Sunday, 30 May 2010


M Thomas Antony

Also published at

Picture credit, Gorgias Press LLC,, Page 304, India in 1500AD.


Joseph, the Indian is a famous character in the History of Medieval India. He was a Christian priest from Malabar who had travelled to Mesopotamia, Europe, visited the Holy Patriarch of the East and ordained as a Priest by Him, and also visited the Holy Patriarch of the Western Church- the Pope of Rome and declared the identity and ecclesiology of the St Thomas’ Christians to western Christianity. Joseph was interviewed by the Signoria of Venice and his accounts were written by an unknown European and have been published as 25 editions in seven different European languages. These accounts are considered as jewels in the history of that time period.

The narrations of Joseph, the Indian throw light into the history of St Thomas’ Christians in the immediate pre-Portuguese period. The pre-Portuguese history of St Thomas Christians is not well documented. Many accounts have been found from various writings; letters of Patriarchs and Prelates, inscriptions and oral accounts. Many books have been written about the history of early Christianity in Kerala in 16th and 17th centuries but all of them are Western in origin. The narrations of Joseph are the only available account from a native source who was a Prominent Priest at the period and hence these accounts are historically very significant.
Many authors have cited the narrations of Joseph, the Indian in their books. Rev. Fr Antony Vallavanthara C. M. I. has done a very unique research on narrations of Joseph, the Indian and their original publications. He has traced all the available texts and versions of narrations and has conducted a critical study about its contents, the authorship, and the original text and published a book “India in 1500 A D, The narrations of Joseph, the Indian.” published by Gorgias Press, USA. He has presented the initial sources of the narrations in Italian, Latin and Dutch with English translations in the book with his detailed analysis.


2a.Joseph’s travel to Babylon

Joseph was a member of the delegation of St Thomas’ Christians sent to the Patriarch of Babylon to bring Bishops for Malabar. St Thomas’ Christians did not have Native Bishops, for unknown reasons. They depended on the Church of the East for Prelates. There are periods where there were no prelates in Malabar. One such period was the time just before the arrival of Portuguese.[1]
There are hints in the writings of Francisco Dionysio, the rector of the Jesuit College in Cochin, in 1578 that St Thomas’ Christians did not have any Prelates for about 40 years due to some differences among them and when they settled their differences, they sent delegates to Babylon to fetch Bishops in 1490. Joseph was among one of the three delegates who travelled to meet Mar Simeon, the Patriarch of Babylon (1437-1497).One delegate died on the way but Joseph and George arrived there safely. Both of them were ordained Priests by Mar Simeon at the Holy Church of St George at Gazerta. They were then sent to a Monastery of Blessed Eugenius where they found two monks with the same name, Rabban Joseph and the Catholicose Patriarch consecrated them as Bishops – Mar Thomas and Mar John for Malabar. Cathanaars Joseph and George returned with Mar Thomas and Mar John back to Malabar.[2]
“When these same four came there with the help of Christ ,our Lord, they were received by the faithful with great joy, who carried before them, the book of the gospel, the cross, censors, and torches and they introduced them to the Christians with much pomp and with chanting of psalms and hymns. And they, the Bishops consecrated altars, and ordained very many priests, for the people had been without fathers for a long time”.[3]
Germann reports about Joseph’s second journey to Babylon in 1498 with Mar Thomas.[4]
That means, Mar John stayed in Malabar and Mar Thomas returned to Babylon in AD1498 with Joseph to fetch the offerings of the Christians of India to the Cartholicos. This second journey is mentioned in the Narrations of Joseph, the Indian also. Joseph’s narrations to Venetians as reported by Paesi tell us that “The said Joseph related that he had departed from the said town of Cranganore with a Bishop, his superior. Ascending a ship, he went towards the island of Ormus. From there he proceeded to the mainland where he stayed for three months and with the said Bishop, he went as far as Armenia to meet his Pontiff. By Him, this Bishop was consecrated and the said Joseph was ordained a Priest”.[5]
This second journey is mentioned by Fr H Hosten S J who states that Mar Thomas returned with first fruits and a slave.[6] Mackenzie says Mar Thomas with Joseph returned to the Patriarch taking first fruits and offerings.[7] Assemani states that the onward journey to Babylon was in 1492 and Joseph returned in 1493 without quoting any authoritative references.[8]
In 1503, the successor of Mar Simeon, Mar Elias, the Catholicos Patriarch consecrated three Bishops from the Monastery of St Eugene- Rabban David as Mar Jaballaha, Rabban George as Mar Denha, Rabban Masud as Mar Jacob. Mar Elias sent these three new Bishops together with Mar Thomas to the lands of the Indians, and to the islands of the seas, which are within Dabag, and to Sin and Masin- Java, China and Maha china- Great China.[9]
The next year, AD 1504, they sent a historic letter in Syriac to Mar Elias, the Catholicose Patriarch of Babylon, describing about the Christians of Malabar, the vast regions in India and announce the arrival of Portuguese in India.[10]
Joseph travelled to Babylon again in AD 1502 from Portugal. Joseph’s narrations say that Joseph’s plan was to travel to Rome, Venice and then to Jerusalem and Babylon to visit the Cathlicose Patriarch. The third journey of Joseph to Babylon is discussed later.

2b. Joseph’s travel to Portugal

In AD 1500, The King of Portugal sent a fleet of 12 ships under the leadership of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Malabar. They arrived in Calicut on 13th of September with only seven ships arriving, the rest lost on the way. Cabral had disputes in Calicut with the Arab traders and Samorin, hence moving to Cranganore where the King of Cochin received Cabral “very kindly” (as per Narratives of Joseph the Indian). “Anonymous Narrative”, a book written by an unknown Pilot in the fleet of Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral, reports that: “and thus we were 12 or 15 days loading the ships in a distance from Cochin at a place called crangallo. In this place, there are Christians…..and from there, two other Christians came with us. They said, they wished to go to Rome and Jerusalem. The captain had great pleasure with these two men”.[11]
Joseph and his brother Mathias travelled with Cabral to Portugal. De Barros describes this in his book “Da Primeira Decada”, as quoted by Mathias Mundadan in his work “St. Thomas Christians 1498- 1552” He says that the Portuguese, after having established friendly relations with the King of Cochin, were loading their ships in twenty days time in the river of Cranganore, five leagues from Cochin. In this port of Cranganore, the Portuguese were approached by many Christians of St Thomas. Of these Christians, two brothers named Mathias and Joseph, who had been educated by the Armenian Bishops who resided there wanted to go with Cabral to Portugal and Rome and from there to Jerusalem and Armenia to see their Patriarch.”[12]
Faria y Sousa reports that one of them died and the other returned.[13]
Joseph sailed to Portugal with Cabral on 10 January 1501 according to “Anonymous Narratives”.[14]
All the three versions (Italian, Latin and Dutch) of the Narrations of Joseph the Indian confirm that Mathias died on the way and Joseph lived. Barros and Gouvea reports that Mathias died in Portugal. A letter dated 1505 from the King of Portugal (Dom Manuel) to the King of Castile, giving an account of the voyages of 1500-1505, mentions two Christian priests who, with the permission of their prelate, had come from India to visit Rome and Jerusalem.[15]
This also proves that Joseph and Mathias arrived in Lisbon and Mathias dies in Lisbon. All the three texts of narratives of Joseph agree that Joseph arrived in Lisbon in June but “Anonymous Narrative” says July. The two letters known to us dated 27th June 1501 and the other of Giovanni Affaidati dated 26th June 1501, both written from Lisbon, mention the return of Cabral’s ships and hence, they might have arrived earlier than 26th June, 1501.[16]
According to the Latin text, Joseph was received by the King of Portugal and Novus Orbis conforms that the King received him with honour. The Italian text confirms that Joseph stayed in Lisbon until January 1502.[17]

2c. Joseph’s journey to Rome.

Joseph stayed in Lisbon until January 1502. He may have learnt some Portuguese within these six months. The Italian text narrates:
“And when he departed from the said place there was given to him by the majesty of the most Serene King, one companion who should accompany him to Rome, Venice and Jerusalem. And thus having been at Rome, then he came to Venice in the year 1502, in the month of June and remained there many days”.[18]

It was in Venice that he was interviewed by the unknown author of the narrations of Joseph, the Indian. He was presented to the Signoria of Venice. Dutch and Latin texts confirm that from Rome and Venice, Joseph returned to Lisbon, but the Italian text is silent about this.[19]

2d. Joseph’s visitation of Pope Alexander VI.

In the narrations of Joseph, he confirms that he had an audience with Pope Alexander VI. Joseph informed the Pope about the Christians of Malabar, their ecclesial system, hierarchy and so forth. He also talks about the East Syriac Catholicose Patriarch of Mosul and his right of appointing Bishops to Malabar. When Joseph was asked, who gave this authority to the Catholicose Patriarch, Joseph’s response was that St Peter was the Bishop of Antioch but when St Peter had moved to Rome, he had left a Vicar at Antioch and it is from him they gain the authority.

2e. Joseph’s journey to Jerusalem and Babylon.

All the texts of “Narrations of Joseph” and the “Anonymous Narratives” talk about Joseph’s plan to visit Rome and Jerusalem. The Italian text confirms when it mentions about the companion deputed by the King of Portugal that he will accompany Joseph to Rome, Venice and Jerusalem. But none of the texts give any details of this last part of his itinerary.
Germann argues that Joseph went to Babylon and visited the Catholicose Patriarch in AD 1503 and he was instrumental in return of Mar Thomas back to Malabar in AD 1503.[20]
Remember, Joseph brought Mar John and Mar Thomas to Malabar from Babylon in AD 1490. In AD 1498, Mar Thomas returned to Babylon with Joseph. In AD 1503, Mar Thomas returned to Malabar with the other three newly consecrated Bishops – Mar Jaballaha, Mar Denha and Mar Jacob. Germann quotes Assemani to suggest that it was Joseph who prompted the Catholicose Patriarch to send Mar Thomas back to Malabar with the other three Bishops; however, there are no authoritative references.

2f. Joseph returns to India.

We do not know when Joseph returned to India. As we have already discussed, Schurhammer and Mathias Mundadan argues that Joseph came back to Kerala and became the chief priest at Cranganore in light of the testimony of Panteado in AD1518: “As soon as the priest who returned from Portugal, returned from his pilgrimage to Sao Tome- Mylappore – he scandalised with me…”[21] .
Therefore, we have to assume that Joseph returned to Malabar before AD 1518.


Narrations of Joseph, the Indian throw light onto the traditions of the Thomas Christians of Malabar in the medieval period. As there are not many documents available about the traditions of St Thomas Christians before the arrival of Portuguese, Joseph’s witnesses are very important. Very many authors have used Joseph’s witness in their books.
The first account published about Joseph and his journey was in “Anonymous Narrative” written by a pilot in the fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator who took Joseph to Portugal.[22]
“Anonymous Narratives” and “Narrations of Joseph, the Indian” are contemporary publications about Joseph.

The first published source of Joseph’s narrations is in Italian, from Vincentia- “Paesi Nouamente Retroudati” in AD 1507. There are seventeen editions of the narrations published from this source alone, in Italian, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese and English languages.
The second was in Latin called “ItinerariumPortugallensium e Lucilania in Indiam inde in occidentem ac demum ad aquilonem” came out in AD 1508 from Milan in Italy. The contents of Itinerarium were republished in AD 1532 as “Novus orbis Regionum ac Insularum” from Basel in Switzerland and from this, various different editions came out. There are seven editions from this source, in Latin, German and Dutch.

Picture Credit. Gorgias Press LLC,, Page 313, India in 1500 A D.

The third source is in Dutch language came out in AD 1706 as a booklet “Sonderlinge Reysen van Joseph den geboornen Indiaan” in a work called “Naaukereurige Versameling der Gedenk-waardigste Zee Land Reysen Na Oost en West Indien”. The booklet reported that it was a translation from Portuguese language for the first time.This shows that there was a Portuguese source. We presume that Joseph might have learned some Portuguese language during his stay in Portugal for at least six months and that he had a companion from Portugal. Hence, this edition is very important as it may be the most reliable source. Also, Fr Antony argues that the Italian source has a lot of Portuguese influence in the language and hence the original text might have been in Portuguese.

The fourth source is a collection of chronicles called “Fasciculus temporum” which contains narrations of Joseph, the Indian as an appendix. This source has been cited by authors like Gouvea, Germann and Nagam Aiyya.

3a. Joseph as the leader of St Thomas Christians

We see Joseph as one of the members of the St Thomas Christian delegation visiting the Patriarch of Babylon in 1490 to get priests and bishops to Malabar church. This was reported clearly in the letters of the four East Syriac Bishops to the Patriarch.
“In the year of Alexander 1801-AD 1490, there came three trustworthy Christian men from the remote regions of India to Mar Simeon, the Catholic Patriarch of the orient, to ask for Fathers -ahabata- and take them with them. One of them died on the way according to the will of the creator. The two others came safely to the Mar Catholicose who was then living in the town Gazarta Bet Zabdai and they were received by him with the greatest joy. One of them was called George and the other Joseph. Both of them were ordained priests in the holy church of St George in Gazarta by the Mar Catholicos. For, they were fairly educated”.[23]
Authors like Schuhammer, Germann and Mundadan argue that the Joseph who was ordained by the Catholicose was the same Joseph, the Indian Priest who went to Europe with Cabral to meet the Pope. Germann also reports that Joseph visited Babylon again in 1492 with Bishop Mar Thoma (Mar Yohannan stayed in Malabar) to meet the Catholicos and give the offerings to him.[24]

3b. Joseph as a statesman declaring the religio cultural identity of St Thomas Christians.

