St. Francis Church, Kochi

St. Francis Church is one of the oldest European churches in Kerala. It is a major landmark on Fort Kochi which was built in the 16th Century A.D. The history of the church reflects the colonial struggle of the European powers in India from 15th to 20th Centuries. The flood in Periyar during 14th Century changed Kochi as a natural harbour and the marine trade became prolific here along with, in Kozhikode and Kannur.

The arrival of the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in 1498 sowed the roots to foreign supremacy over India. The Portuguese Commander Admiral Cabral visited Kochi in 1500 AD, where Unni Ramakoil, the then Rajah of Kochi permitted him to trade here. In 1503 AD, Alfonso Albuquerque was given permission by the Rajah to build a fort at the mouth of the river. The five Friars who accompanied Alfonso Albuquerque to Kochi in 1503, erected a wooden church dedicated to St. Bartholomew within the temporary fort. Later on, the church was rebuilt in stone and tiled roof. The Franciscans raised the present edifice in the name of St. Anthony in 1516 AD.

Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gamas remains were buried here in the church. Later on his son, Pedro da Silva da Gama took his remains back to Portugal in 1538 AD.

The east facing church has an impressive frontage that reflects the typical Portuguese style. From 1510 AD to 1663 AD, the Portuguese officially called St. Francis Church as the conventional church of the order of the St. Francis of Assisi. The Dutch made changes in the name and the structure of the church. The Dutch also restored the church in 1779 AD.

After the advent of the British, it was the Government Protestant Church, from 1819 to 1846 AD. However, this church was known by the name of St. Francis only after the substantial restoration and renovation carried out by the British in 1886 to 1887 AD. The church has been a centrally protected monument under the control of Archaeological Survey of India since 1923.

All photographs by Tuzk-e-Hind. 2011.

Cover Photograph: Wiki Commons

Information provided by St. Francis Church.