Advantages It's the real thing - original and old
Disadvantages There's not actually much to see inside
The second church we visited in Kochi (formerly known as Cochin) in the Indian state of Kerala was St Francis' CSI Church. CSI stands for Church of South India – not Crime Scene Investigation, in case you were wondering. Our visit came directly after we'd been to Santa Cruz Basilica so the contrasts between the two were quite noticeable. Although the basilica is bigger and grander than St Francis, it's less authentically old, having been destroyed and rebuilt. St Francis, by contrast, is the real thing – a genuine old 'as it was built' chuch which dates back to 1503 when it was founded by the Portuguese explorers who were the first to land in India.
It seems funny today to reflect that the world was once the shared oyster of the Spanish and the Portuguese. All the more so when you consider what a mess the two countries are currently in with their economies and unemployment problems. In the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, the Pope had carved up the world dividing the Americas and as yet undiscovered new lands between the two countries. It's hard to imagine the arrogance of such a decree but it certainly fired up the Portuguese to head off in search of the riches to the east after the Spanish got the better deal in the West. Speaking of arrogance, of course we Brits didn't do too badly a couple of centuries later, building our own empire without any help from the Pope.
St Francis is both a church and a record of the history of Kochi and its surroundings. The Portuguese arrived first led by da Gama and they built a fort by the sea to protect their position. To this day the area is still called Fort Kochi though there's little of the actual fort to see any more. After risking life and limb on the high seas, it was perhaps not a surprise that the Portuguese wanted to build a church to thank God for their safe arrival. At that time the church named after St Bartholomew was built in wood and then a few years later was replaced with a more solid and long-lasting construction of brick which was completed in 1516 and rededicated to St Anthony.
In 1663 Kochi fell to the Dutch who kicked out the Portuguese and destroyed most of their catholic churches, retaining just St Francis and the original Santa Cruz church. I read somewhere that they used Santa Cruz to store their weapons but they must have rather liked St Francis and converted it to become a protestant church.
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