Sunday, April 5, 2009

St. Francis church, Cochin - April 2009

Known to be the first European church in India located near Fort Kochi beach, Kerala.
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Information board displayed at the church narrating the history:

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Actual text of the above information board is given below:

St. Francis church, Cochin

St. Francis church was the first European church to be built in India within the oldest European settlement of Fort cochin. Presumably it owes its origin to the Franciscan friars who accompanied the Portuguese expedition in 1500 A.D.  Originally it is said to have been erected of wood but later rebuilt in stone and roofed with tiles by 1516 A.D.and dedicated to St. Anthony. It remained in the order of St.Francis till 1663 A.D. when it came under the control of the Dutch who reconditioned and converted it into a protestant church. Again during 1779 A.D. it was renovated as indicated by a tablet fixed over its facade but continued in the possession of the Dutch even after the British control over cochin in 1795, till it was voluntarily surrendered to the Anglican communion in 1804 A.D. presumably it was renamed after the patron saint during the later half of the nineteenth century. At present it has been taken over by the church of south India.

Surmounted by a bell-turret over the gable front, the church, facing west, has an impressive facade with arched entrance and windows flanked by stepped pinnacles.

Here in this church, Vasco Da Gama, the first European navigator from Portugal to India, was laid to rest in 1524 A.D. until his remains were removed and taken to Portugal in 1538 A.D.

The gravestones of the Portuguese and the Dutch that were removed from the floor of the nave have been refixed respectively over the northern and southern sidewalls of the church. The earliest Portuguese epitaph here dates back to 1562 A.D. while that of the Dutch to 1664 A.D.

Some of the heraldic designs and armorial bearings on the tombstones are of fine workmanship.

A few memorial brass plates and marble slabs erected in memory of important persons in service of the church are later additions adorning the walls.

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