The most famous of these three witnesses of Joseph is his visitation to Europe in AD 1501 with Cabral and audience to Pope of Rome and narrating the religio socio cultural aspects of Malabar to the Venetians who reported these narrations and published in various European languages. Joseph must be the first St Thomas Christian visiting Europe. He used that opportunity well by declaring his religio cultural identity to the Europeans.

During his visitation to Pope Alexander VI, Joseph declared that Church in the East is governed by the Catholicos Patriarch at Babylon and his right of appointing Bishops to Malabar. When Joseph was asked about the authority to the Catholicose Patriarch, Joseph clarified that when St Peter, who was the Bishop of Antioch, had to move to Rome, he left a Vicar at Antioch. It is from him, the Catholicos get the authority to govern the Church in the East.

3c. Joseph as a fierce fighter to preserve the rite and jurisdiction of St Thomas Christians.

We see Joseph again in AD 1518 in Cranganore arguing with the Portuguese Missionary Alvares Panteado to keep the rite and traditions of St Thomas Christians and raising the famous argument- Mar Thomayude Maargavum Vzhipadum- the way and lineage of St Thomas. Panteado wrote in AD 1518 “As soon as the Priest, who returned from Portugal returned from Sao Tome, he was scandalises with me and asked me what I wanted. I said you should conform to Rome”.[25]

It seems clear that Panteado was talking about the priest who had been to Portugal and is based in Cranganore. Schurhammer in his article “Three Letters of Mar Jacob, Bishop of Malabar” asks affirmatively when he talks about Joseph, the Indian, “is he not the parish priest of Cranganore who returned from Portugal”?[26]

Mundadan also confirms the chief Priest of Cranganore mentioned here seems to be Joseph, the Indian who had been to Portugal.[27]

Mundadan also comments Joseph the Indian, whose mission to Babylon in AD 1490 and his trip with Cabral to Portugal and Venice, was no doubt an important man in the community and he was the priest and the rector of the of the main church of Cranganore.[28]


The author of the narrations observes Joseph as a man of about forty years of age and dark coloured, medium size. An ingenious man of high integrity, truthful, an exemplary man with very great faith. He was a man of whom we will never be sorry to have made acquaintance. Joseph talked about a range of subjects from Christianity in Malabar with its ancient traditions and customs, socio economic cultural life of Malabar, especially the rites and rituals of Hindus and Christians, political scenario, agriculture, trade and economics, Sociology, theology, astronomy, animals, plants, a detailed explanation about coconut trees, its uses, wine and sugar making from coconut and more.


5a. Churches or Houses.

Joseph comments that the Christians take their houses for a certain price from the gentile king and pay annual rent.[29] By house, Joseph may have been talking about the house of worship. We can see this word in many ancient writings; House of St Thomas at Mailappore for example. Joseph may have been talking about the annual property tax. We know many Kings have waived the annual tax for the churches.

The houses of Christians are made of wooden walls. In fact, the temples of Christians are made like ours (European) except that they have only a cross in the church. On the top of the church also, there is a cross. Latin text clearly says no statues of saints in the church. On the foundation, there is a big cross. This may be the open air granite cross found in Kerala churches.

Duarte Barbosa and Antonio de Gouvea also report this. “They say mass on altars like ours with a cross in front of them.”[30]
“And the old ones were all built like the temples of the gentiles, but all full of crosses like those of the miracle of St Thome, which they call Cross of Saint Thomas.”[31]
Gouvea also reports about the open air granite crosses. “and no one can but see crosses in the whole of Malabar, even if it is in the most out of the way roads, which does not have its foot very well done, and inside it a place for the lamp which it lit throughout the night, having the care to provide it with oil, not less the Christians than the gentiles, which is not found in any other part of India, and much less in Europe”.[32]

Rev. Dr Pius Malekandathil observes that there were two types of crosses venerated among the St Thomas Christians; one constructed outside the church, but in front of it along the wayside, very often with arrangements for lighting lamps (vilakkumadams) and the second type, inside the church, with Pahlavi inscriptions which, as Gouvea refers to as St Thomas Crosses.[33]

Joseph also confirmed that the bells are not in use in the Christian churches. When they want to call the people for worship, they use the rite of the Greeks. It is not clear what the rite of the Greeks is? Before bells were popularised in Europe, Semantron was used by Greeks to call people to church. Semantrone is long piece of timber of iron which is beated to make sound.[34]

Aloysius Cadamustus, a Venetian traveller who started his tour from Europe in 1493, visited Calicut and reported that the city was inhabited by Indian Christians and he saw churches with bells.[35]

5b. About the Clergy.

Joseph clearly mentions that the Christians of Malabar had priests, deacons and subdeacons. Italian-diaconi et subdiaconi, L-levitas and hypodiaconas, D-leviten en onderhelpers.[36]
The priests do not have tonsure. They kept hair at the top of the head. Malabar priests used to retain a tuft of hair on the head as did the Nampoothiris- the Hindu priests. Christian priests used to keep a cross on this tuft of hair.[37]

“The priests keep conjugal chastity that is after the death of the first wife, they do not marry another. But later, under the influence of the Portuguese, celibacy came into use.” Vallavanthara also quotes Fr Dionysio “A few years ago, the priests were married. Now, all keep celibacy, and if someone gets married, he remains suspended”.[38]

5c.Monasteries and Nunneries

Joseph also mentions that they had hermitages with monks dressed in black clothes, who live in chastity, and also nuns. This doesn’t mean that the priests were celibate. The Italian text uses the same word for monks and priests but the Latin text uses different words- continentissime for monks and catissime for cathanaars.Fr Vallavanthara quotes Goes “They had monasteries of monks, who wear black dress. There are nuns too. Both monks and nuns live in great observance of honesty, chastity and poverty.”[39]

Carmelite Missionary Paulinose wrote that there were monasteries for men under the Nestorian Patriarch at Kuravilangadu, Edappalli, Angamali and Mylappore. These monks were the spiritual leaders of the St Thomas’ Christians.[40]

Osorius, a Catholic writer, who wrote about the Thomas Christians at the time of Emmanuel , King of Portugal that “there are among them, fraternities of monks and associations of virgins; yet they are cloistered in separate buildings and chastity is maintained with great care”[41]

5d. Hierarchical system of St Thomas Christians

For spiritual matters, the Christians have a great pontiff as the head who is called Catholica. There are 12 Cardinals under him and two Patriarchs, Bishops and Archbishops.[42]
Joseph mentioned about his return to Babylon with a Bishop to meet the Catholicose. This is an evidence to his second journey to Babylon with Mar Thomas to submit the first fruits in AD 1498.

The term Patriarch is not very clear. It might have been a title of the head of the church in India and China. We know that when Mar Ahatalla came in AD 1653, he claimed that he was the Patriarch of India and China. Mar Andrews- kallada Mooppan claimed that he was a Patriarch. From these, we have to assume that it was a title known to Malabar Christians.
About the 12 cardinals. We know that 12 was an important number for Malabar Christians. Arch deacon Thomas Parabmbil was consecrated as Mar Thoma I by 12 priests as assistants. When Mar Kariattil passed away, we had 12 priest assisting Paremmakkal Thomman Cathanaar in the 18th century. There is a Malayalam manuscript available addressing Paremmakkal Thomman Cathanaar and 12 priests, found in the personal library of late I C Chacko.[43]
Joseph mentions that the Catholicose shave this head- tonsure- in the likeness of a cross.
Joseph also declared to the Pope of Rome, Pope Alexander VI- when he was asked, who gave this authority to the Catholica, that Saint Peter was the Pontiff in Antioch at the time of Simon Magus who molested the Christians in Rome and Peter had to move to Rome to oppose him, leaving a vicar in Antioch. This vicar is governing the oriental parts and he is called the Catholica, who is elected by 12 cardinals. They say that they do this with the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

Here, we can understand the word cardinal. Joseph might not have used the word cardinal. As these 12 people elect the catholicose similar to the cardinals who elect the Pope of Rome, the author of the narrations might have used the term cardinal.
We do not know what was meant by Joseph by saying, they say that they do this with the authority of the Roman Pontiff. We know from history that the Church of the East or the Church in Malabar was not in communion with the Roman Church at that time. There were many attempts in the past from the Church of the East for communion with the Rome from AD1247 by Patriarch Sabrisho V and by Mar Jaballaha III in 1288.[44]
Rabban Sauma and Monk markose went to Rome and celebrated the East Syriac Qurbana there and made a deposition to the Pope “With the pardon of my faults and sins which I have received thee, O Father, I desire of thy fatherliness, O’ Holy Father that I may receive communion from thy hands, so that I may have complete forgiveness”[45]
In the council of Florence,(1438-1445) The Diocese of the Church of the East in Cyprus became in full communion to the Roman Catholic church and they later adopted the latin Rite.[46]
These shows that there was a fluctuant situation in the relations between Church of the East and the Catholic Church from AD 1247 onwards and we do not know about any such recognision from the Roman Pontiff for the election of the Catholicose Patriarch of the Church of the East at the time of Joseph. This could be a misunderstanding due to language barrier also. This subject needs further research.

5e. Sacraments, rituals and feasts of Christians.

Joseph give an ccount of different sacraments, rites and feasts also to the Signoria of Venice.[47]


Joseph says,children are baptised 40 days after birth unless there is danger of life.
Gouvea also confirms that the Saint Thomas’ Christians did not baptise the children on the eighth day, but after a few months, sometimes an year, seven or ten years.[48]


The Christians have confession and they receive communion. It is not very clear whether Joseph is mentioning about auricular confession. Dutch text clearly says, they confess like those faithful to Rome but Italian and Latin are not clear.Fr Vallavanthara discusses this issue well in the book India in 1500 AD with references. Panteado, the Portuguese missionary reported that he was told by the Malabar Christians that they had only general confession and that they confessed to God in a clear voice altogether.[49]

In the canons of the synod of Diamper in 1599 and in the statutes of Bishop Ross in 1606, the term “kumpassaram” is used for sacrament of reconciliation. The word “kumpassaram” was derived from the Portuguese word “confessao”. This is the only European word used in Malayalam for a sacrament. This shows that this is a European introduction into Malabar Christianity. But, when the canons of the synod describe the details of the act of confession, it uses another Malayalam word “pizhamoolal”. Bishop Ross also states in his statutes that if there are people who have not made the confession who come for the “pizhamoolal”, they should have their sins absolved before coming to it.[50]

This proves that confession and pizhamoolal are not the same. Therefore, we have to assume that there was a general confession or a sort of sacrament of reconciliation in practice in Malabar Christians prior to Portuguese which was pizhamoolal and the proper auricular confession- kumpassaram was introduced by the European missionaries.

Osorius who wrote about St Thomas Christians at the time of King Emmanuel of Portugal, says “no one comes forward to receive the eucharist unless by previous confession he has washed away the soul’s defilements”.[51]

This also confirms that there were some kind of general confession among the St Thomas Christians.

Quoting the Canons of the Synod of Diamper, Thomas Whitehouse says “In this Bishopric, no Christian has ever confessed upon obligation, and the great many not at all” showing that there were no confession similar to the Roman Church.[52]

Therefore, the words of Joseph may not confirm that we had confession as the Roman church did.

Gouvea describes the practice of penitence among Saint Thomas Christians before the introduction of confession by the Portuguese. A fireplace was set up in the church to which incense is put and all approaches the smoke and diverting the smoke to their chest with their hands believing that with that smoke, all their sins are going outside their souls. [53]

5e(3) Ordination of Priests.

Joseph did not mention anything about odination of Priests. But he has confirmed that there were Priests, deacons and subdeacons. Gouvea reported that they ordain at young ages like 17-20 years and they would wear ecclesiastical dress which is ordinarily some white drawers and a loose shirt thown over it. They were all married. [54] More details about the Priests are discusses earlier.

