Santa Cruz Basilica
|Though Fort Kochi is full of monuments that throb with history and have an unmistakable old-world charm, the Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the eight basilicas in India, makes an indelible impression on visitors.
The church, which is more than 500 years old, has an eventful past going back to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. As a token of gratitude for the help they rendered in defeating the Zamorins of Calicut, the erstwhile king of Cochin gave the Portuguese permission to set up a fort. Later, in 1505, permission was granted to the first Portuguese viceroy, Dom Franciso de Almeida, to build the church. In 1558, Pope Paul IV raised the church to the status of a cathedral.
During the Dutch conquest of Cochin in 1663, all Catholic monuments, except a few, were crushed. Santa Cruz Cathedral, which was the armoury of the Dutch, was unscathed. However, it was not so lucky during the British invasion in 1795. One of the decorative granite pillars of the destroyed church is preserved as a relic in the basilica.
Bishop D. Joao Gomas Ferreira who reached Kochi in 1887 spearheaded an initiative to reconstruct the cathedral. The reconstruction work was a success and in 1905, it was again consecrated by the bishop of Damao, Dom Sebastiao Jose Pereira. It was in 1984 that Pope John Paul II raised the status of the cathedral to that of a basilica.
The Basilica has magnificent Indo-European and Gothic architecture and the grandeur in the use of colours. It has two bright lofty spires. The indelible charm of the monument owes a lot to its pastel-coloured interior, adorned with paintings of Italian painter Brother Antonio Moscheni and his disciple De Gama of Bangalore. Moscheni has created breathtakingly beautiful paintings on the theme, ‘The Passion and death on the Cross’ in the altar of the Basilica. His imitation of Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ is an arresting sight. The frescos and murals on the life of Christ that embellish the ceilings and the interior and the beautiful stained glass windows add to the charm of the place. The bright blue pillars at the entrance and the pulpit also bear testimony to the craftsmanship of those behind the making of the magnificent monument.