St. George's Cathedral
Source: Photograph taken on December 29, 1994
Karingachira St. George's Church, established in 722 AD (Makaram 13), is one of the ancient churches of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. The lone saint of the Malankara Church, Mor Gregorius was ordained koorooyo (fourth order of deaconate) on September 14, 1857 at this church.
The Karingachira church is located 1.5 km east of Tripunithura town and 250 m west of Hill Palace, the royal palace of the Highnesses of the erstwhile Cochin state. Marshy land on either side of a rivulet that flows west of the church had a few islands connected by paths (chira in Malayalam) made of bushes known locally as karingali which gave the place the name Karingalichira that later became Karingachira.
Mailing Address: St. George Syrian Orthodox Church, Karingachira, Kochi, Kerala, India 682 309
Tradition has it that St. Thomas arrived at Kodungallur in AD 52 and established seven churches in Malankara, one of which was the Kottakkavu church in North Parur. In course of time, a church was established at Edapally was established by migrants who belonged to the Kottakkavu church.
When Tripunithura gained prominence as the capital of the erstwhile Perumpadapu Swaroopam (Cochin State), several Syrian Christians migrated to the area. Syrian Christians of those days primarily engaged in commercial activities which were looked down upon by the upper-casted Hindus. But the rulers of the kingdom recognized the value of their activity and encouraged them to migrate to their capital by opening a new market (Puthan-angadi) for them. While many Christians settled in the Tripunithura-Karingachira area, they continued to depend on the Edapally church for their spiritual needs.
In the early part of 8th century AD, two Syrian Christian families-Maliackel and Palathinkal gained prominence in this region. A member of the Maliackel family died unexpectedly. A message was sent to the authorities of the Edapally church, but they refused to bury the remains in the church due to alleged dues to the church outstanding from the Maliackel family. Even so, the family took the dead body to Edapally church hoping for a settlement and burial rites, but was turned away. On their way back, they decided to bury the body in Karingalichira, an uninhabited place in those days. This event caused great concern among the local Christians. The Maliackel family consulted with the Palathinkal family and decided to construct a church at the location where the body was buried. A church was established there in the name of St. George, the patron saint of Edapally church.
There is evidence to believe that this church was established in AD 722. In 1923, an inscription was found when an opening was made in the south wall on the eastern side of the church to construct a window. This inscription (70 cm x 52 cm) was in a language known as "Naanam-Monum." This inscription was translated into Malayalam and inscribed on the southern wall on a granite slab. An English translation would read "In the Year of our Lord Yeshue Meshiha 722, month of Makaram 13, this Church of St. George was established and was rebuilt in 812 AD, Karkidakom 21. Translated from Naanam-Monum." Malayalam developed as a language between 800 and 920 AD, during the reign of Kulashekhara Rajas (Sridhara Menon, "Survey of Kerala History", p. 188). Since the inscription is in Naanam-Monum and not Malayalam, the inscription is acclaimed to be true.
Karingachira Church and the Portugese
Following the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, the trade route between Europe and Asia became inaccessible to Europeans. This encouraged them to explore a sea route to Asia. In 1498, Vasco de Gama, a Portugese navigator, arrived in Malabar. The Portugese attempted to displace the Arab merchants who were favoured by the Samoothiri (Zamorin) of Kozhikode (Calicut) but did not succeed. Taking advantage of the strife between Samoothiri and Perumbadapu Moopila (Cochin Highness), they curried the favor of the Cochin royal family. Since Syrian Christians had earned rights in commercial activities, the Portugese claiming to be co-religionists began to arrogate their rights. When they were comfortably established they began a campaign to bring the Syrian Christians under the Roman Pope. Their objective was not only a religious conversion but also a cultural conversion. In 1599, a Portugese Archbishop, Alexis de Menesis, arrived from Goa and held the notorious Diamper Synod at Udayamperoor. Menesis set out to every church in Malankara in order to bring them under the Roman yoke. While every church was included in his itinery, he was unable to include Karingachira. Thus Karingachira church never came under the Portugese.