5e(4)Eucharistic communion

Joseph states that they consecrate the body and blood of our lord as we do with unleavened bread. He also adds that as we do not have wine because grapes do not grow in the region, they use dried grapes coming from china, put them in water and squeeze them to make a juice to use in the sacrament.[55]

Duarte Barbosa also confirms this and adds the grapes come from ormis and mecca. “They communicate with salt bread instead of a wafer, and they consecrate of that bread enough for all that are in the church, and they give it to all of them. Each one who communicates goes to receive it at the foot of the alter with his hand. The wine is in this manner, because there is no wine in India; they take raisins which come from Mekkah and Ormuz, and put them for a night in water, and on the next day, when they have to say mass they squeeze them and with the juice they say their mass.”[56]

There are evidences to say that the mode of communion- receiving the Eucharist was also different in Malabar. Eucharist was received in both the species- body and blood. Fr Vallavanthara refers to A M Mundadan’s book “The Traditions of St Thomas Christians” where Fr Mundadan quotes Panteado.[57]

Osorius also confirms that the Eucharist is offerd to all in both kinds, without discrimination”.[58]

Gouvea describes the way of celebration of the Eucharist among Saint Thomas’ Christians. They used to consecrate cakes made of oil and salt which were cooked in a copper vessel by the deacons and young men of minor orders in a small tower in the church above the Madbaha while the Priest is singing the mass. At the time of consecration, these cakes are thrown down through a hole on the roof of the Madbaha in a basket of palm leaves. They used the wine of dried grapes or of palm. [59]

5e(5) Anointing the sick and confirmation

Joseph said,they do not have extreme unction. The Latin text adds that instead they bless the body.[60]
The Dutch text clearly says they do not have sacred oil, but instead, they bless the body.[61]
Therefore, Joseph confirms that there was some form of blessing the sick was prevalent among Malabar Nasranis. (vs. anointing the sick)
Thomas Whitehouse quoting the decrees of the Synod of Diamper of 1599 says” there has not been hitherto any use of the sacrament of extreme unction, in which, for want of Catholic instruction, there has been no knowledge of institution, effects or efficacy thereof” “ Holy oils having hitherto not been used in this bishopric in any of the sacraments”[62]
Gouvea says, they have no knowledge of confirmation and extreme unction. They did not use any oils in sacraments, but they anoint all the children after baptism with coconut oil or with the oil of sesame without any blessings. [63]. This confirms the practice of some kind of anointing alongwith Baptism which conforms with the Eastern Christian practice of giving Baptism, Confirmationand Eucharist together at the time of Baptism.

5e(6) Marriage

Joseph has not spoken anything about the sacrament of marriage but said they do not divorce whether the marriage is good or bad. [64]
Gouvea reported that there was no ecclesiastical ceremony in marriage. They throw a wire around the neck of the bride(thali) and do many other superstitious practices of the gentiles.[65]

5f. Gospels and Evangelists.

Joseph confirmed that the Christians of St Thomas had four evangelists and venerates the same number of gospels. Joseph also mentioned that there were many holy doctors in Malabar who can interpret the old and new testaments very wisely.[66]

5g. Feasts and rituals of St Thomas’ Christians.

Joseph narrates the feasts in the following order as in eastern tradition, starts with the central feast of resurrection. First the sacred day of resurrection with the following two days, then the octave of Easter with more festivity than any other feasts because it is on that that day did St Thomas put his hands on the side of our Lord and recognised that he was real not a phantom. After that, the day of ascension. Feast of the trinity, assumption of the blessed virgin, her nativity and purification. Nativity of our saviour and epiphany, and all the apostles and Sundays. The first day of July as memory of St Thomas, both Christians and the gentiles.[67]
Joseph spoke about the lent and the advent and comments that they fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Joseph confirms that they bury the dead. When someone dies, the Christians come together, and eat together for eight days and pray.
They make their last will and testament. The Latin text adds that the last will is honoured with much devotion. If someone dies without making a will, the closest relative will get the property. The wives go back to their paternal house taking their dowry once their husband is dead. They cannot marry within a year.[68]

5h. About Mailappore and the Tomb of St. Thomas.

Joseph describes about Saint Thomas’ tomb at Mailappore also.[69]
From Cochin, 100 miles east is a cape called “cumari”. From “cape cumari” up to the river Indus is 500 miles where there is a very great gulf called oriza- Bay of Bengal. Here, Joseph uses the word river Indus instead of Ganges.
“Church of St Thomas is found in Milapar which is in this gulf. Church of St Thomas is as big as St Paul’s and St John’s in Venice. In this church placed the body of St Thomas who works many miracles. Both Christians and gentiles have great devotion to him”.[70]
Duarte Barbosa wrote in AD 1514-15 “And he began to persecute the said St. Thomas who withdrew himself to Cholamandel, and then to a city which was called Muylepur, where he received martyrdom, and there he is buried.” “…which is called Maylepur; in former times it was a considerable place of the Kingdom of Narsinga. In this city is buried the body of the apostle St. Thomas, in a small church near the sea.”[71]
These accounts confirm the tradition of St Thomas tomb at Mylappore and contradict the later day propaganda that Mylappore tomb was an invention of Portuguese.


Joseph’s narrations are unique as this is the only information from a native source about the affairs of St Thomas’ Christians in the early 16th century. These throw light into the ancient traditions and rituals of St Thomas Christians of Malabar. Many of the information from these narrations are unknown to the present generation. Joseph’s narrations are invaluable for those searching into the identity and traditions of St Thomas Christians.

Picture credits.

Thank to Gorgias Press LLC, 954 River Road Piscataway, NJ 08854 Tel: (732)885-8900 Fax: (732) 885-8908 ( for permission to use images from the book “India in 1500 A D.The Narrations of Joseph, the Indian”


1.Mathias Mundadan, The St.Thomas Christians 1498- 1552, p55
2.Rev. H Hosten, St Thomas Christians of Malabar, Kerala Society papers, Series 5, 1929, Trivandrum, p 226, quoting the historic letter by four Bishops from Malabar in AD 1504, Codex Syriacus III, Tom II Bibliotheca Orientalis, p 488
3.Schurhammer.The Malabar Church p 2f, cited by Mathias Mundadan, Thomas Christians 1498-1552 p56
4.W Germann, Die Kirche der Thomaschristen Gutersloh 1877 p317 cited in India in 1500 AD, Antony Vallavanthara, p59
5.Paesi cited by Mundadan The St.Thomas Christians 1498-1552, p58
6.The St Thomas Christians of Malabar AD 1490-1504, Kerala Society Papers series 5, 1929, Trivandrum, P226 quoting the historic letter by four Bishops from Malabar in AD 1504, Codex Syriacus III, Tom II Bibliotheca Orientalis, p 488
7.G T Mackenzie, Travancore State Manual II p149
8.Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, cited by H Hosten, St Thomas Christians of Malabar, Kerala Society papers, series 5 p241 foot note 12.
9.Fr Hosten, Kerala Society Papers, series 5, 1929,Trivandrum, p227
10.Codex Syriacus 5 written in AD 1533, cited by Fr H Hosten S J, The St Thomas Christians in Malabar, Kerala Society Papers Series 5, 1929, Trivandrum, p 225
11.W B Greenlee, The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India, London, 1937, p 86Cf. Paesi Book III ch. IXXVIII, cited by Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 73
12.A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 75
13.Fariya y Sousa p59 the Portuguese Asia or history of the discovery and conquest of India by the Portuguese translated by Cap. John Stevens, London, 1695, cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD p 75
14.W B Greenlee, The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India, London, 1937 p 87: Cambridge History of India, H H Doddwell, 1929 p 5 says it was the 9th
15. 15.H Hosten, St Thomas Christians of Malabar, Kerala Society papers Series 5 p 242 citing J and Proc. A.S.B., N.S., vol XIX, 1923, p220.
16. W B Greenlee, The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India, London, 1937, p119-123, Novus orbis, Basileae, 1532, pp130-133, both cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 77
17. Latin text ch I in part IV, Italian text, ch I in part IV, Novus orbis, Basileae, 1532, pp 130-133, all cited in A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 77
18.Italian text ch I in part IV cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 A D, p 77
19.A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 A D, p 78.
20.Die Kirche der Thomaschristen, Gutersloh, 1877, pp316-317, cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p80
21.G Schurhammer, Three letters of Mar Jacob, Bishop of Malabar in Orientalia Bibliotheca Instituti Historici S J,Roma, Vol XXI, 1963p 345 cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p59
22.W B Greenlee, The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India, London, 1937, p86, cited by Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p64
23.Rev. H Hosten, The St. Thomas Christians of Malabar, Kerala Society Papers, Series 5, 1929, Trivandrum p225, cited from Bibliotheca Orientalis, Tom III, Pars I p589- J S Assemani, and Early Spread of Christianity In India, A Mingana, Journal of John Rylands Library, Vol 10, No 2, July 1926, Manchester, p 36, translation from Syriac.;G Schurhammer, Three Letters of Mar Jacob, Bishop of Malabar, in Orientalia Bibliotheca Instituti Historici S J, Roma vol XXI 1963, p 334, cited by A Vallavanthara
24.Rev. H H Hosten, The St. Thomas Christians of Malabar, Kerala Society Papers, Series 5 p226, cited from Bibliotheca Orientalis, Tom III, Pars I p589- J S Assemani, and Early Spread of Christianity In India, A Mingana, Journal of John Rylands Library, Vol 10, No 2, July 1926, Manchester, p 36, translation from Syriac.; W Germann, Die Kirche der Thomaschristen, Gutersloh, 1877 p317 cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 59
25.G Schurhammer, Three letters p 345.cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 59.
26.G Schurhammer, Three Letters of Mar Jacob, the Bishop of Malabar, Orientalia Bibliotheca Instituti Historici S J , Roma, vol XXI 1963, p334, cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD p 58.
27.A M Mundadan, Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob, p92 footnote 51 cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p59.
28.A M Mundadan, Traditions of Thomas Christians, p123 cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p 60.
29. Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, pp166-167, 231
30. A Description of the coasts of east Africa and Malabar in the beginning of sixteenth century, Duarte Barbosa, composed in probably 1514-15, Hakluyt Society, London, 1865 p162.
31. Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the sixteenth century Malabar, Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Publications, p245.
32. Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis:A Portuguese account of the sixteenth century Malabar, Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Publications, p187-188
33.Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the sixteenth century Malabar, Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Publications, p188, foot note 159.
34.Wikipedia article-
35.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, p80
36.India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p172-4.
37.India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p279.
38.A M Mundadan, Traditions of St Thomas Christians p 148 cited in India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p 284.
39.A M Mundadan, Traditions of St Thomas Christians, p 119 cited in India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara p 284.
40.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar,.p82.
41.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar,p85-86
42 India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, pp168-171, 233.
43.India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p274 foot note 72.
44 Zubhi Zora, Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 247, Rene Leynant, Ed. Ponifical Institutium Studiorum Orientalium, Rome, 1994, p 348, cited by Mar Aprem Metropilitan, The History of the Assyrian Church of the east in the Twentieth Century with special reference to the syriac literature in Kerala, Ph D thesis submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, October 2000, p 20-21
45 Mar Aprem Metropilitan, The History of the Assyrian Church of the east in the Twentieth Century with special reference to the syriac literature in Kerala, Ph D thesis submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, October 2000, p20 quoting “The History of Jaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch and his vicar Bar Sauma”, James Montgomery, New York, 1927.
46 Mar Aprem Metropilitan, The History of the Assyrian Church of the East in the Twentieth Century with special reference to the syriac literature in Kerala, Ph D thesis submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, October 2000, p21
47. India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, pp172-175, 235-237
48 Jornada Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin p238
49. A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD p 279 Cf. Mundadan, Traditions of St Thomas Christians, p172.
50.Scaria Zacharia, rantu pracheena kruthikal p 132 cited in India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p281.
51.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, p85.
52.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, p112
53.Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin, p238
54.Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin p240
55.A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p174-175, p235.
56. A Description of the coasts of east Africa and Malabar in the beginning of sixteenth century, Duarte Barbosa, composed in probably 1514, Hakluyt Society, London, 1865 p162-3.
57. A M Mundadan, The Traditions of St Thomas Christians, p167, cited by A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, p28
58.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, p 85.
59.Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin, p 239
60. India in 1500 ad p 172-174.
61. India in 1500 AD A Vallavanthara, p 235.
62.Thomas Whitehouse, Lingering of lights in a dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar,112,116.
63.Jornada Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin p 238
64.Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD p 176-177,237
65.Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar, Dr Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Cochin p 241
66. India in 1500 A D, Antony Vallavanthara, p174-175,237
67.India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p175-177.
68.India in 1500 AD, A Vallavanthara, p175-176.
69. India in 1500 AD, pp214-214, D 259
70. A Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD p214.
71.Duarte Barbosa, A description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of Sixteenth century, Hakluyt Society, London, 1865 pp160-161, 174-175.



Author: M Thomas Antony,
oRIGINALLY Published at


Champakulam Kalloorkkadu church is one of the most ancient churches in India. It belongs to the Arch diocese of Changanacherry, of the Syro Malabar Church. Champakulam church is the mother church of almost all Catholic Syrian churches in Alleppey district in Kerala State. It was founded in AD 427. The Christian community of Kalloorkkadu originated from the Niranom Church which was founded by St Thomas the Apostle himself. Champakulam comes among the second generation of ancient St Thomas Christian churches in Malabar(1) which were formed from the so called seven first generation churches founded by St Thomas the Apostle himself.

Champakulam is a remote village in Kuttanadu Taluk of Alleppey district. The ancient church at Champakulam has a unique place in the history of Christianity in Malabar. It was involved in many historic events. It had a pivotal place in the efforts of reunion of Catholic Syrians and the Jacobite Syrians in the 18th century. Originating from Niranom church, Champakulam had very close relations with the Jacobite Syrian group and many Jacobite Syrian priests and their prelates even the Mar Thoma VI celebrated Holy Offices here. (2) The church was bolstered by the Devanarayanans of the Chempakassery kingdom and had very close relations with the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple which was the head quarters of the Kings of Chembakasserry. Even today, Champakulam church participates in the famous Champakulam Moolam Boat race, which is a commemoration of the Procession of the idol of Lord Krishna to Ambalapuzha by providing rope and bamboo every year for the boat race as a ritual.

