Advantages Beautifully decorated and offers interesting insight into Christianity in India
Disadvantages Not as old as you may be led to believe
If your expectation of religious buildings in India is based around Hindu temples, mosques and endless statues of the Buddha, then Kochi (or Cochin as it used to be known) will come as a surprised. The state of Kerala is predominantly Christian and also the heartland of the Indian Communist Party - not a combination to be expected or to be found in many places. Christianity was brought to Kerala by the waves of European invaders who made it their home and found it to be a fertile ground for missionary work. As a port city, Kochi was Catholic for many years under the influence of the Portuguese and then Protestant when the Dutch turned up. We Brits then rolled in and kicked the Dutch out later. These transitions were not always peaceful as you can imagine and many of the Catholic churches were destroyed or ‘transferred’ to Protestantism under Dutch rule.
Our driver Shijo was a Catholic. We learned this on our first morning with him when he asked me "Madame is arsey?" displaying a level of character awareness and directness that I hadn’t expected. My husband burst out laughing – he got the misunderstanding more quickly than me and had spotted the rosaries hanging from the rear view mirror and the flashing illuminated statues of the Virgin Mary on the dashboard. "No," he replied "Church of England". We had booked a half day tour of Kochi to be added to the end of our four night trip in Kerala and Shijo was determined to make sure we started with a couple of churches, so much so that he managed to engineer the timings of our various touristic stops to ensure we missed the synagogue. Our first stop was Santa Cruz.
The basilica stands in slightly scruffy grounds which double up as a playground for the school that adjoins the property. From the outside the building is bright and clean and painted cream. The paintwork looks to have been carefully tended and is distinctly less mouldy than most older buildings with painted exteriors. It has twin towers and spires at either side of the frontage which gives it a very European style.
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