St Francis Church, Kochi
St. Francis Church is India's earliest European church. Built by the Portuguese in the early 1500's, this wooden church with its simple whitewashed facade became the model for later churches. It was dedicated to St. Anthony.
It was originally surrounded by the Portuguese fort which gave the town its name (Fort Cochin. A stone church soon replaced the original wooden church. All of the Portuguese Catholic churches were destroyed except for this one - when the Dutch gained control of Fort Cochin. In later years when the British took control of the church it was rededicated to St. Francis.
Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried here and then moved to Portugal some 14 years after his death. His gravestone still remains as well as gravestones of Portuguese and Dutch settlers.
Sunday Services: 8-9 a.m. in English, and 9:30-11:30 a.m. in Malayalam. Visitor's are welcome.
Footware must be left outside of the church.
Videography is prohibited.
Cell phones must be turned off.
Vasco da Gama , the legendary explorer came to Kochi in 1502 and died here in 1524.The St. francis' Church contains the grave of Vasco da Gama.His remains were exhumed and taken to Lisbon.St. Francis' Church is the oldest European church in India.The church is assigned sometimes to St. Francis of Assisi and sometimes to Saint Francis Xavier who visited Kochi in 1542.History has not been able to settle this conclusively.
It was the first European Church established by the Europeans in India. Initially, in 1503, the Portuguese erected a wooden church dedicated to Saint Bartolomeu. Later, the Franciscan friars renovated the structure in masonry and the roof was furnished with tiles. Then the chucrh was dedicated to St. António, the patron Saint of Portugal. In 1663, the Duch converted it into a Protestant church. After 1795, under British dominion, this church was transferred to the Anglican Communion under British Government and the name was changed to St. Francis Church. In 1947, the church beacame a part of the Protestant Church of South India.
The internal chamber houses the Portuguese (northern side) and the Dutch (southern side) tombs under the grounds and walls. The world-famed Portuguese sailor and the first European to visit India, Vasco da Gama, was also entombed in the ancient church. His remains were transferred to Lisbon after 14 years of his death, but the tomb is still preserved in at the base in the southern side of the church.
In April 1923, under the Protected Monuments Act of 1904, Saint Francis Church became a protected monument. In 1920, the Cenotaph in memory of the residents of Kochi who fell in the First Great War was erected.
St Francis church was the first European church to be built in India, and was constructed inside Fort Kochi, probably the oldest European settlement. It was originally a wooden church (possibly dedicated to St Bartholomew), but was rebuilt in stone, presumably by the Franciscan friars who accompanied the Portuguese expedition, and was dedicated to St Anthony. It remained in the order of St Francis until the Dutch captured Fort Kochi in 1663 - they demolished all the Catholic churches but the cathedral and this one which they reconditioned and converted into their government church. They were allowed to keep it by the British, who took Kochi in 1795 and it was again renovated during 1779, but it was voluntarily surrendered in 1804 to the Anglican Communion. Presumably it was renamed after the current patron saint during the latter half of the nineteenth century. At present it has been taken over by the Church of South India.
Vasco da Gama, died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon. The gravestone of Vasco da Gama can apparently still be seen here (although we couldn't find it, sadly). The gravestones of the Portuguese and the Dutch that were removed from the floor of the nave have been fixed respectively over the north and south side walls of the church. The earliest Portuguese epitaph here dates to 1562 and that of the Dutch to 1664.
There was originally a wooden church built here in 1503, shortly after the Portuguese first arrived, which was dedicated to St. Bartholomew. Francisco de Almeida, the Portuguese viceroy, was allowed, in 1506, by the Raja of Cochin, to reconstruct wooden buildings in stone and masonry. The wooden church was rebuilt, presumably by Franciscan friars, with bricks and mortar and a tiled roof was erected. In 1516, the new church was completed and it was dedicated to St. Antony. This current church is the oldest in India.