On hearing about the persecution suffered by his flock in Malankara, [allegedly] the Patriarch of Antioch, Mor Ignatius Ahathulla, set out to Malankara in 1653. He was captured by the Portugese enroute and was taken to Madras. Two Syrian Christian deacons from Malankara, Itty and Kurian, who were on pilgrimage to Mylapore heard about the incident and reported to the church in Malankara. They also managed to meet Mor Ahathulla and secured a 'Statikon' from him appointing Archdeacon Thomas as the episcopa of Malankara [with the condition that a proper ordination would be obtained as soon as the situation permitted]. In the meantime, Mor Ahathulla was brought to Cochin. On hearing about his arrival, hoardes of Syrian Christians rushed to the Cochin Port to free their holy father. It is said that church bells rang at Karingachira and several of those who rushed to Cochin were from Karingachira. They were unable to free Mor Ahathulla. Legend has it that he was drowned in the Arabian Sea with a millstone tied to his neck, although another version says that he was taken to Goa and burnt on the stake. Later on Makaram 3rd, at Mattancherry, about 25000 Syrian Christians held on to a rope tied to a leaning cross and pledged to never surrender to the Roman yoke and always remain under the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch maintaining their ancient rites and traditions. Archdeacon Thomas, who had received a 'Statikon' from the Patriarch of Antioch was declared the episcopa of Malankara. This historic event is known as the Koonen Kurishu Sathyam (The Leaning Cross Oath). A number of those who participated were again parishioners of Karingachira.
However, after this event, Karingachira Church saw schism amongst the two prominent families on the question of loyalty to Rome. The Maliackel family favoured Rome while Palathinkal family remained in the traditions of the Syrian church. On an appeal from Maliackel family, the Cochin Highness called the two parties together in 1758 and settled the dispute. Following this, the two factions continued to share the church for some more time until 1780 when the Roman faction took a share of 10002 puthen from the church and separated.
Karingachira Church and Archdeacon Thomas
Archdeacon Thomas of Pakalomattom family was consecrated Metropolitan of Malankara, Marthoma I, at Alangad. However, the Portugese, sought the help of the Cochin army to murder Marthoma. Fearing the might of the army no church came forward to offer refuge to the Marthoma. In those circumstances, the Vicar of the Karingachira church, Kochu Ittoop Achan and Trustee Kochu Yako gathered courage to bring the Marthoma from Alangad by boat via Morakkala kadavu to the rivulet flowing west of the Karingachira church and hid him in the church. Later Anjilimoottil Ittithomman Kathanar and Kuravingattu Chandy Kathanar took the Marthoma secretly to Chengannur. Karingachira church took leadership to convene the meeting at Ankamali church on February 2, 1687 in order to defeat the scheming Roman bishop Joseph Sebestiani and reaffirm the leadership of Marthoma.
Karingachira Church and Maphryono Mor Baselios Yaldo
Karingachira church is famous for its thamukku nercha (an offering of plantain mixed with a form of rice powder and jaggery) on December 3rd (Vrischikam 20). This is in connection with the feast of Maphryono Mor Baselios Yaldo whose remains are interred in Kothamangalam Cheriapally. When Mor Baselios arrived at Kothamangalam, it is said that some parishioners of Karingachira took this mix of plantain, fried powdered rice and jaggery to him and that he was pleased. Apparently, a priest from Karingachira was at the deathbed of Mor Baselios Yaldo and later had rights to offer Holy Qurbono in the church. It is believed that this priest brought a relic of the saint from Kothamangalam by foot to Mamala near Thiruvankulam and was received by the parishioners of Karingachira and installed the relics at Karingachira church on a December 3rd. In 1920, a piece of bone was found covered in a silk cloth (veeralipattu) on an exquisitely engraved cot in the northern wall of the church. This is believed to be the relic of the saint and remains interred in the wall as directed by the Metropolitan Mar Athanasius Paulos (Aluva).
In 1806, Rev. Cladius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Karingachira church. He records this in the book, Universal Christian Topography.
Relations with the Cochin Royal Family
Karingachira church always received the patronage of the Cochin royal family. After shifting their residence to Kanakakunnu palace (Hill Palace), the royal family was constantly afflicted by diseases. On consulting with astrologers, they decided to give offerings every month to the nearby 'horseman's church.' Karingachira thus received considerable assistance from the royal family. The church records say that the royal highness ordered the government to provide assistance for the construction of the old church buildings. The vicars of Karingachira were given special privileges by the royal family. The royal procession on Athachamayam before the festival, Onam, could begin only in the presence of the Karingachira vicar.
It is well known that Mor Ahathulla was murdered by the Portugese with the connivance of the Cochin highness, who refused to intervene despite pleas from the Syrian Christians. However, on the very day Mor Ahathulla was murdered, the Highness died. Recognizing this as a bad omen, the royal family made offerings at the Karingachira church.