Ancient accounts.

Champakulam church is called Kaloorkkadu church in the ancient records with reference to the name of the place. Kalloorkkadu angadi was very famous in the past when Purakkadu port was a prominent port between Musiris and Kollam. (3)Kalloorkkadu was on the commercial route from the eastern Kerala like Aarpookkara, Kudamaaloor, Kuruppampady and Kaduthuruthy and others, to the port at Purakkadu and the spice trade was through this route until Alleppey gained more prominence. The port at Purakkadu has been mentioned in many ancient books like Periplus of the Erythrean Sea and the Book of Duarte Barbosa. Periplus of the Erythrean Sea mentions about pepper trade from cottonora which has been interpreted by many as Kuttanadu. (4)Duarte Barbosa also mentions about Porca.(5)

The Chembakasserry Dynasty and Champakulam church

The Chembakasserry Kingdom was founded in 12th century based at Kudamaalor by a Namboothiri with the help of a group of Nair warriors expelled from the Samoothiry of Calicut. These kings were called “Devanarayanans”. (6) They later invaded to the west and took over the Ambalapuzha area and moved his head quarters to Amabalapuzha. The famous Ambalapuzha temple was the palace of the king. This kingdom was called as Kingdom of Porca by the western historians with reference to the port at Purakkadu.

Antonio de Gouvea reports that the Church at Purakkadu was founded by the King as a gratitude for the blessings and favours he received from the God of the Christians during his war with the Queen of Wadakkumcoor. He had a lot of Christians in his army and during the war; one of the Cathanaars blessed the Christian army and asked the king to have a private flag for the Christian army with a cross in it. He won many wars with this flag. As a gratitude for his victories, he founded a church at Purakkadu with the title of Mar Sliba (Holy Cross) and brought some Christians from Champakulam to live there. The King himself planned to carry a big cross to the site of the church, but as he fell ill the King’s brother and heir carried it and planted there. Later, the King handed this church over to the Jesuites. (7)

There is documentary evidence that these Devanarayanans helped and supported Champakkulam church. The church was exempted from tax. Later, when the Kingdom was taken over by the King of Travancore, the Travancore Government also honoured the same tradition, but decided a tax of 23.5 kalippanam and donated this sum to the church every year for lighting lamps in the church.
In AD 1544, the church was renovated by the initiative of a Devanarayanan. The last king of Chembakasserry donated some property to the church for the expenses of the Moonnu noyambu of Chamapakulam Church. (8)

History of the Church.

By tradition, the original church was founded in AD 427. We have to assume that the old church might have been rebuilt and renovated many times. As with most of our ancient churches, there is not much documentation available. But, surprisingly we have a lot of information available from a few archaeological artefacts around the church.

It is believed that the first church was at the site of the present cemetery. Later, a new church was built at the land reclaimed from the river, probably in AD1151. We have clear evidence about the renovations done after AD 1151 from the inscriptions on the Champakulam Rock Cross.

It is believed that the Christians migrated to Champakulam from Niranom initially and then from places like Kuravilangadu, Kaduthuruthy, and Kudamaaloor when Kalloorkadu angadi became a commercially important place near the port at Purakkadu. (9)

Archaeological evidences.

There are 5 artefacts identified by various researchers. Rev Fr Antony Vallavanthara has done extensive research about the history of the church and published them as an article “Pazhamayile paramaarthamgal” in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir of the Leo XIII library in 1970s in which he describes about the first four artefacts. (I was a school student at that time and I kept this article for long time and as a school boy, I personally verified all those artefacts in and around the church. I think this article has inspired me some interest in the scientific study of history) (10)

1 A stone inscription seen on a step stone on the north side of front door of the church, directed to the west side of the mondalam (portico). This red coloured stone might have been a tomb stone. As this has been ignored as a step stone, most part of the inscription has been eroded and we can identify a cross on the top and digits 844 below it followed by partly worn off letters bordered with two lines on either sides. Experts are of the opinion that these inscriptions are in vattezhuthu- nanam monam of the old Malayalam and denote ME 844 which is AD 1669.

2 An inscription on a beam across the Church which reads “Mishiha Piranna 1730, Thamalloora itty Kuruvila kathanaar I cheelaanthy paniyichu. Ee kollam 905 meena matham”- This beam was built by Thamalloor Itty Kuruvila Kathanaar in AD 1730. This is in ME (Kolla varsham) 905, the month of Meenam.
This clearly indicates that this beam was replaced in the church in AD 1730 by Thamalloor Itty Kuruvila Kathanaar. This proves that the present Church building is built before AD 1730.

3 A palm leaf document kept in the Department of Archaeology, Government of
Kerala in Trivandrum dated ME 996 Edavam signed by the Maha Raja of Travancoore, deciding 23.5 panam as tax to the church and allowing that sum to use in the church for lighting lamps.

4 Inscription around the open air rock cross situated on the south side of the church. This reads “Ea kurishu kalloorkkadu ennu prasidhi petta ea palliyude kizhakku vashathu stapichirunnu. Palli pani cheytha eeerekure 670 valsaram chenna 1821 kalam madbaha polichu pani kazhichappole polichu. 1857 kaalam semithery Pani Cheythappole randamathu vechu.”- This cross was placed on the east side of this church which is famous as Kalloorkkadu church. After about 670 years of building the church, that is in 1821, when the madbaha was refurbished, this cross was taken down. In 1857, when the cemetery was built, it was replaced.

This clearly states that there was some church building works done in AD 1151. This cross had been placed on the east side of the church. After 670 years, which is in AD 1821, the madbaha was refurbished and this cross was taken down. This must be the modifications by the Portuguese to the madbaha. This also indicates that the present building was constructed in AD 1151.

The present church building is close to the river. There is no chance that this cross was placed on the east side of the church as there isn’t enough space there. So, I assume that the inscription is talking about the old church. I have heard that the original church was at the site of the cemetery and it is possible that the cross was on the east side of the old church. They made a new church in AD 1151, and the cross was on the east side of the famous old church. They took this cross down in AD 1821 to replant in AD 1857 when the cemetery was built at the site of the old church. It has to be noted that this cross in the present position is in line with the small church in the cemetery.

5. This is an inscription mentioning about the renovation of the church in 1885 written with tar at the bottom of the dome above the Madbaha of the present church.


In “Changanasserry Athi roopatha Innale Innu vol II” Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu, mentions about a new church built in AD 1720. There is no mention of this event on the Rock cross inscription which clearly states about the building work in 1151, 1821 and 1857.The people behind the inscription, who wrote about the events in AD1151 would not have omitted the brand new church built in AD 1720. It seems that it was only a renovation in AD 1720 and the inscription on the wooden beam built by Thamalloor Itty Kuruvilla Kathanaar also points towards this possibility. If it was a new Church, no one would have inscribed it as a “beam was built”.

There is another indication for a renovation works in AD 1786 period which is reported by the famous historian Chithramezhuthu K M Varughese. In his series of articles titled “Champakulam palliyude Grandhavai- The chronicles of Champakulam Church- in Nasrani Deepika daily dated 30 sep 1921, 20 January 1922, 29 April 1922, and 2 May 1922, he mentions about the maintenance works done without the permission of the King of Travancore, the church authorities went to see the King on ME 17 Thulam 961 and the King accepted their excuses. (11)

Jacob J Kurialacherry, in his book Kalloorkkadu palliyum Suriyani Christianikalum- Kalloorkkadu Church and Syrian Christians-about a renovation in AD 1544 with the help of the King of Chempakasserry. In AD 1885 also there was some renovation works and the renovated church was consecrated in AD 1891 by Mar Charles La Vingne, the then Bishop of Changanacherry. In 1985, the plastering of the church with lime was replaced with cement and the murals were renovated by experts. (12)

Champakulam Open air Rock cross.

Open air rock crosses are a unique feature in St Thomas Christian Churches. There are many discussions whether these crosses are European in origin or not. Antionio de Gouvea has reported that it is common in Malabar but very rare in Europe and other places. (13) The Champakulam Rock Cross is very important as the inscriptions on it confirm that it was present even in AD1151. This must be the most ancient open air rock cross found in Kerala with clear evidence about its age.

Church Architecture

We can assume that the present Church building was built in AD 1151 and it has undergone several renovations. There is no evidence of any major structural renovations after the arrival of the Portuguese. Hence, the Church Architecture can be taken as a model of ancient Syriac Christian churches in Malabar. It is important to note that Champakulam Church is one of the rare churches retained with East Syriac scheme of church architecture with Madbaha, Qestroma, sanctuary veils, bema, Hykkala etc. questioning the arguments of many modern day historians that Keralan Churches had no architectural facility for celebrating East Syriac Raza.

The madbaha and its decorations show strong Portuguese influence. This might be the modifications made by the Missionaries. Champakulam Church is famous for its ancient murals. The side walls of the madbaha and the ceiling of the whole length of the church is beautifully decorated with ancient murals. As this is an old church, the inside is relatively dark and while you are inside, all you can see is the murals on the ceiling with blue sky, clouds and angels popping out from the clouds, pictures of the father, son and the Holy spirit all these create a mystic environment and you feel that you are not in this earth!

Champakulam Church in the Nasrani History.

Champakulam Kallorkkadu Church has its own place in the Nasrani history. History of the pre Portuguese period is unclear. There is no documentation available about visitation of any East Syrian prelates or any Arch deacons or any important events in the ancient period. Before the arrival of Portuguese, Ankamali was the centre of all Nasrani politics. The politics moved to southern parts like Niranom only after the Arch deacon was evicted from the North by the political power of the Portuguese. Being close to Niranom, Champakulam also gained importance.

Alexis Dom Menesis and Synod of Diamper

It is not clear from available documentation about the representation of Champakulam church in the Synod of Diamper but Thomas Yeates in his book cites the Synodical Acts at Diamper and provide a catalogue of Syrian Christian Churches and Callurcata is one among them. (14) Champakulam church might have participated in the Synod of Diamper and Arch bishop Menesis has visited Champakulam after the synod. It is reported by Antionio Gouvea that the Arch Bishop came to Champakulam from Pallippuram. As he did with every Nasrani Churches, he performed Confirmation to everybody as St Thomas Christians did not have a confirmation like the Latin Church. Thomas Yates comments that the Arch Bishop should have known that the Eastern Church administer to children, confirmation and the Eucharist with baptism. (15) During the confirmation, he changed names of many who had the name Iso- Syriac for Jesus- in the area which was common among the St Thomas Christians before the synod of Diamper. The Arch Bishop also endowed and helped with comfortable marriages of poor orphan girls which he himself performed. From Champakkulam, the Arch Bishop went to Purakkadu. (16) This events are reported by other authors also like Thomas Whitehouse, James Hough etc. Thomas Whitehouse also reports that the Arch Bishop gave rice cakes to children with golden coins hidden in them to win the hearts of the people. (17)

Coonan Cross oath and subsequent Division, Joseph Sebastiani

It is very clear from Joseph Thekkedathu that Champakulam church was with the Archdeacon during and after the Great Coonan cross oath. It was only in July 1659, Champakulam and Kudamaloor churches joined the Catholic Syrian group by the order of the King of Purakkadu, who was an ally of the Portuguese. (18) Even with this, it seems that the Christians of Champakulam were resilient. We can read from James Hough that on 26th of August 1661, Arch Bishop Joseph Sebastiani visited Champakulam church, and the King of Purakkadu sent an officer to persuade Christians to attend and it was with difficulty that they could be induced to receive confirmation at the Bishop’s hands. (19)

Carmelite Missionary Paulinos de St Bartolomew

Paulini de St Bartolomew, an Austrian missionary who was in Malabar 1744-1790, was connected to Champakulam. Thomas Whitehouse reports that Paulinose was resident in Champakulam for a while and his accounts show light into the social history of the area. Paolinos describes “Callurcada as a district abounding in water which produces large quantities of rice. It may be called the granary of Malabar”. (20)
He suggests that the Christians of Champakulam were vegetarians, beef was not available and killing a cow for eating was forbidden in the state. He describes an incident in which 5 young men were sentenced to death by hanging for killing a cow for eating. (21). Paolinos also describes, a young man pailo was converted to Christianity in the village of miraculous cross – kurinshingel- and given beef, he replied, that he regarded killing of a cow and eating its flesh in the same light as murdering his own mother and partaking of her flesh. This village of miraculous cross may be vaisyambhagom, a nearby village with a Latin rite church in the name of miraculous cross. This also shows light into the proselytization work done by the Carmelite missionaries based on the existing Syriac churches. When the Syriac churches were separated from Verapuzha diocese, this miraculous cross church remained in Verapuzha.

Whitehouse quotes Paulinus (22)

“Chandy, a cathanaar at callurcada had written to inform him that some native Christian women in his neighbourhood were living in concubinage with certain nairs. Paolinos raised this issue to the Diwan and got a letter to the chief native officer at Ambalapolay who was directed to render prompt assistance and those found guilty of this crime were to sent to Trivandrum under a military guard whilst the females were to have all their property confiscated.”

