Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi is a heritage edifice built during the time of Portuguese rule in Kochi. This Basilica currently serves as a Cathedral of the Diocese of Cochin. The foundation stone of the structure was laid on 3rd May 1505, on the feast day of the ‘Invention of Holy Cross’, which is where it gets its name ‘Santa Cruz’ from.
A Portuguese fleet led by Pedro Álvares Cabral reached Kochi in 1500 CE. They were welcomed by the King of Kochi. A treaty for military and trade relations was agreed upon between the Portuguese and King of Kochi which paved the way for the first European colonial fort, ‘Fort Emmanuel’, at Kochi in 1503. The permission to build a church was granted to the first Portuguese viceroy, Dom Francisco de Almeida. Initially, the church was built near the seashore, and was later rebuilt at the present space with stones and mortar. It was in 1558 that Pope Paul IV raised the status of the church to that of a cathedral.
In 1662, the Dutch attacked Kochi and the Portuguese lost the war. Although most of the Portuguese fort and buildings were destroyed, a few Portuguese structures remained standing. The Santa Cruz Cathedral was one, which the Dutch used as a storehouse for their arms. In 1795, during the war between the Dutch and the British, the building was partially destroyed by the British. One of the decorative granite pillars of the old Cathedral is, however, still preserved on the premises of the Basilica.
In 1887, Bishop D João Gomes Ferreira initiated the re-construction of the Cathedral. The work was completed during the reign of his successor Dom Mateus de Oliveira Xavier. On November 19, 1905 Dom Sebastião José Pereira, the Bishop of Damão, sanctified the Cathedral. Pope John Paul II raised the status of Santa Cruz Cathedral to a Basilica, on 19th December 1984, due to its historic significance.
The architecture of the Basilica is a fine blend of Indo-European and Gothic style. Pastel colours are used on its interiors, and beautiful glass-stained windows, murals, and frescos on the life of Christ can be seen on the ceilings. Paintings of Brother Antonio Moscheni and his disciple de Gama of Mangalore add to the beauty of the Basilica. The altar adorns Moscheni’s paintings on passion and death on the Cross.
Masses are held at the Basilica all days of the week. Tourists visiting Fort Kochi come to the Basilica to enjoy its beauty and understand the rich history behind this monument. Around 250 families of Luso-Indians or Portuguese-Indians reside near Santa Cruz Basilica.
- by Kerala Tourism