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  Life   Travel  22 Jul 2017  Where time stands still

Where time stands still

Published : Jul 22, 2017, 12:53 am IST
Updated : Jul 22, 2017, 12:53 am IST

The St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi continues to remain a thing of beauty after being a spectator to the colonial struggle.

A stone beside the tomb says the mortal remains of Gama were taken back to his place.
 A stone beside the tomb says the mortal remains of Gama were taken back to his place.

In the heart of Fort Kochi stands a church painted yellow with a lawn on the courtyard. It may remind you of those colonial churches seen in pictures. We reach the place on a Sunday morning. It seems the Sunday mass just got over. Two people, who look like church caretakers, sit on the chairs outside, engrossed in some discussion. At one corner, a group is busy clicking selfies. It is off-season and hence the place is not so crowded.

We get into the church and feel we have travelled back in time. The floor is tiled with stones. Wooden benches are there in the nave of the church. Punkhas (a type of fan using clothes) are seen on both sides. Look up and one can see chandeliers. What this church has in common with the modern churches are a few ceiling fans. After a few more steps on the aisle, we come across Vasco da Gama's tomb on our right side. A stone beside the tomb says the mortal remains of Gama were taken back to his place.

This church and Gama's life are connected. It is said that Gama was followed by Pedro Alvares Cabral and Afonso de Albuquerque, two Portuguese noblemen, who, with the permission of the Raja of Cochin, built Fort Emmanuel on Fort Kochi beach. Inside the fort, they built a church in the name of St. Bartholomew. Later, Portuguese Viceroy Francisco De Almeida rebuilt the church with stones, presumably with the help of the Franciscan friars. The new church was made in St. Anthony's name.

In 1663, the Dutch, who invaded the place, reconditioned the church and made it government property. Although the British conquered Kochi later, they allowed the Dutch to retain the church. In 1804, the Dutch handed over the church to the Anglican Communion and it is said they made St. Francis the patron saint. The church, which is the oldest European church in India, is now a protected monument. It is owned by the Kochi diocese of the Church of South India.  

After spending some time silently inside the church and going through its history, we leave the church as the silent spectator of the European colonial struggle stands there awaiting new visitors to narrate its story.

Tags: vasco da gama, fort kochi, st. francis church