Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi, Kerala, originally built by the Portuguese - a heritage monument

Inside Santa Cruz Basilica Fort Kochi,

Facade of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Kochi fort,
One of the heritage sites of Kerala, the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is an architectural grandeur and beauty built in typical Portuguese style  with the dominance of Gothic elements. A heaven for tourists interested in old monuments, the  basilica  that serves as the Cathedral church of the Diocese of Cochin was originally built by the  Portuguese. In 1558 when the Dutch took control of this place  to establish their hold in that region, they left it untouched, but they demolished many  other Catholic churches. Under the British colonial rule, the structure was pulled down, However, João Gomes Ferreira, in its place commissioned a new building in 1887. The consecration took place only in  1905 for various reasons. In 1984, Pope John Paul II, on a visit to Kochi,  proclaimed Santa Cruz  a Basilica. Earlier, the church was  elevated to  Cathedral status by Pope Paul IV way back in 1558.

Ft. Kochi location map, Kerala

After Vasco de Gama's first voyage  to  the Malabar coast (Kappd beach, Kozhikode) of present day Kerala state in 1498, the Portuguese undertook the second voyage  with a few fleet under the command of   Pedro Álvares Cabral on 24 December 1500. The King Trimumpara Raja  of Kingdom of Cochin gave them warm reception. On the very first trip de Gama and other Portuguese  gave  lots of problems to the Zamorin ruler. The ruler found them to be unreliable as they engaged in many violent attacks against the natives.  The Portuguese moved from Calicut to Kochi  and, against the wish of Zamorin king, the Kochi ruler allowed them to continue their trade activities there.  When the Zamorin king declared war on the Kochi kingdom, at the request of the local king,  the army under Commander Dom Afonso de Albuquerque who reached Cochin in 1503 with his armada, chipped in and defeated the  Zamorin ruler.  In return for his military support, Albuquerque wanted land to have a church built in Ft. Kochi as he brought along with him Catholic missionaries to spread the ''Gospel of Love.'' 

De Almeida,  the first Portuguese Viceroy  had a simple church built with permission from the king of Kochi, using stones and mortar. At that point of time ,the king never allowed any structure  to be built except  palace or temple  in his kingdom. On 3 May 1505,  the foundation stone of the Santa Cruz church was laid, the day happened to be the feast day of the Invention of the Holy Cross. Upon completion, the church was named   Santa Cruz and it is  on the eastern side of the present Children’s Park, Fort Kochi.

In 1558, Pope Paul IV, raised the Santa Cruz Church to the status of a Cathedral along with the erection of the second diocese in India - Diocese of Cochin; other one being Diocese of Malacca. Under the Dutch only this cathedral and St. Francis church were not destroyed by them who were Protestants. Later when this region came under the British in 1795, they razed the church to the ground except a decorative  granite  pillar.  This historic  relic (which is well preserved)  is the reminder of its Portuguese connection.

Santa Cruz Basilica, Ft. Kochi

João Gomes Ferreira, the Bishop of Cochin  took steps  to rebuild the cathedral.  His successor Bishop  Mateus de Oliveira Xavier (1897–1908) completed thebuilding and the consecration took place on 19 November 1905 by Bishop Sebastião José Pereira, Bishop of Damao. In August 1984, taking into account its  antiquity and historical importance  Pope John Paul II raised the cathedral to the status of Basilica.

Santa Cruz  Basilica, Ft. Kochi, Kerala Ceiling paintings

Interior,  Santa Cruz  Basilica, Ft. Kochi,

With bright white-washed exterior the  Basilica building is an impressive one and its beauty is further enhanced by two  lofty spires. The pastel-colored interior part is dominated by Gothic styled elements. The distinctive feature is the  main altar  the  decorative features were done with meticulous care by a popular Italian painter Fra Antonio Moscheni. The famous painter did not see the consecration of the church because of his unexpected demise on 15 November 1905, four days before the the main event. The frescoes and murals decorate the columns. The added attractions are the seven large canvas paintings on the passion and death on the Cross, especially the painting of the Last Supper, modelled on the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci and the beautiful stained glass windows. Positively, they produce a special effect on the interior décor.  The paintings that adorn the ceiling depict scenes from the Via Crucis of Christ.

Founded on 3 May 1505 by  Francisco de Almeida and other Portuguese, this grand Santa Cruz  Basilica  is worth a visit for monument lovers.


Dom Francisco de Almeida(c. 1450 – 1 March 1510),

Above Image: Dom Francisco de Almeida (c. 1450 – 1 March 1510), a Portuguese nobleman and soldier was close to the king of Portugal. In 1505 King Manuel I  appointed Almeida, then in his mid-fifties, as the first viceroy of Portuguese India (Estado da Índia). He left for India on 25 March 1505 with an armada of 22 ships, including 14 carracks and 6 caravels,  The armada carried a crew of 1,500 soldiers and the mission was to bring the spice trade under the  Portuguese control, to build forts along the east African and Indian coasts, to consolidate Portuguese spice trade by way of alliances with local chieftains, besides constructing trading posts. De Almeida then reached Cochin on 31 October 1505, with only 8 vessels left after a brief visit to other ports in the north coast of Malabar. On his return journey he died on March 1510 (aged 59–60) at Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope.  The flagship was the carrack São Rafael captained by Fernão Soares.,_Kochi