Holy Fathers who have visited Karingachira Church
Karingachira church has diligently received bishops who have arrived from the mother church in the Middle East. Mor Anthrayos who reached Malankara in 1675 and stayed for several years at the Mulanthuruthy church, Mor Ivanius who reached Malankara in 1685 and was buried at Mulanthuruthy church, Mor Gregorius Yuhanon who was buried at Mulanthuruthy church in 1773, Mor Koorilose Yuyakim who was buried at Mulanthuruthy church in 1894 and Mor Baselios Shakralla who is buried at Kandanad church have visited Karingachira church. The Patriarch of Antioch, Peter IV, who came to Malankara in 1876, came to Karingachira and stayed at the church for a few days according to diary notes of Mor Gregorius of Parumala who accompanied the Patriarch as his secretary and translator. In the famous Mulanthuruthy Synod convened by the Patriarch, Kuttikkattil Gheevarghese Kathanar, Karuthedath Philipose Kathanar, Kuzhiyanjal Gheevarghese Kathanar and Cheruthottil Kurian Varkey represented Karingachira church.
Karingachira Church and Mor Gregorius of Parumala
The great saint of Malankara church, Mor Gregorius of Parumala (Kochu Thirumeni), had great affection for Karingachira church. At the age of 9, his uncle Shrambikkal-Pallathittayil Gheevarghese Malpan, took him to Karingachira to be ordained korooyo on September 14, 1857, by the then Malankara Metropolitan Mar Athanasius Mathews. On several occasions as ramban (monk) and later as metropolitan, he came to Karingachira church and stayed there for several days. Church records show that in Chingam 1892 he stayed at the church and initiated the broadening of the access to the road on the south side of the church, clearing the foliage and relocating shops located there. The well known Karuthedath Gheevarghese Kathanar who served as Vicar of this church for over five decades was ordained priest by Mor Gregorius. A bull relating to the ordination from Kochu Thirumeni has been found. In those days when transportation was by waterways, Kochu Thirumeni used to use Karingachira church as his base and take a boat from there to various churches. On such occasions he would request arrangements at Karingachira church. A kalpana (Bull No. 287) in Kochu Thirumeni's own handwriting in this regard has been preserved.
An interesting event is recorded in connection with Mor Gregorius in the church records. A cross was established by Karingachira church at Thiruvankulam, a nearby village. This was consecrated by Mor Gregorius. This cross happened to be near a Hindu temple. The temple authorities were annoyed that a cross was located near the temple and incense offered there. They filed a petition against the trustees of the church with Kochu Thirumeni as a witness in the Cochin Magistrate court. Many appealed to Kochu Thirumeni to testify that he had not offered incense at the newly established cross, in order to secure a favorable judgment. Kochu Thirumeni refused and testified that he had indeed offered incense. The trustees of the church were found guilty. However, Kochu Thirumeni consoled the trustees and told them to appeal the judgment and assured them that the verdict would be in their favour. The appeal resulted in a favourable verdict.
Once while staying at Karingachira church, Mor Gregorius was taken ill. The doctors asked for butter to prepare medicines. A message was sent to a nearby household which had a diary requesting some butter. They refused to give the butter. On the next day, blood gushed out from the cow's udders, when it was milked. The frightened family rushed to Kochu Thirumeni and begged for forgiveness. The saint consoled them and sent them away. Many of Karingachira's parishioners recount this incident to this day.
Moran Mor Ignatius Abed Aloho, Patriarch of Antioch
Mor Ignatius `Abded Aloho who reached Malankara in 1910, convened a meeting of church delegates at Karingachira church in July 1911. The meeting decided to conduct the sacrament of Holy Chrism at Mulanthuruthy church. Karingachira church also executed a deed acknowledging the spiritual and temporal supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch on the church and reforming the administration of the church.
During his visit, the church witnessed one of the darkest days in its history. Allegations of financial impropriety had been raised by the parishioners against the then trustees of the church, Mookencheril Kaarivelil Paili Cheria and Pulayath Varkey Pothen. The Vicar Karuthedath Gewargis Kathanar had marched to their homes and retrieved some of the money they misappropriated. During the Patriarch's visit, parishioners lodged a complaint about the trustees and His Holiness asked the trustees to submit the accounts to the parishioners. The trustees refused. Upon learning about their disobedience to the Holy Father, a group of people seized the offertory in the cross on the west side of the church which was appropriated by the trustees and placed it before the Patriarch. Though it was returned to the trustees, they refused to accept it back and filed a complaint with the Police Superintendent M.A. Chacko, a protagonist of the faction opposed to the Patriarch. Karuthedath Gewargis Kathanar was chargesheeted along with others for burglary. Police arrested and handcuffed the venerable old priest along with others and forced them to walk all the way to Ernakulam District Magistrate's Court. His Holiness requested M.A. Chacko to intervene and release the priest, but he refused. Later the Royal Highness intervened to release the priest from prison after seven days in custody. The priest was acquitted of wrong-doing. Parishioners removed the trustees and registered a deed specifying administrative procedures for managing finances of the church. They elected Paluparambil Kurien Kuruvilla, Tharakandil Punnose Mathunni, Kuttikkatu Palakattu Paili Avara, Iykkaravelil Cheria Ulahannan, Nadakkavunkal Palathinkal Ithappiri Kunju Varkey, Mukkadackal Ouseph Ittop, Nadakkavunkal Palathinkal Ithappiri, Nadakkavunkal Karottu Cheria Varkey, Thuruthiyil Varkey and Puthenpurackal Thommen Mani as trustees. Later, M.A. Chacko was persecuted by Parukkutty Nethiaramma, the royal consort in an unjust case registered against him, apparently for spurning her advances and resigned from service in disgrace.
Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III, Patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch Mor Elias III, who came to Malankara to establish peace in the church was received by several including many from Karingachira at Alwaye railway station. His Holiness came to Karingachira church as a guest of the Cochin State on 1931 Meenam 19 and was given a royal reception at the church. His Holiness spent the passion week at this church and conducted the washing of the feet ceremony on Maundy Thursday. His Holiness also presided at the joint meeting of the Malankara Mar Gregorius Student's Association and Malankara Syrian Sunday School Association attended by about 500 delegates from all over Malankara.
Malankara Association Meeting of 1935
Karingachira is well known in Malankara church history as the venue of the historic Malankara Association meeting called by Mor Athanasius Paulos, Metropolitan of Alwaye & Cochin, Mor Dionysius Mikhail of Kottayam, Niranam, Thumpamon and Quilon, Mar Timotheous Augen of Kandanad (later Catholicos) and Mar Dioscoros Touma of Knanaya Diocese on October 9, 1935. At this meeting, Mor Athanasius Paulose was unanimously elected Malankara Metropolitan.
Later in 1974, after the schism surfaced again in the Malankara church, it was at Karingachira that the delegate's meeting of Kandanad, Cochin, and Angamaly dioceses met to select Fr. P. M. Gheevarghese and Fr. C. M. Thomas as candidates for episcopacy.
Other Fathers who visited the Church
Mor Ostatheos Sleebo who was the delegate of the Holy See of Antioch to Malankara for about three decades visited and stayed at Karingachira church several times. Mor Ostatheos consecrated the reconstructed sanctuary of the church on September 5, 1923. Mor Yulius Elias Qoro who succeeded Mor Ostatheos as Patriarchal delegate also visited and stayed at Karingachira church several times.
In 1964, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatius Ya`qub III, who came to Malankara to establish peace, visited Karingachira church. Prior to becoming Patriarch, as Abdul Ahad Rabban, he had visited Karingachira several times. H.H. Patriarch Zakka I visited this church in February 1982, March 2000 and September 23, 2004. H.H. presided over a Holy Episcopal Synod held at the Church during his visit in 2004 and elevated the church to the status of a cathedral.
Late Mor Athanasius Yeshu` Samuel of United States and Mor Timotheous Aphrem Aboodi of Canada also maintained close ties with Karingachira church, visiting the church whenever in Malankara.
Changing Face of the Church
Through centuries, the architecture of the church has undergone several changes. In 1806, Claudius Buchanan records that the portico of the church was constructed in a manner similar to the Hindu temples of those days. In 1907-1908, the church was extended further to the west. Until 1921, the cemetry was located at the south side of the church. This made access to the street on the south side difficult. In 1921, it was decided to relocate the cemetry to the north side. Tombs were transferred to the new cemetry. On September 5, 1923, Mor Ostatheos Sleebo consecrated the reconstructed sanctuary (Beth qudsho). The sanctuary was built by Augustine Padiyala of Ernakulam and cost Rs. 1000 in those days. In 1949, the qdush-qudshin was constructed over the side altars dedicated to Holy Virgin Mary and John the Baptist and was consecrated by the then Metropolitan of Cochin, Mulerickal Mor Severios Paulos.
Famous Festivals of the Church
December 3rd - Feast of Mor Yaldo Baselious Maphrian.
Churches formed from Karingachira Church
Institutions of the Karingachira Church
These include Vennikulam St. George's High School, Mor Dionysius Memorial Lower Primary School at Karingachira, a CBSE school at Karingachira and a primary health care center at Karingachira.
Souvenir of St. George's Church, Karingachira, 1980.
|Copyright © Syriac Orthodox Resources. All Rights Reserved.|
|Last Update: November 9, 2004|