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Kanjirapally Pazhayapalli (St Mary's old Church)


Christian Churches St. Mary's old church (Pazhayapalli alias Akkara Palli) was built and consecrated on 8th Sept. 1449. To get the right perspective it should be remembered that the Portuguese landed in Kodungalloor 50 years later i.e. in 1498 and that St. Peter' cathedral in Rome was consecrated in 1590 and St. Paul's Church in London only in 1710 !

As has been stated earlier, the Christians ofPazhayapallyKanjirapally under the leadership of Thommi Mappila of Periyaveettil(Valiyaveettil) enjoyed royal Patronage to construct this church. The first church was built in wood and stone and might have been renewed three or four times. The present church might have been constructed and the attractive crucifix venerated at the altar after the advent of the Portuguese and Latin missionaries. Before 1500 there was crucifix in the Malabar church. Church architecture as any other religious architecture, had its humble origin and slow development. Further, there is no tradition of erecting churches as monuments of achievements. Hence we do not see churches comparable with the gigantic temples of Mahabalipuram or Konark or the Muslim architecture of Delhi and Agra. Likewise, we do not have church complexes as we have elaborate temple complexes in many places.

The construction of the Sacred place of worship was normally conditioned by the need of the locality, the economic condition, the material available, the technical know-how, the cultural background, and the foreign contacts.The general plan of Christian churches all over the world is basically the same, sanctum with an altar and a nave for the congregation.The first structural church might have been built in a very simple form, for, the requirement was very limited and the community was weak,numerically and economically. So they constructed a rectangular hall with wood and bamboo covered with attached roof. A raised platform on one side served as the sanctum. This incidentally tallies with the ancient village churches in the Western world. At this stage, the distinction between the sanctum and the nave was not very clear in the minds of the people. There was one main entrance door in front of the church and some small holes for ventilation. Even when they changed the material from wood to stone the plan remained the same. The small church on the top of Malayattoor and the church at Puthukad are good examples of these type of churches.

In the second stage a major change took place in the minds of the community which had by now developed considerably. The nave and the sanctum were clearly separated. The sanctum had a slanting square roof. There were two small windows on the two sides. The nave had a main entrance and one side entrance on each side. The church at Kuruvilangad is an example of this type.

The most interesting aspect of the Christian architecture in Kerala is that it is a living entity. Even though it was influenced from time to time by Buddhist,Jain, Hindu and Western forms of architecture, it has maintained its originality and character down the centuries to the present day. The imagination of the people is always guided by the historical, religious and social background in which they live.

The kindness of a Ruler
An incident which occured due\ring the reign of another veera Kerala perumal of Thekkinkoor in AD 1522 is recorded in the history of Kanjirapilly. The ruler himself paid a visit to st Marys old Church, Kanjirapilly and Market nearby and enquired why the brass lamp inside the church was burning interruptedly ands found, it was due to sacrcity of funds. The King presented a "Chothana" to measure the quality of the oil being brought into the market for sale and also to recive 2 thudams of cocunut oil at the time of every measurement"

Aruli Kalpikkayil,Nammude Thommi Mappila Kandennal, Thankalude pallikku vilakku vaippinu vakayayittu chothanayum vaipichu, Kudam onninu arakkal edangazhi velichenna veetham (2 thudam) eduthukollumaru kalpichu tharavum ezhuthi koduthithu. Kollam 697 - am andu Kanni Njayar 4-am theeyathi Kanjirapally Idathil irunnaruli kalpicha vaikku ithu (podivu)” (Malayalam) This chothana is still retained in the church treasury.

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