The Franciscans retained control over the church till the Dutch captured Kochi in 1663. While the Portuguese were Roman Catholics, the Dutch were protestants. They demolished all the churches except this one. In 1795, the British captured Kochi from the Dutch but they allowed the latter to retain the church. In 1804, the Dutch voluntarily handed over the church to the Anglican Communion. It is believed that the Anglicans changed the name of the patron saint to St. Francis.
The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon. His gravestone of can still be seen inside along with those of Portuguese (on the northern wall) and Dutch (on the southern wall).
This is reputed to be the oldest European Church in India, built by Portuguese Franciscan Friars in 1503.
The original church was made of wood, being rebuilt in stone mid 16th century.
The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, arrived in Kerala in 1498, and settled in Cochin in 1502, hoping to establish Spice trading and convert the citizens to Catholicism. He set up a factory here, and returned as Portuguese Viceroy in 1510, Following his death in 1524, he was buried in this church, although his tombstone can be seen at the east end of the church, his remains were transported to Lisbon. Other colonials are buried here.
Dutch protestants, and Anglicans later ran the church, now it is in the hands of The Church of South India.
It is only open for well attended services on Sundays. English at 8am and Malayalam at 9.30am.
It's not possible to look around the church during services, but you may stand in the entrance and enjoy the solemnity of the service.
An unusual feature is the punga or punkah system of manual air conditioning. large fans suspended from the ceiling are manually operated by men pulling ropes (punkhawallahs)
We were only able to view the church from the entrance, as a service was in progress, but we could clearly see the punga fans, and it was very moving to hear the hymns sung by the mainly female congregation.
See intro for more info.
Afraid my photo didn't turn out
The inside of St. Francis Church is very simple if one compares the church to similar buildings in Europe and one imagines what important explorer lay here buried for so many years. Work started on the church in the middle of the 16th century and both the Dutch and Portuguese used this church. Most tumbstones from those times have been removed and memorial plates can be seen on the outside of the church of the various dignitaries that served this community.
St. Francis church was the first European Church to be built in India within the old rest European Settlement of Fort Cochin. Presumably it owes origin to the Fransciscan Fraiars who accompanied the Portuguese expedition in 1500 A.D. Originally it is said to have been erected of wood but later rebuilt in stone and roofed with tiles by 1516A.D. and dedicated to St. Anthony. It remained in the order of St. Francis till 1663 A.D. when it came under the control of the Dutch who reconditioned and converted it into a Protestant Church.
Again during 1778 A.D. it was renovated as indicated by a tablet fixed over its facade but continued in the possession of the Dutch even after the British control over Cochin in 1795. Till it was voluntarily surrendered to the Anglican Communion in 1804 A.D. presumably it was renamed after the patron saint during the later half of the nineteenth century.
At Present it has been taken over by the Church of South India.
Text from Church official intro board to preserve accuracy of this fact.
Beautifully located along the sea, facing the famous fishing nets, St. Francis' Church is the oldest existing European church in India built in the early 16th century by the Franciscans.
Here was the burial of Vasco da Gama in 1526, a temporary resting place, as his son took away the mortal remains of his father back to Portugal. The church began life as a wooden structure in 1503.
Along the pathway to the church you'll find loads of stalls with local craft and artworks as there are peacok feather fans (!!! you may not export them), beautifully handmade postcards, normal postcards with nice local views, casual dress, statues, local jewelry, etc. etc.
This is India’s oldest European-built church and today the Church of South India. A tombstone inside the church marks the place where Vasco da Gama was buried in 1524. His remains were later transferred to Lisbon. (Shoes have to be removed to enter the church.)
The oldest european church in India, was built in 1503 by Portugeese Franciscan friars. Restored in 1779 by the protestant Dutch, made Anglican church by the british in 1795 and now used by the church of south India. Vasco Da Gama's was buried in 1524 here and later moved to Lisbon, but the tomb is still here.