by visiting various places in Kerala and later was instrumental in establishing seven and half churches, one being now in Tamil Nadu. In 600 CE, the small early Christian community established a church at Chalakudy. The church came up in a place where a large community of Brahmins  had lived and they never objected to the functioning of a church. Until 1300 AD, the  old church functioned there and later it was shifted  to the present location.  The church was reconstructed in 1987 to take care of additional facilities, space, prayer hall, etc., but the historical original intricately carved wooden altar was left untouched to maintain its heritage value, authenticity and veneration.

The old altar carries a special title  Swayamvara Altar", sparingly bestowed by the Pope as the  intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary is claimed to have taken place long ago. The imposing  belfry is the tallest structure  in this area built in Gothic style almost a century ago with a huge statue of Mary on  top. Its church bell on the bell tower was said to have been  imported from France almost 200 years ago on  special request made by the King of Kochi, who ruled that time.

The Holy Land theme at this church is an interesting one introduced by Rev. Fr. Thomas Panjikkaran ,then the  vicar of the parish. It was open to public on 8 September 2006 after 3 years of construction. This innovative theme is a blessing in disguise to those who can't make a trip to Israel.  A casual walk around this theme land will give a feel of visiting the holy land in Israel invoked by various well-chosen authentic models that cover important events from Christ's life.  In view of a large number of devotes come here to pray to Mary,  in October 2000 a ''Marian Grotto'' was built in the church premises similar to the one in Lourdes. In October 2001 a Perpetual Adoration Centre was  built  as a memorial of the silver jubilee of Irinjalakuda Diocese and the consecration of its first Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil.

 The church is famous for two annual feasts St. Mary's and St. Sebastian's feast that  are  well celebrated  by a large number of people from the near-by villages and  Chalakudy town. The church's  holy land concept brings in  lots of tourists and it was introduced in 2006. The visitors may feel like being in the Biblical Holy land.'s_Syro-Malabar_Forane_Church,_Chalakudy