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India’s Santa Cruz Cathedral, a repository of Portuguese heritage

Diocese of Cochin India’s Santa Cruz Cathedral, a repository of Portuguese heritage

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India.

Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.

The King of Kochi permitted the Portuguese viceroy, Francisco de Almeida, to build a church in 1505 AD and he commissioned João Gomes Ferreira for the construction. In 1558, Pope Paul IV elevated the church to a cathedral while erecting the Diocese of Cochin, the second diocese in India.

When Dutch invaders overthrew the Portuguese and brought Kochi under Dutch rule (1663-1773), they destroyed many Portuguese-era buildings and churches, but spared Santa Cruz. However, the British colonial forces destroyed the cathedral in 1887. Bishop Dom Gomez rebuilt the cathedral, and it was consecrated on Nov. 19, 1905. Pope John Paul II elevated Santa Cruz to a basilica on Aug. 23, 1984.

Interior of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

The remnants of the old cathedral demolished by the British are still found at the southeastern corner, in a decorative pillar of the present premises. When the sun rays fall on its stain-glass windows the edifice with its cross surmounted steeples comes to the full glow. The basilica by the Arabian sea attracts numerous tourists and students of art and architecture. Its large columns are decorated with frescoes – seven large paintings and its ceiling has painting of the Way of the Cross.

Additional attractions include paintings by Italian Jesuit Brother Antonio Moscheni including the Last Supper in wooden paneling. The Jesuit died at Santa Cruz on Nov. 15, 1905, just four days before the new cathedral was consecrated.

Santa Cruz Church in Kochi continues to evoke centuries-old of memories of the Portuguese heritage in the city.

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