St. George Basilica, Angamaly
The construction work of newly built St George church, was initiated by the then Vicar, Very Rev. Fr. Paul Kariyatty. The foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil on 16th November, 1997 and the Church was consecrated on 31st December, 2006. It stands as the biggest church in Kerala having an area of 24,000 sq. feet and can accommodate 8,000 people at a stretch. The alter covers 2000 sq. feet and is furnished with statues of Holy men in glittering crystal and in metal.
At a time 50 priests can celebrate the Holy mass in Altar. A 24 feet length statue of crucified Christ along with St. Mary and St. John is affixed on the Altar. The dome of the church is about 185 ft height from the floor, which is mounted with a globe weighing 750 kg and a stainless steel 450 kg. The 16 windows surrounding the dome is decorated with the portraits of the Apostles, and the 64 windows of the church are imprinted with the Holy Men and the incidents of the New and the Old Testaments, on Belgium glass.
Pope Benedict XVI raised the Forane church into a Minor Basilica and informed through a decree to Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly. The decree was signed on 24th June, 2009 by the Prefect Cardinal Anonius Canizares Lovera of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. The Official declaration function was conducted in the evening of 27th August, 2009; and twenty eight bishops from all over the India were participated in the majestic historical function.
Angamaly parish with more than 2400 catholic families – the origin of St Thomas Syrian Christians in Malabar (Kerala), is now spiritually progressing by convincing and retrieving its lost antiquity.
The annual feast is celebrated as” Puthunjayar perunnal” in the name of Parish patron saint ‘St George’. According to traditional belief, St. George (A.D.275 – 23April 303), a Christian Martyr, was a Roman soldier and priest in the guard of Diocletian. In Hagiography St George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (western and Eastern Rites), Anglican and Orthodox churches. He is commemorated in the tale of St. George and the Dragon and is one of the fourteen holy helpers.
At Angamaly the “Puthunjayar perunnal” is celebrated on Sunday and Monday, which come just after the Easter. There is no clear evidence about the commencement year of this festival. In ancient years, Angamaly was infested with bushes and reptiles mostly snake; which created a fearful environment for the residents. To surmount this situation, the people used to keep aside milk, eggs, fruits etc as an offering.
Knowing this, the Christian missionaries tried to eradicate their phony beliefs by enlightening gospel. They imparted knowledge about the gracious and audacious St. George. Soon after, the people became obliged to St George (locally called Geevarghese ) by experiencing the miraculous powers of St. George. The existing miraculous statue of St George at Angamaly Basilica was brought from Persia about six centuries ago. There are lot of mythical stories lively active about this statue among the people.
A folklore dance known as” Thullal “, sometimes mockingly called” devil’s dance”, was used to play during this festival to attract people, which are now banned by the ecclesiastical authorities. This annual feast is one of the widely celebrated catholic festivals in Kerala, in which many people from all over South India arrive in legions, especially from Udmelpettu (Tamil Nadu), with prayers and offerings. The offerings by the people’s mainly constitutes models and statues of snakes and eggs made of gold or silver, statues of saints, hens , oil etc. The Octave is also celebrated on Sunday in grand manner