Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Kochi
History cuddles you in very many ways in Fort Kochi. This versatile portion of Kochi takes us to a ride along the pages of past that is marked by historical edifices and structures. This time we are taking you to one such inimitable landmark where devotion embraces history, artistry, and architectural grandeur.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica in Fort Kochi is one of the eight Basilicas in India. This heritage edifice of Kerala is also one of the finest and imposing churches in India. Located close to the renowned St. Francis Church, this basilica serves as the cathedral church of the Diocese of Cochin, the second oldest Diocese of India.
The history of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica dates back to the sixteenth century and begins with the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in 1500 CE. The construction works started when the first Portuguese Viceroy Dom Francisco de Almeida got permission from the Cochin Raja to build a church. The foundation stone was laid on May 3, 1505, the feast day of the ‘Invention of the Holy Cross’, hence the church was named Santa Cruz. Meanwhile the church had undergone some serious demolition and re-erection. The present day structure was consecrated on 19 November 1905. In 1984 Pope John Paul II raised the status of Santa Cruz Cathedral to Basilica for its antiquity, artistic dignity and historical importance.
This amazing construction has two lofty spires that welcomes all even from a distance. The exterior is white-washed and astonishingly bright and the interior is pastel-coloured. The interior of the church has Gothic style architecture with its overwhelming arches and an awe-inspiring altar. The main altar was decorated by the renowned Italian painter Fr Antonio Moscheni and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore. Their contribution is still vivid in the columns that are decorated with frescoes and murals. The seven large canvas paintings including a beautiful reproduction of the ‘Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci are a real feast for the eyes. The ceilings of the church are adorned with paintings that depict scenes from the Via Crucis of Christ. The beautiful stained glass windows are another attraction.
The church, for its inimitable beauty and grandeur, has become a must-see destination in Fort Kochi.
History of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica
The history of the Basilica starts with the arrival of the second Portuguese fleet under Pedro Alvares Cabral on 24 December 1500 along with Portuguese missionaries. King Trimumpara Raja of Cochin Kingdom welcomed them and that caused the ruler of Kozhikode Kingdom, Zamorin to declare war on Cochin Kingdom as Zamorin and Portuguese had very bad relation in the Malabar region of Kerala.
The war efforts of Zamorin were not paid off well with the arrival of the Portuguese commander Afonso de Albuquerque in 1503. He and the Portuguese army defeated the enemies of the Cochin Kingdom and the king in return gave permission to the Portuguese to build a fort in Cochi.
Subsequently in 1505, Dom Francisco de Almeida the first Portuguese viceroy got permission from King of Cochin to build a church building and the foundation stone of the church was laid on 3 May 1505 on the day of the ‘Feast of the Cross’. Feasts of the Cross commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. While Good Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion, this day celebrate the cross itself as the instrument of salvation. Since the foundation of the church happend on the day of the Feast of the Cross, the church building when completed was named Santa Cruz, meaning Holy Cross.