This throws light into the persistence of concubinage among Syrian Christians even at that time. We know that marriage was not a sacrament among Nasranis and concubinage was common even with Hindus and even among the Cathanaars. This practice was abolished by the synod of Diamper.

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil Du Perron

Du Perron was a French intellectual writer, traveller, interpreter and linguistic scholar visited Champakulam in 1758. Thomas Whitehouse describes Du Perron’s visit like this- (23)

“He appeared to have been charmed with it describing it as a lovely spot surrounded by water, having many cattanaars attached to the church, in which they maintained a perpetual religious service. The church, with its group of collegiate buildings, has at the present day an imposing appearance from the broad stream which sweeps past it”.

Kallada Mooppan- Mar Andrews

Kallada Mooppan alias Anthrayose Kasseessa was an imposter who arrived in Kerala in 1676. In 1677, Raphael Figuerede was consecrated as the auxiliary Bishop to Palli Veettil Chandy Metran which created a lot of unrest among the Catholic Syrian group. When Palli veettil Chandy metran was consecrated as a Bishop, The Catholic Syrian group was hopeful that there is going to be a lineage of native Bishops from Palliveettil Chandy metran and this is the end of the foreign rule. But when Raphael Figueredo was posted as the auxiliary of Palliveettil Chandy metran, they became disappointed and Kallada Mooppan came in claiming that he was appointed by the Pope for the St Thomas Christians. He stayed at Champakulam for some time but when the Carmelites proved that he is an imposter and as he appeared addicted to alcohol, people were unhappy and he had to leave Champakulam.

Whitehouse’s accounts on Kallada Mooppan. (24)

“When Mar Thoma IV presided over the Syrian party, A man with name Andrew, styled himself a Patriarch, and professed to be the bearer of a brief from the Pope; but the Carmelite missionaries reported him to be nothing more than Jacobite priest, Paoli says that he was much given to Wine on which account, he was not very acceptable to the Syrians who adhered to Mar Thoma. He came to Malabar in 1676, lived first at Callurcada, and afterwards at Kallida, where eventually fell into the river in a drunken fit, and was drowned. In 1788, Paoli ascertains that these southern schismatics call him as kallida mooppan or elder of their church, and offered cocks and hens at his tomb”.

In Niranom Granthavary, M Kurian Thomas discusses the identity of Kallada Mooppan well. (25)

1. According to Paulinose de St Bartholomew, Anthrayose Kasseessa was a Jocobite Priest. That was why, Paulinose considered the consecration of Mar Thoma II & III invalid as both were claimed to be consecrated by Mar Andrews.

2. In a letter to Patriarch of Antioch in 1770, Mar Thoma IV describes him as a Bishop.

3. In an ancient wooden engraving found in Kundara church, Anthrayose kasseessa is pictured with the cap of a Chaldean Bishop.

4. Vettikkunnel Kudumba Charithram (History of Vettikkunnel family) comments that Patrose Thritheeyan Patriarch declared Anthrayose as a Nestorian.

5 Anquetil Du Perron describes him as a Nestorian.

Bishop Anjalose Francis

Bishop Anjelose Francis visited Champakulam in AD 1712. (26)
Bishop Anjalose Francis was a Carmelite who was consecrated by Mar Simon, a Chaldean catholic Bishop, as the Latin rite Bishops and the Jesuites refused to consecrate him.

Mar Gabriel.

Mar Gabriel was an East Syrian Bishop came to Malabar in 1708. Majority of St Thomas Christians accepted him. Mar Thoma had only 22 churches at that time and 42 churches accepted Mar Gabriel. (27) Later, Mar Gabriel was converted to Catholic side. In the unstable political state of Nasranis at that time, we have to assume that Champakulam church also accepted Mar Gabriel as there is evidence that there were Cathanaars from Chamapakulam also ordained by Mar Gabriel. Paulinose reports that there was a senior cathanaar from Champakulam and a Gheevarghese kathanaar of Pallipuram were among those ordained by Mar Gabriel. (28). Those who know the traditions of St Thomas Christians understand that without a desakkuri, an ordination is not accepted by the community and as these priests were accepted by the community, we have to assume that the community at Champakulam gave desakkuri for those cathanaars to be ordained by Mar Gabriel.

Puthenpurackal Ikkakko Cathanaar- Persecution by Missionaries.

The story of Ikkakko kathanaar is an example for Portuguese persecution on Saint Thomas' Christians. Ikkakko Kathanaar was from Champakulam and was the vicar of Edappalli church. He was persecuted and killed by the European Missionaries accusing him of stealing a monstrance (29)) from the church at Verapuzha. He was unlawfully kept in custody without food and died in prison. This infamous incident happened in 1787. This case was heard by a minister of the King of Travancore on ME 962 Medam 2 (1787) and the Carmelites were sentenced to pay a fine to the Governement. (30

Paremmakkal Thomman Cathanaar, the Governor of Catholic Syrians

Paremmakkal Thomman Kathanaar, the Governor of the Catholic Syrians was a regular visitor at Champakulam church. He was temporarily based at Champakulam during his talks with Mar Thoma VI regarding the unity of Catholic Syrians and Jacobite Syrians. Niranom Grandhavari narrates his travels between Champakulam and Niranom with Thachil Mathoo Tharakan. (31)

Champakulam Church and the ecumenical efforts with Jacobite Syrians

Even the church was under Catholic Syrian group, there were priests of both groups resident there for example Anthrayose kasseessa. The division of St Thomas Christians after the Coonan Cross oath took place over a long time period until the Puthencoor officially adopted the West Syriac liturgy around AD 1789, (32) both Puthencoor and Pazhayacoor were using the same East Syriac liturgy. As there were no difference in liturgy and practices and the division was about the leadership, there were no such a division at the community level and hence, the community had no problems with Priests or Bishops of the other group celebrating Holy orders. We can see in the history that many churches were mixed denominations- shared between Puthencoor and Pazhayacoor.

Champakulam church had a prominent position in the efforts for reunion of Puthencoor and Pazhayacoor. Paremmakkal Thomman Cathanaar and Mathoo Tharakan were the leaders of Catholic Syrian group. Mathoo Tharakan had a warehouse at Champakulam and hence Champakulam church became in important place for many discussions and negotiations with the Jacobite Syrians.

Niranom Grandhavari describes that “ME 966, kumbam 25 a group of Pazhayacoor including mampilli metran of kollam, Kochitty Kathanaar of Purakkadu, Narakathara Chandy Kathanaar of Kalloorkadu, Paremmakkal Governadore and fifteen Nasranis travelled from Purakkadu to Changannuur by a boat to meet Valiya Mar Dinvannasios. They celebrated the Kurisuvara Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) there on 26th and met with the Metropilitan and went to Kaloorkkadu.

ME 967 Kanni 20, they met in Kayamkulamm palli and because Mathoo Tharakan’s daughter died, they concluded the meeting and Governodor went to Niranom, stayed there for 4 days and then to Kalloorkadu. The next meeting was planned on 25th vrishchikam at Niranom to celebrate the Qurbana in the Chaldean way. Kochitty Kathanaar and People from Changanacherry, Kaloorkadu met in Niranom to celebrate Chaldean Qurbana but that meeting was also concluded due to the death of Mathoo Tharakan’s son.
ME 974 Edavam 29, after celebrating the Chaldean mass at Thathampalli, Mar Divanniose went to Champakulam and celebrated Qurbana there and on Midhunam 5, went to Puthiyakavu.” (33)
The reunion of Mar Thoma VI was supposed to be held at Champakulam Church on the Sunday next to Puthu njayar- second Sunday of Easter in 1791 but due to the opposition of the Carmelite Bishop Aloysius, it did not happen. (34)

Rokos and Melus schisms

Bernard Thomas in his book Mar Thoma Christianikal, describes that out of 154 churches, 86 churches fully and about 30 churches partly joined with Mar Rokos. Bernard Thomas certifies that Champakulam Church kept away from Rokos and Melus schisms (35)

Porukkara Thoma Malpan

Porukkara Thoma Malpan was from Champakulam. He was one of the founder fathers of the Carmelites of Mary immaculate, the first religious order for men among the catholic Syrians.

Bishop Mar Thomas Kurialacherry

During the time of Nidheerickal Mani Kathanaar, the community fought vigorously for native Bishops and restoration of Syro chaldeac rite. The Community realised that one of the important factors hampering the community from getting a native Bishop was lack of priests trained in Rome. So the community sent Thomas Kurialacherry from Kalloorkkadu to Rome as he was from a wealthy family who can afford to take the expenses. Thomas Kurialacherry returned from Rome and eventually became the first native Northist Bishop of Changanacherry. (36)

Modern History

Today, Champakulam church is the mother church of most of the Catholic Syrian churches in Alleppey District. The Forane Churches at Alleppey, Edathua and Pulincunnu were formed from Champakulam.

Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) is a religious order for women founded at Champakulam by Bishop Mar Thomas Kurialacherry. Orslem Church and St Thomas School were established in association with the SABS congregation. From this humble start, the Congregation has now spread to other continents also like Africa. (37)

Promotion of education Champakulam church took initiative in promoting the education in the region by taking over the Government Lower Primary School in 1896. This was upgraded to a High School in 1950. Leo XIII Library was also formed under the initiative of this church in 1914 which has evolved into one of the prominent libraries in Kuttanadu now. (38)

The following Parish churches are affiliated to Kalloorkkadu Forane Church. (39)

Padaharam St Joseph’s Chennamkari St Joseph’s
Chennamkary Lourde matha Nasrathu St Jerome’s
Thekkekkara St John’s Thekkekkara St Sebastian’s
Pullangadi Holy family Kandamkari St Joseph’s
Kondackal St Joseph’s Narbonapuram St Sebastian’s
Thottuvathala Sacred Heart’s Vadakke Amichakari St George’s
Vaisyambhagom St Antony’s Ponga Mar Sliba

Other Institutions under the Church. (40)

St Mary’s Higher Secondary School,
St Mary’s Lower primary School,
St Joseph’s Hospital,
SABS Convents at Champakulam and Kochupalli
St Thomas Upper Primary School,
Bishop Kurialacherry Lower primary and Nursery School,
Gagultha Monastery- CMI
S H Upper primary School,
Father Porookkara Memorial Junior College (CMI)


Champakulam Kalloorkkadu church has a very important place in the history of Catholic Syrians in Kerala. In 1887, when Syro Malabar Church was established for the St Thomas Christians of Syro Chaldeac rite, Champakulam church was chosen as one of the only seven Forane Churches in the Southern Kerala vicariate at Kottayam, (41))considering the importance of the Church. Geographically, this is the whole of Southern Kerala south of river periyaar But sadly, today when the Syro Malabar Church has about seven dioceses south of river Periyar in Kerala, Champakulam is neglected as only a Forane Church.

It seems that in this era of tourism, Champakulam is gaining it’s prominence by attracting a large number of foreign tourists, thanks to the tour agents who exploit the history of the church. Now, there are so many tourism websites boasting Champakulam church as one of the churches established by St Thomas the Apostle himself. There are no arrangements from the church authorities to explain the real history and importance of this church to the visitors. The archaeological artefacts found in the church are unique which itself will be very interesting to the visitors. The church should take initiative in this area by providing an audio visual exhibition and presentation about the history of the church with a small fee which will be welcomed by the visitors.


1 Bernard Thomas, Keralathile Marthoma Christianikal (St Thomas Christians of Kerala) p412 (Publisher John Pellisserry) cited in Changanacherry Athiroopatha innale innu vol II Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu, p260.
Mailakombu, Kaduthuruthi, Aruvithura, Kuravilangadu, Kalloorkadu (Champakulam), Udayamperur and Edappalli are considered to be the second generation churches. Tradition says the first generation churches as Kollam, Palayoor, Kokkamangalam, Kottackavu, Niranom, Chayal, Nilackal

2 Niranom Grandhavari- Patanavum samshodhanayum, M Kurian Thomas, Sophia Books Kottayam (Chronicles of Niranom, a study and analysis) p106

3 Changanasserry athiroopatha innale, innu, vol II, Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu, p261 citing A Sreedhara Menon, History of Kerala, p87

Indian geographical Journal Vol V, VI p236-238 suggests that Barake was on the mouth of river Baris which is the River Pamba and Nelcynda was an inland city on the river. Barake exports pepper from Nelcynda. According to Periplus, Nelcynda was 500 stadia away from Musiris and 120 stadia from Barake. These distances are fairly correct if we take Nelcynda to be Niranom and Barake to be Purakkadu.

4 Periplus of the Erythrean Sea Part II containing an account of navigation of the ancients from the Gulf of Elana, the red sea to the land of Ceylon, William Vincent DD, 1805
“ In conformity with this system, we find, that throughout the whole which the periplus mentions of India, we have a catalogue of the imports and exports only at the two ports of Barugaza and nelkunda, and there seems to be a fixed distinction between the aerticles appropriate to each. Fine muflins and ordinary cottons are the principal commodities of the first, tortoise shell, pearls, precious stones, silk, and above all pepper seems to have been procurable only at the latter. This pepper is said to be brought to this port from Cottonora, generally supposed to be a province of canara, in the neighbourhood of nelkunda, and famous to this hour for producing the best pepper in the world except that of Sumatra.”

