Historic Churches and Monuments
St. Philomina’s Church, Koonamavu
Built in 1837 by the Italian Carmelite missionary, Bernardine Baccinelli OCD, who was to become the Vicar Apostolic of the newly created Vicariate Apostolic of Quilon and then take over the reign of the Verapoly Vicariate for a glorious epoch, St. Philomina’s Church at Koonamavu has immense historic importance. The saint, Fr. Chavara Kuriakose Elias, did God’s good work and died here on January 3, 1871. He was buried here. It was here that the first indigenous congregation for women, the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites started. In connection with the canonization of Saint Chavara Kuriakose Elias, which took place on November 23, 2014, this church was raised to the status of Pilgrim Centre by His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Francis Kallarakal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Verapoly. The parish is also the birth place of the saintly souls, Servants of God Mother Eliswa Vakayil and Fr. George Vakayil.
St. Francis Assisi Cathedral and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Established in 1821, this church was raised to the status of Pro-Cathedral in 1910, when the headquarters of the Archdiocese was transferred from Verapoly to Ernakulam Town. It was given Cathedral status in the year 1934. During World War II, a Royal Air Force pilot accidently crashed into the tower of the cathedral. Novena in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was started in 1956. The present cathedral, with a unique structure of inverted Arch, was blessed on October 4, 1981. Saint
Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in February 1986.
National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom
The Portuguese missionaries built the church in the island of Vallarpadam dedicated to the Holy Spirit in the year 1524. The venerable image of Our Lady and Infant Jesus was originally installed at the top of the main altar, before the church was destroyed in the heavy floods of 1676. Paliyath Raman Menon, the Dewan of the Maharajah of Cochin, retrieved the image of Our Lady and Infant Jesus from the flood waters. A beautiful church then came up in the land donated by the Dewan. The sanctuary lamp, gifted by the Dewan, still burns in the altar.
The first noted miracle of Vallarpadam happened in 1752, when Meenakshiamma, a noble Nair lady from Palliveetil family of Vallarpadam and her son met with a boat accident in the backwaters near the church. She prayed to Our Lady fervently. For three days and nights the mother and son remained safe underwater under the protection of Our Lady, which she testified later, when people pulled them out. In gratitude all the members of her family vowed to remain loyal servants of Our Lady forever. The spiritual practice of ‘Adima’, submitting oneself to the protection of Our Lady of Vallarpadam, was started thus.
In exaltation of the Queen of Heaven, Pope Leo XIII elevated the main altar of Vallarpadam church to the status of Altare Privilegiatum in Perpetuum Concession in 1888. The Government of India declared Vallarpadam a major pilgrim centre of India in 1951. The Government of Kerala declared the Shrine a tourist centre in 2002. The church was declared a National Shrine in September 2004 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. On December 1, 2004 Pope John Paul II elevated the Shrine to the status of Basilica. Fisher folk bring their vessels and nets for blessing here before they venture out to sea.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph Church, Varapuzha
Established in 1673, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph Church at Varapuzha, by the River Periyar, had been the seat of the Episcopal See of the Malabar Vicariate and subsequently the Archdiocese till 1904. With a residence for the missionaries, this was the first monastery and Mother House of the Carmelites in Malabar. The See of the Archdiocese was then transferred to Ernakulam.
Mount Carmel Church, Chathiath
The first church constructed by Carmelite missionaries in India was built at Chathiath, near Ernakulam, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Cochin. The Carmelite missionary, Fr. Matheus of St. Joseph, who won the confidence of the Dutch Commander Van Rheede, whom he helped in the compilation of the one of the most magnificent works in Botony, Hortus Malabaricus, which gave detailed descriptions of all the flora in Malabar, was given permission to build this church just outside the Dutch territory where the construction of any Catholic religious institution was prohibited. The land was donated by the local chieftain of Cheranalloor, Varekatt Kaimal. The Vicar Apostolic Bishop Alexander de Campo had exempted this church from his jurisdiction. Constructed in Corinthian style, it was built in the shape of a cross. The parish church had a wide jurisdiction, and despite the fact that seven parishes were subsequently carved out of its territory, it still retains the honour of being the largest parish in the Archdiocese of Verapoly.