A Portuguese Church in the Backwaters of Champakulam Alleppey

15th March 2014

We all know Vasco da Gama was the first recorded European to reach India, bypassing the red sea and Mediterranean, as he sailed around Africa, turned around from Cape of Good Hope and reached Kerala. Though his primary purpose was to find a safe route to India. The route from Red sea though short, had its own issues like high taxes by the countries on the way, passing desert, hiring about 2000 camels to carry the load

But before Vasco Da Gama, it is believed St. Thomas first Arrived in India in 52 AD. and introduced Christianity in India. So when Vasco da Gama,arrived in Kerala, he was surprised see Indians already practicing Christianity, though very different from the Portuguese version.

So the Portuguese decided that they need to do a version control and started building Churches that followed the Portuguese brand of Roman Catholic religion.

During one of our Houseboat rides, as part of Kerala Blog Express I and Nelson Carvalheiro, my fellow Traveler, and blogger from Portugal, who actually lives in Germany saw this old Church on the shore in Champakulam village, and we decided to explore.

St. Mary’s Forane Church- Boat Jetty Road – Champakulam

Johnny our cook, cum guide jyada, took us on a tour. We were told that the church was first built in 427 AD, and since then many new buildings were constructed on the old one.  We were told that the large major renovation happened around 200 years ago.

As we headed closer to the Church building we could hear hymns emerging from the doors and colorful stained glass windows of the snow white church building.  We later realized it was a special prayer during the month of Lent.

Believers in a mass in the Old Portuguese Church

Women offering prayers in the Old Champakulam Portuguese Church

We were trying to find a stone that will tell us the exact date of when the Champakulam Church was built, but could not find anybody who could help us as people were busy with the mass. The Chandeliers and the frescoes in the Church are beautiful with the colors still glowing in the light filtering from the stained glass and the candles on the altar.

Beautiful Colors of the Frescoes of Jesus in the Church

And then God said” Let There Be Light”

There was this Stone platform with a stone cross that had something written in either Malayalam or one of the other South Indian languages. But no body we spoke to could read the same.

Stone Pillar in Champakulam Church

Old Stone Pillar with Cross in the Church

Stone with some inscriptions and a face in flower

We walked around the Old Portuguese Church, and noted a few things that  only happen in India.

Colorful Candle holders

Just like in temples and mosques in India, people were removing shoes before entering the main building of the Church. Women and men had separate areas to stand/sit in the Church.

Nelson Carvalheiro outside the Champakulam Church in Alleppey

The Colorful windows and the frescoes on the walls were very similar to one found in Europe.
As we were moving around Nelson noticed that the Church was built by the  a sect that possibly had a close association with his home town in Portugal.
This was a very emotional moment for him and both of us sat down with the locals and closed our eyes. I am not sure what Nelson was thinking or praying but I was wondering at the ways of the almighty one.

There were more than 15 houseboats in our  and travel bloggers group, from India to Indonesia to Brazil to New Zealand and Poland, and none of of them stopped at the church.  But for some reason both me and Nelson decided to stop by, even though Johnny was initially not keen to take us there due to lack of time.

But what a revelation it was for me, here I was in a Portuguese church built hundreds of years ago, and my fellow traveler turns out to be from a town in Portugal from where the builders of the Church may have come.

Praise the Lord!

Here are the details of the Portuguese Church:

Name:  St. Mary’s Forane  Church, Champakulam, on Boat Jetty Road

St. Mary’s Forane Church- Boat Jetty Road Champakulam

How to reach: Take a Boat Bus or Jetty


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