5 Description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of sixteenth century, Duarte Barbosa

6 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu vol II, p261-262, Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu, citing Kerala District Gazetteer, Alleppey, pp49-50

7 Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, Ed. Pius Malekkandathil, LRC Publications Kochi, p370-371.

8 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, vol II, p261Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu

9 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale innu, Vol II, p 261, Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu

10 Pazhamayile Paramaarthamgal, Antony Vallavanthara, Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee of the Leo XIII Library, Champakulam p127 cited in Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, p262-263)

11 Chamapakulam Palliyude Grandhavary, Chthramezhuthu K M Varghese, Series of articles published in the Malayalam daily news paper Nasrani Deepika dates 30 September 1921, 20 January 1922, 29 April 1922, and 2 May 1922, cited in Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu Vol II p264, Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu.

12 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II PP265-266, Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu.

13 Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, pp187-188

14 Thomas Yeates, Indian Church History (1818) p135, Asian Christology and the Mahayana, E A Gordon, 1921 p291 cites the synodical acts p 60, 65, 80.

15 Thomas Yeates, Indian Church History, (1818) p127

16 Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menesis: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, p369
Gouvea pronounce it as Iyo in his book and I personally know that “iyyo”s are in Champakulam which I think is “Job- iyyob”. But The Synod of Diamper ruled against the use of the Lord’s name)

17 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p118.

18 The troubled days of Francis Garcia, SJ, Arch Bishop of Cranganore, Joseph Thekkedathu, p 143, citing, Archivio storico della Sacra Congregazione de Propanganda Fide Rome, Scritture Originati riferite nelle Congregazione Generali (APF, SOCG) 233 f 236 v Brevis et succinta relatio….Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI- Jesuite Archives) Goa 49, ff194v-195 narration by Fr Bras de Azevedo S J, ARSI Goa 68 I f 329 Fr Hyacinth to Garcia on 4th of July 1659. ARSI Goa 68I f 329v Garcia’s reply on 6th of July 1659, ARSI Goa ff169v-170 statement from the Vicar, cathanaars and seminarians from Kallurkkadu.)

19James Hough, History of Christianity in India, Vol II book 4 p 359

20 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p 119 foot note

21 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse , p217

22 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p220

23 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, pp118-119

24 Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p 199

25 Niranom Grandhavari- Patanavum samshodhanayum, M Kurian Thomas, Sophia Books Kottayam (Chronicles of Niranom, a study and analysis) p200

26 A double regime in the Malabar Church, Thomas Pallippurathukunnel, p132 cited in Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu Vol II Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu p268

27 Indian Christians of St Thomas, Leslie Brown, P116 cited in Nasrani padanamgal, Indian orthodox sabha charithram, Joseph Cheeran, Sophia Print House Kottayam p 142

28. Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p211
A double regime in the Malabar Church, Thomas Pallippurathukunnel p 143 cited in Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu vol II,

29 A monstrance is the vessel used in the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host, during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

30 Vartha mana Pusthakam, Paremmakkal Thomman Kathanaar, OIRSI Publications, Kottayam p 49

31 Niranom Grandhavari- Patanavum samshodhanayum, M Kurian Thomas, Sophia Books Kottayam (Chronicles of Niranom, a study and analysis) p96

32 Niranom Grandhavari- Patanavum samshodhanayum, M Kurian Thomas, Sophia Books Kottayam (Chronicles of Niranom, a study and analysis 112,
Indian orthodox sabha charithram Joseph Cheeran p171,
Indian orthodox church, charithravum samskaravum p 438( IOC history and Culture ) Joseph Cheeran, K V Mammen, K C Mathew, Kottackal Publishers

33 Niranom Grandhavari- Patanavum samshodhanayum, M Kurian Thomas, Sophia Books Kottayam (Chronicles of Niranom, a study and analysis p96, 106

34 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, vol II, p261Ed Jacob Nellikkunnathu, p271

35 Bernard Thomas, Marthoma christianikal pp728, 743, 744, cited in Changanacherry athiroopatha innale innu, Vol II, p271, Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu

36 Father Nidhiri, A hstory of his time, Abraham M Nidhiry, p319

37 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II, pp 271-272

38 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II, p 272, Ed.Jacob Nellikkunnathu

39 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II, p 259, Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu,

40 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II p 260, Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu

41 Changanacherry Athiroopatha Innale Innu, Vol II p 271, Ed. Jacob Nellikkunnathu

Those seven forane Churches were Edappalli, Arakkuzha, Anakkallu, Palai, Kuravilangadu, Changanacherry and Kalloorkkadu. Now, Syro Malabar Church has seven Dioceses in this geographical area- Ernakulam-Angamaly, Kothamangalam, Idukki, Palai, Changanahcerry, Kanjirappalli and Thuckalay


By.M Thomas Antony

St Hormiz Church, Angamaly Constructed by Mar Abraham, the last Chaldean Prelate who ruled the undivided St Thomas Christians as his headquarters.

The history of Christianity in Malabar has been well documented after the synod of Diamper. Much information giving light into the ancient period is available as copper plates, inscriptions on rocks, palm leaf documents, artefacts, and oral traditions. Many authors have tried to knit up the loose history from available documents and available oral traditions.

Until the time of the synod of Diamper, there was no evidence available to suggest any divisions among the Syrian Christians. The division after the Synod of Diamper- the Coonan Cross Oath - prompted division of the community and claim over different churches by both parties. After the division, the whole Nasrani community was divided into two groups, one continued to be loyal to the Roman Catholic Church keeping the East Syriac liturgy and traditions, called the “old party” or “Pazhayacoor” and the new party under the Archdeacon as “Puthencoor”. Both were using the same liturgy and traditions for some time, but later, the Puthencoor moved towards the Church of Antioch and adopted the West Syriac liturgy and traditions and thus made the name “Puthencoor” appropriate.
As the community was divided, the churches were also divided among them into two groups but there were a third group of churches remained to be shared between these two communities.

At the time of the Coonan Cross Oath, vast majority of people and churches remained loyal to the Arch Deacon. There are different accounts. “Out of the assumed 200,000 population, only 400 remained loyal to the Portuguese”. (1).Joseph Thekkedathu reports that “some of them speak of 200 laymen and 15-25 Cathanaars. Others say that there were about 1000 laymen and 15 Cathanaars. In any case, it is clear that they were but an insignificant minority” (2)

After the Coonan Cross oath, the Arch deacon was consecrated as a Metropolitan by twelve Cathanaars at Edappalli on 22 May, 1653. The available historical evidences show that this revolt was against Arch Bishop Garcia and the Portuguese authorities and not against the Roman Church or Pope of Rome. This is evident from the available documents regarding the declarations on the occasion and a letter sent to the Portuguese captain at Cochin. (3) (4)

Angamali Padiyola in 1787 reads “upon this, our forefathers assembled at Muttancherry and took an oath that neither they themselves nor their descendants, should ever have anything to do with the Paulists.”- (5)

A Church Mission Society report for 1818-19 states-“After this, all the Syrians assembled at Muttancherry, and thus resolved-These Portuguese having murdered mar Ignatius, we will no longer join them. We renounce them, and do not want either love or their favour. The present Francis Bishop shall not be our Governor. We are not his children or followers. We will not again acknowledge Portuguese bishops”.-(6)

The whole St Thomas Christians were in communion with the Pope of Rome through the Chaldean catholic church after the division in the Church of the East in 1552 and the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa and Mar Elias in 1555. Since the arrival of Portuguese in 1498, the St Thomas Christians were in friendship with them and they were allowed to preach and celebrate mass in the Nasrani churches. Even the Portuguese missionaries established a seminary to train the St Thomas Chrisitians at Kodungalloor in 1541. It has to be noted that two Cathanaars of the St Thomas Christians travelled to Portugal with Portuguese General Cabral and one of them- “Joseph the Indian” as described in the literature visited the Pope Alexander VI. Joseph the Indian was interviewed by some Venicians who published it European languages. (7)(8).This Joseph The Indian was among the delegation to visit the East Syriac Patriarch Simon in AD 1490 who ordained both of them- Joseph and George- as Priests. (9)
The East Syrian prelates at that time were also friendly with the Portuguese. This is evident from the letters of Mar Jabalaha, Mar Denha and Mar Yakob to the Patriarch of Babylon in 1504. (10) (11)

Because of this background, the Arch Deacon and the leaders claimed the mandate of the Pope of Rome for his consecration as a Bishop. The letters read at the time of consecration claimed that it was according to the authority given by the Pope to Mar Ahattalla. (12) When Mar Gregoriose, the Metropolitan from the Church of Antioch arrived, he was also projected as a Bishop appointed by the Pope.

This revolt shook the might of the missionaries, and the Portuguese inquisition team tried to reconcile. Their attempts failed as the Arch Deacon and the leadership were not interested in any negotiations. The Portuguese authorities referred the issue to Rome.
As the Portuguese could successfully convince some of the leaders of St Thomas Christians that this consecration was not legitimate, a section of St Thomas Christians were unhappy about the situation. Two of the 4 advisories of the Arch deacon, Palli veettil Chandy Cathanaar and Kadavil Chandy Cathanaar were among them.

Rome intervened and sent two sets of Carmelite Missionaries to the St Thomas Christians under the leadership of .Fr Joseph Maria in AD1657, and Fr Vincent of Hyacinth in AD1658.
When it was clear that the Consecration of the Arch Deacon was not legitimate, and the Arch Deacon did not have the mandate of the Pope, many people renounced the Arch deacon. Joseph Maria returned to Rome and got consecrated as a Bishop for St Thomas Christians as Joseph Sebastiani 1659.

Now, St Thomas Christians became freed from the Jesuits and the Arch Bishop Garcia and they have a new Bishop who is not a Jesuit but a Carmelite. This was what the Arch deacon demanded soon after the Coonan Cross oath.(13). Within a year, Sebastiani could win 40 churches and by 1663, 84 churches were under Roman obedience and only 32 remained with the Arch deacon. (14) Later, Political situation became hostile for the Catholic side as Dutch captured Cochin in 1663 and Sebastiani had to leave. He consecrated Palliveettil Chandy Cathanaar as a Bishop for the St Thomas Christians and Vicar Apostolic of the Arch Diocese of Angamali on 1 February 1663.

This made two rival factions with native leaders, Palliveettil Chandy Cathanaar with a legitimate Bishopric consecration and Mar Thoma I without a legitimate Bishopric consecration which made it easy for Palliveettil Chandy Metran to win more people.

Another factor for the success of the missionaries was the political tactics by the Portuguese by taking the local Rajahs on their sides to make them compel the Christians to submit to the Catholic fold. Fr Hyacinth could expel the Arch Deacon from Kaduthuruthy with the help of the king of Vadakkumkoor and banned fromentering the Kingdom of Cochin. (15) With the help of the Portuguese General, Ignatius Sermento, Sebastiani obtained the submission of several churches in the Kingdom of Cochin. (16) Churches at Champakulam and Kudamalur under the King of Purakkad stayed with the Arch Deacon until 1659 when the King of Purakkad ordered them to join the Pazhayacoor. (17). James Hough in his book describes how cold the reception to Carmelite Bishop Joseph Sebastiani at Champakulam on 25 Aug 1661 even when the Rajah of Purakkad sent an Officer to the occasion to compel people. (18)

At this point, the Arch Deacon’s position became very critical and he decided to negotiate with the Jesuits. He sent a Cathanaar to the rector of the Jesuit seminary at Ambalakkadu with the massage that he wished to make his submission to the Catholic Church provided it could be effected without loss of honour and without humiliation 1655. (19) Further negotiations continued and it was thought that the division among St Thomas Christians was going to end but all changed on arrival of Mar Gregorios from the Church of Antioch in 1665. Mar Gregorios was also received by the Arch Deacon as a Metropolitan sent by the Pope. But Cathanaars and people under the Arch deacon became unhappy on the new way of celebration of Qurbana by the new Bishop Mar Gregorios. Mar Thoma I persuaded him to use the local rite, which he did refusing only to use unleavened bread. (20) (21)
This unhappiness also might have helped the catholic side.

Some authors have tried to catalogue the ancient Nasrani churches in the past. There is documentation available about the churches at the time of the synod of Diamper. Various authors and authorities have catalogued the churches later viz. Menesis, 1599, Raulini 1745, Du Perron 1758, Paoli 1760, Whitehouse 1873.White house, in his book, interestingly reviewed the available literature at his time and published a comparison table in his book Lingerings of light in the dark land which is very helpful to identify the places as the names of different places are pronounced differently by different authors and some place names have changed over time.


This is a list of Christian churches/ congregations present at the time of the Synod of Diamper.The list was compiled by Mr P J Tomy as an appendix to his article Kerala Coast, the Portuguese contributions. This contains both Syrian and Latin churches. This list was compiled on the basis of Antoneo de Gouvea’s book “Jornada do Arcebispo de Goa Dom Frei Alexio de menezes Primaz da India Orientali, Religiosoda Ordem de S. Agostinho. Quando foy as Serras do malavar, & lugaresem que moralo os antigos Chrisaos de S. Thomae & os tirou de muytos erros & obdeiencia da Santa Igreja Romana, da qual passava de mil annos que estavo & reduzio a nossa Sancta Fe Catholica & obediencia da Santa Igreja Romana, da qual passava de mil annosqhe estavao apartados” and its quotations in books by Bernard TOCD, Placid Podipara, D Jessole, and Bishop Arattukulam.(22)

1. Alappuzha
2. Alengad with two chapels
3. Ambazhakkad
4. Angamali three churches
5. Athirampuzha
6. Arthinkal with two chapels
7. Akapparambu
8. Arakkuzha
9. Anchikaimol- Ernakulum
10. Aranmula
11. Bharananganam
12. Chetwa
13. Chennamangalam
14. Chennamangalam south
15. Cheria parur
16. Cheria parur kizhakke palli
17. Changanasserry
18. Chengannur
19. Chettukulangara
20. Chalakkudi
21. Chermpil
22. Cathiath
23. Cherpunkal
24. Chungam
25. Cruz-di-Milagre
26. Edappalli
27. Edacochin
28. Elangi
29. Enamakal
30. Kannur
31. Kozhikkode
32. Kochi
33. Kodungallur I
34. Kodungallur II
35. Kollam I
36. Kollam II
37. Kayamkulam
38. Kottayam Cheria palli
39. Kundara
40. Karunagappalli
41. Kalluppara
42. Kuravilnangadu
43. Kadamattom
44. Kanjirappalli
45. Kothamangalam cheria palli
46. Koratty
47. Kolencherry
48. Kothanellur
49. Kuthiathode
50. Kunnamkulangara
51. Kuruppampady
52. Kudavechoor
53. Karakkunnam
54. Kottekkadu
55. Mulanthuruthy
56. Muttam
57. Mavelikkara
58. Muttuchira
59. Mattancherry
60. Mailakkompu
61. Muthalakkodam
62. Moozhukkulam
63. Manjappra
64. Manasserry
65. Muhamma
66. Maramon
67. Ngarakkal
68. Nediyasala
69. Nagappuzha
70. Niranom
71. Omallur
72. Pattamara parur
73. Purakkadu
74. Piravom
75. Pala
76. Pulincunnu
77. Pallippuram
78. Poonjar
79. Palluruthy
80. Pothanikkadu
81. Puthiyakavu
82. Pallikkara
83. Puthechira
84. Saudi Dumina NS
85. Thumbamon
86. Thekkeparur
87. Thalipparambu
88. Thrippunuthura
89. Thekkankoottu
90. Thuruthippuram
91. Udayamperoor
92. Vadakara
93. Venmani
94. Veliyanadu
95. Venduruthy
96. Vallarpadam
97. Vypin
98. Varappuzha
99. Vadakkepudukkadu
100. Vadayar
101. Vaypoor
102. Vadakkancherry
103. Kothamangalam
104. St Jaro Palluruthy
105. Malayattoor
106. Puthuppally
107. Thottappally
108. Mattathil
109. Chazhoor
110. Kalparambil
111. Kanjoor
112. Chowara
113. Kattoor
114. Thumpoly
115. Ramapuram
116. Thevalakkara
117. Maungali
118. Thiruvanculam
119. Nagappara
120. Kudamalur
121. Pullala
122. Anakkallumgal
123. Koranadu
124. Kottara
125. Kuravankulangare
126. Caramattom
127. Palli port south
128. Kandanadu
129. Cheppadu
130. Palayam

Indistinct locations

1. Comiligi
2. Quejecca
3. Blagatte
4. Cormor
5. Vinecca palli
6. Covere
7. Vallet
8. Codangoth
9. Bucin
10. Mopencherry
11. Canna
12. Ginucotte
13. Mudela court
14. Advombare
15. Mulicor
16. Elongmil- (could be elanji)
17. Farete- (sounds like Piravom)
18. Bareate
19. Calete
20. Idatur- (erattupetta)
21. Corcilanate
22. Cadagol
23. Roipur
24. Calurcherro
25. Neonanur-(Niranom)
26. Calera
27. Tempucar (Tumpamon)
28. Mormonor
29. Colour superior (Kayamkulam)
30. Tempureer
31. Tanrgali
32. Cottette(Kottayam)
33. Rapolin (Edappalli)
34. Manongate

The following churches are labelled as latin in the list according to Placid Podipara
(Historia Ecclesia Malabarical Cum Synoda Deaipral pp. 428-429 quoted by Placid J. Podipara p.104)
Varapuzha, Chetwa (Citna by Rantin) Thiruvanathapuram, Pallipuram (Baleport)
Chathiathu, Vendurathi, Mattancherry,Dumina NS de salute (Saudi), Manasserry, (St.Luis-Raulin) Mundanveli,Edacochin (Castella-Raulin) S. Andre (Arthunkal-Raulin- with two chapels)

In addition to the above the following churches were also Latin according to Bernard
TOCD) Kannur, Kozhikode,Kodungallor(two churches) ,Chattukulangara, Kundara, Manongats, Thevalakkara.(22)

It looks like this list contains many duplications as many places are pronounced differently in different books and time periods and many different pronunciations are listed as different churches. Some of the affiliations are also not correct.

Thomas Whitehouse has compared the churches according to the local kingdoms, their affiliation to Jacobite Syrian, Catholic Syrian and mixed according to four different authors which make it very helpful to compare and identify the places easily. It seems that the affiliation and region were compiled by Du Perron as on 1758.

It seems that some of the places are not keeping with the regions and some of the affiliation is wrong.

Kingdom of Cochin -

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse1873
Molundurte Molandurte Molandurte
Holy Virgin Molunturuti
St Mary Mulanturutta
Caromattan Caramattam
Holy Virgin Kadamattom
St George Kadamattom
Racati Raakate
Holy Virgin Rakada
Meliatur Maleatour
Holy Virgin Maleatur
St Thomas
Do Oratory in the mountain Malleatur
Little Paru Paru Tekeparrour
St John Baptist Tekenparur South Parur
Narame Trepuntare Naramel
Holy Virgin Nharamel Trepuntara
Holy Virgin Caringacera
(? karingachira)
Momuacheri Mamlascheri
Holy Virgin Mamalaceri
St Michael Mamalasheri
Pallicare Pallikare
Holy Virgin Pallicare
St Mary Pallikkara
Cantanate Candanate
Holy Virgin Candanata
St Mary Kanadanada
Carpumpiali Kourripoupali
Holy Virgin Curupeupadi
St Mary Kuruppampady
Holy Virgin Perumettam
St Mary Peyrumattam
Holy Virgin
Ditto Holy Virgin Codamangalam
St Mary
Ditto St Mary Kothamangalum
Palliporam Palliport Palliporam
Holy virgin Pallipuram
St Mary South palliport or Pallipuram
Muttan Mutton Mouttam
Holy Virgin Muttam
St Mary Muttam
Diamper Diamper Odiamper
SS Gervasis & Protasius
Cajoukambalam Odiamper
SS Gervasis & Protasius Udiamparur
Colongeri Kolangouri
SS peter & paul
Pudupalli Pouttenpali
St Theresia Puttenpalli
St Theresia Puthenpalli
Mangalam Kadamungalum Codamangalum
St Mary Kothamungalam
Canhur Canchur Cagnour
Holy Virgin Canhur
St Mary Kanhura
(? kanjoor)
Cheguree Covere Shouvere
Holy Virgin Ciovare
St Mary Chewurrah
Vaipicotta Canotta Shenotte
Exaltation of Cross Cenotta
St Crucis Chennum
Gnarica Gnarika
Holy Virgin Nharica
St Mary Narikal
Valeport Balarparte
Holy Virgin Balarpart
(? Vallarpadom)
Angicaimal Ernagolta
Holy Virgin Eranaculata, or Angicaimal
St Mary Ernaculum
Matanger Matingeri Matencheri Matincera Muttancherry

Kingdom of the Samorin

Menesis 1599 Roulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Cottacolongate Schatta Kolangouri
Holy Virgin
Oratory St Cross Cahatukulangare
Potincera Puttenschera
Holy Virgin Puttenceri
St Mary Puthenshery
Holy Virgin Coretti
St Mary
Holy Virgin Cialacudi
St Mary Shalakudy
Balianat Valenate
Holy Virgin Valeanate
St Mary Waliyanata
Pallur Pallur Pallour
St Macaire Palur
St Macharius Palur
Cottapili Cottapari
St Lazarus Cottapadi
St Lazarus Cottapaddy
Mattatil Mattatile
Holy Virgin Mattatil
St Mary
St Cross
St Thomas Ambalakada
St John Mapranam
St Anthony
Holy Virgin
Nativity of Virgin

Kingdom of Paru, NE of Cochin

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1780 Whitehouse
Paru Paru Paru
St Thomas Parur
St Thomas Parur
SS Gervasis & protais Parur
SS Gervasius & Protasius Parur
Muricolour Mourikolam
Holy Virgin Mushicollam
Manhapara Mangnapara
Holy Virgin Manhapra Mapranam
(? manjapra)

Oratory of St Joseph Cottamattil
Little St Mary

Kingdom of Bellouta Tavagi ( Angamali)

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Angamale Angamale Angamale
Holy Virgin Angamali
St Mary Angamale
Holy Virgin
St Ormisdas Angamale
St George
St Hormisdas Angamale
Agaparambin Aparam
St Gervais Agaparambil
SS Gervasius & Protasius Agaparumba

Kingdom of Mangate or Karta Tavagi
Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Mangate Mangate Mangate
St Mary, the Great
Oratory exaltation of the Cross Alengatta or mangatta
Blessed Virgin
Two oratories
One belonging to the Carmelites Allangada

Klanganour Sorousan, NW of Cochin

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 Du Perron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse 1873
Calupare Calloupar
Holy Virgin Kallupara
Rapolin Edapali or Rapolin
SS Peter & Paul Edapuli or Rapolin
St george, also SS Peter & Paul Eddapally
Holy Virgin Vaypur
St Mary Wiyapur

Barekangour(Wadakkencore) SE & SSE of Cochin

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse 1873
Coramalur Caramalur Codamalour
SS Gervais & Protais Codamalur
SS Gervasius & Protasius Codamalur
( Is it Kothanallur?)
SS Gervais & Protais Elur
St Stephen Ellur
Baragarou Badagare
St John Baptist Wadacara
Mulicolour Moulecoulan
St Alexis Mulaculum
Prouto Farete Parotto
3 Kings Parotta
3 Kings Puruwum
Cembil Schembi
St Mary Cembi
St Mary Chembil
Corolongate Corolongati Karlongate
Holy Virgin Corolongatta
St Mary, the Great Corolnagada
Elognil Elagni
SS Peter & Paul Elangnil
SS Peter & Paul Elanhil
(? Elanji)
Romram Ramrat
St Augustine Ramaratta
St Augustine Ramapuram
Bariate Bariate
St Saviour Badeate
St Saviour Wuddiar
Bechur Beschour
St Mary Veciur or Codavecior
St Mary Cuday Vaychur
Paligunde Puligune Poulingounel
St Mary Pullingune
Giuncotti Jungom
St Michael Ciungatta Chungum
Modelacort Modelakorte Modelacodum
St George Muddalacoddao
Maila Cambil Mailacamba
St Thomas Mailacamba
St Thomas Milacumbu
Holy Virgin Aaragoshe
St Mary (? Arakkuzha )
Holy Virgin Wattathattil
Holy Virgin Nediale
St Mary Nediala
( ?Nediasala)
Nagpili and Ignapili Nagapare Nagapoje
Holy Virgin Nagapushe Nagapare
( ? Nagapuzha)
Carturte Carturti Carturte
St paul
Ditto Holy Virgin Cadaturutto
St Thomas
Ditto St Mary Cadaturutta
( Kaduthuruthy)

Tekengour ( Thekkencore) SW of Cochin
Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Maruquitil Manirgat Manargate Manargada
St Mary Manyarukada
Changanagere Chonganari Schanganascheri Cianganaceri
St Mary Changanashery
Changanore Cenganur Schenganour
Holy Virgin Cenganur
St Mary Chenganur
Naranam Neonaor Nernate
Holy Virgin Neranatta Neranum
Calurceri Kattouscheri/Kallouscheri Callucera
St Mary Kalluchery
Moramanor Maramanil
Holy Virgin Maramanur
Holy Virgin Coshencere
St Mary Koranchery
Cotette Cottette Ceria Cotette Coittotta
St Mary Cottayam
Pudupalli Poudonpouli
Holy Virgin Pudupulla Puthuppalli
Poecitanate Penoutara
Holy Virgin Punutra Punathara
Cotette Cottette Cotatte- another church Cottayam
Cerpungel Scherpengue
St Cross Cerpunghal
St Cross Cherpungnel
Pulala Palaia
St Thomas Palaya
St Thomas, Seminary Palai
Our lady of Mount Carmel Larat Lalao or Lalum
Canhara Palli Cangnharapalli
Holy Virgin Cangnarapalli
St Mary Kanyerapally
St Cross Paincollata
St Cross Paingalum
Anacalungel Anagalenguel
Holy Virgin Aanacallunghel Anacalunguell
Idatur Iratour
Holy Virgin Iratushe
St Mary Yeddatuwa
( ? Irattupetta/aruvithura, unlikely edathua)
Pugnatil Pungnhate
Holy Virgin Punhada
St Mary Punyada
( ? Poonjar)
Caromattan Kadappelamattan Cadamettam
St George Kadamattam
( ? kadaplamattom ?
Holy Virgin ( ?Kidangur)

Porca Shembanasheri Sourouvam ( porcada)

Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Calucate Calaorati Kalourcate
Holy Virgin Callurcatta
Holy Virgin Kalurcada
Porca Porca Porca
St Cross Porocada
St Thomas Poracada
Allapare Alapaje
Holy Virgin Aalapushe
St Mary Alleppey
Codamalur Kadamalour
Holy Virgin Kadamaur

Alikoulam Scherravi, and other tavagis and nambouris
Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Coulan Colour Superior Kalicoulan
Holy Virgin Cayamcollan
SS Gervasius & Protasius Kaiyenkullam
Pudagabo Pudigabo Poudiagavil
Holy Virgin Mavelicare Mavelicare
Bemena Bemmani Bemanil
Holy Virgin Bemanil
St Mary Wemmany
Catigapalay Catiapali Kartiapalli
St Thomas Cartyapalli
St Mary Kartigapally
Curiamgolangare Curiem Colongare Kojienkolangare or kolnagouri Teken Collangare Cheppada
Tempone Tembucur Tombonour Tumbanum
St mary Thombana
(? Thumpamon)
Tellycare Tevelecare Teulecare Tevelacare Thevalacara
Omalour Omolour Omelur
St Mary Omallur
Calera Calera Kallare Catare
St Mary Kallada
Caramanate Caramanate karamanatara Cadambara
St Mary Kadumbanada
Gundara Gundare Kondoura Condur
St Mary Kundara
Kottagarekare Kottarakerry

Koulan (Quilon)
Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Koulon Koulon
St Thomas Quilon

Ancient Travancore
Menesis 1599 Raulini 1745 DuPerron 1758 Paoli 1760 Whitehouse
Travancore Travancotta
St Thomas Travancore


We have already seen that at the time of the Coonan Cross oath, vast majority of St Thomas Christians were with the Archdeacon. But, due to the following factors, majority of them returned to the catholic fold-

1. The revolt was not against Pope or Catholic Church. The replacement of Jesuits with Carmelites who got the recommendation earlier from Archdeacon
2. The Claims of Archdeacon and Party having the mandate of Pope was proved wrong by Carmelite missionaries
3. Political tactics of the Portuguese by winning the local Kings in favour of them. This was evident in the kingdoms of Vadakkumkoor, Purakkadu and Cochin.
4. Change in the Political scene as the Dutch captured Cochin. The Portuguese were in a troubled time with increasing attacks from Dutch during the entire period. So, they were willing to yield much for reconciliation which was seen in their attitude.
5. At one point, Palliveettil Chandy Metran had legitimate Bishopric consecration while Mar Thoma I was still waiting for a legitimate Bishopric consecration.
6. Previous relation to the Catholic church and Pope via the Chaldean Bishops at the last part of the Babylonian connection and about 100 years of communion of which the last fifty years under Portuguese Padraodo bishops.
7. There was no permanent division till 1665. Only after the arrival of Mar Gregorious, the permanent division happened in the community.

Whitehouse reviews the available data of population statistics by different authors as he comments “some strangely exaggerated statements as to the numerical strengths of the Syrians in former times having found their way into print, and being repeated by one writer after another, some remarks on the subject of statistics are called for”. He continues-(24)

The oldest well authenticated report about the population statistics of Syriac Christians are seen in the letters of four East Syriac Bishops to their Patriarch Elias in 1504-“There are here about thirty thousand Christian families holding the same faith as ourselves, and they pray to the Lord that we may be preserved unhurt.” (24)

Roulini enlists the churches of the Christians of St Thomas as 113 out of a total of 128.Of these 113, he calls 30 as schismatics –as Jacobite Syrians and the rest 83 as Romo Syrians.(25)
Du Perron enlists 31 Jacobite Syrian, 57 Catholic Syrians and 20 mixed. (1758).

Paoli, a Carmelite missionary, lists 118 churches of which 83 were loyal to Rome and 35 independent of Rome.

Mar Gabriel to Visscher, the Dutch Captain- that of the original 64 churches of the diocese, the Syrians had 44 and the Carmelites 20. Whitehouse comments that “he under rated the numerical strength of the Romo Syrian party, but probably had in his mind only the old churches over which his predecessors exercised jurisdiction.” Here, we need to find out what did he mean by Syrians. Mar Gabriel was a Nestorian Bishop who came to Malabar in 1708.When he arrived, a large number of Catholic Syrian and Jacobite Syrian parishes joined him thus creating a middle party under him. All of them returned to their former affiliations after his death. He might have mentioned the number of churches accepting him compared to those of Carmelites.(26)

Stephen Neill says in “History of Christianity in India”.

“Attempts to calculate the number of St Thomas Christians and their parishes which adhered to the rival bishops cannot be more than tentative since our authorities contradict one another at every point……………When all factors have been taken into consideration, the figure of two thirds to Chandy and one third to Thomas may be regarded as acceptable. But it seems that the larger churches and those nearer to the main centres of civilisation adhered to Chandy; strong support for Thomas lay in the remote areas, and among those less influenced by the contacts with the west.”(27)

Richard Collins observes that the number of Jacobite Syrians and Catholic Syrians are almost equal. (28)

Thomas Yates in his book Indian Church History, quotes Fr Paulino (Paoli) who was in Kerala between 1776 and 1789 that according to Bishop Florentines Jesu, of Malabar Vicariate who died in 1773, there were 94000 St Thomas Christians and when the poll tax was in contemplation in Travancore in the year 1787, they were numbered at 100, 000. During the war against Tippoo, 10000 of them lost their lives but still there remains 90,000 Christians following Syro Chaldean rituals. They have in their possession 64 churches, some of them however, were destroyed by Tippoo.The Jacobites have 32 churches, to which belong 50,000. These therefore form altogether 140,000 Christians who adhere to the Syro chaldaic rites.

Thomas Yates also quotes Rev Dr Kerr, (dated Madras 1806) that Jacobite Syrians have 55 churches, and the number of their people as given to the resident of Travancore is 23,000. The Catholic Syrians’ numbers, Yates comments, “it is conjectured, are under rated in the statement given in to the resident”, as it is generally supposed, that they may be estimated at 70 or 80 thousand.

Dr. Kerr continues about Catholic Syrians as quoted by Yates-The Syrian Roman Catholics, were constrained to join the Latin church after a long struggle for the power, of maintaining their purity and independence, are still appear a people perfectly distinct from Latin church, being allowed to chant and perform all the services….They are said to have 86 parishes and are numbered 90,000. (29)

G T Mackenzie, in his book Christianity in Travancore in 1901 observes that the bulk of Syrian Christians in Travancore are Syrian Roman Catholics-“these Syrian Christians are found in central and north Travancore, in the Cochin state and the Malabar district of British India. There are none in south Travancore. The bulk of them are Roman Catholics but nevertheless follow their own Syriac rite. Others adhere to the Jacobite patriarch of Antioch. The remainder approach the protestant standards of doctrine and ritual and are usually called as reformed Syrians, although they themselves dislike that term and call themselves, Christians of St Thomas.”(30)

George Milne Rae observes in his book The Syrian Church of India 1892 that “it is not possible from the census reports as exact classification. The number of Jacobite Syrians may be taken as approximately 330, 000 and the number of Romo Syrians as 110,000.The number of protestant Syrians are comparatively small. (31) His numbers are not keeping with other authors. He is not providing any references and admits that there are no available census reports. It may be that he was talking about a region in Kerala like Travancore alone.

Cardinal Tisserant gives the figure of 1876 for Catholics. The total numbers of Syro Malabar faithful were estimated at 200,000. There were 420 priests, 215 Churches and Chapels, 125 seminarians and 6 houses of the Syrian Carmelites. (32)

The Syriac churches are further divided and now comprise 7 different branches. They follow basically two different Syriac traditions, the ancient East Syriac and the newly introduced West Syriac traditions. Because of multiple splits and litigations, it is very difficult to estimate an exact population statistics now. There are no available data published from the non Catholic groups where as for Catholic groups, such data is available. The approximate current statistics can be seen in here. (33)

The different branches of the St Thomas Christians are as follows.

Syro Malabar Catholic Church Catholic Communion
Chaldean Church of Trichur Church of the East

WEST SYRIAC TRADITIONMalankara Orthodox Syriac Church Autocephalous
Malankara Jacobite Syriac Church Church of Antioch
Thozhiyoor Independent Syriac Church Autocephalous
Syro Malankara Catholic Church Catholic Communion

Mar Thoma Syrian Church Protestant reformation

It has to be remembered that some of the Catholic Syriac group ended up in Latin Church also. They are mainly the families of those Priests ordained by Arch bishop Menesis who were not accepted by the St Thomas Christian community and those who did not participate in Coonan cross oath.

1 G T Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, 1901, p27

2 Joseph Thekkedathu, The troubled days of Garcia, quoted in The History of Christianity in India p94)

3 . Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, Rome ( Jesuite Archives) Vol 68(1) f 102 f 225 Garcia’s letter to Fr Hyacinth of St Vincent, Vol 68 (2) ff 451-2, Historical Archives of Goa Livro das MongcesVol 25 f 130, all quoted by Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity in India, p93

4. Historical Archives of Goa, Livro das Mongces Vol 25 f 121 quoted by Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity In India p94)

5. A document signed by all the church people of Malankara beginning with Ankamale who were assembled at the large church of Angamale on the first of February (old reckoning) in the year of our Lord 1787, in reference to the increase of true faith, and with regard to the bringing about a real union in our church, and a walk according to the manners and customs of our forefathers quoted by Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of light--- Appendix E
(The Padiyola is available online- )

6. Abstract of a brief history of Syrians in Malabar, preserved among themselves as genuine history, Church missionary society report for 1818-19 , page 317, quoted by Thomas Whitehouse in Lingering of light---Appendix D

7. India in 1500 AD, Fr Antony Vallavanthara, quoted in Changanasseerry Athiroopatha innale innu vol I p 36)

8. G T Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, 1901 p 12(Mackenzie reports that Guuvea p5 says that it is in Latin and appended to Fasciculus Temporum. An Italian version appeared at Vicenza in 1507 called Paesi novamente retrovati. It is cited also as Novus Orbis or as The Travels of Joseph the Indian.)

9.East Syrian Mission to Asia with Special Reference to Malabar Coast from Sixth Century to Sixteenth Century AD and its Influence on Indian Religion Society and Culture by Elias TP, 2005 Doctoral Thesis to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala Guided by Fr Baby Varghese, SEERI, Kottayam)

10Schurhammer, The Malabar church, pp 5-7 quoted in Changanacherry athiroopatha innale innu vol I p 38)

11. G T Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore (1901) pp11-12

12.Joseph Thekkedathu, The Troubled days of Arch Bishop Garcia. quoted in History of Christianity In India p 94)

13. Historical Archives of Goa, Livro das Mongces Vol 25 f 121 quoted by Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity In India p 94.

14. G T Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore (1901) p 30. Quoting Paul of Bartholomew, India Orientalis Christiania.

15. Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity in India, p99 quoting from his book The troubled days of Arch bishop Garcia.

16. Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity In India p 99.

17.Joseph Thekkedathu, The troubled days of Francis Garcia SJ, PP 143-44 quoted in Changanasserry athiroopatha, innale innu, vol II p 266

18. Christianity in India Book 4 P359 James Hough.

19. Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity in India p 100.

20. LW Browne, Indian Christians of St Thomas page 111 quoted by Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity in India.p 101

21. Stephen Neill, History of Christianity in India.

22. P J Tomy, Rtd Asso. Professor, Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala Coast, the Portuguese contributions (

23. Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in a dark land- bring researches intothe past history and present conditions of the Syrian church of Malabar. 1873, Appendix A
24. Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in a dark land- bring researches into the past history and present conditions of the Syrian church of Malabar. 1873 Appendix H

25. Historia Ecclesiae malabaricae Romae 1745 p 428 quoted by
Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in a dark land- bring researches intothe past history and present conditions of the Syrian church of Malabar. 1873

26. Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in a dark land- bring researches intothe past history and present conditions of the Syrian church of Malabar. 1873 Appendix H

27. The History of Christianity in India, The beginnings to AD 1707, Stephen Neill, University of Cambridge, 1984.

28. Richard Collins, Missionary enterprise of the east, 1873

29. Thomas Yates, Indian Church History or an account of the first planting of the gospel in Syria, Mesopotamia and India with an accurate relation of the first Christian missions in china, London, 1818.

30 G T Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore(1901) P 1.

31. George Milne Rae, The Syrian Church of India, , Notes to ch XVI.

32. Eugene Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in India, P139 quoted in

33. Population Statistics and Demography of Saint Thomas Christians, Churches with historical references.