Basilica of Our Lady of Dolores (Puthan palli)   Leave a comment

With its three storied facade and even higher steeples towering above the town’s skyline, this is claimed to be the largest and highest church in Asia. It is adorned with Gothic towers and an  array of 15 altars and church bells imported from Germany

Historical Background

Sakthan Thampuran, the great Maharaja of Cochin, paved the way for Urban Development and Commercial Progress of Trichur.  As he understood keenly that the presence of Christians was quite essential for the development of the town where there were only a few Hindu families inhabiting, he took measures, around the year of 1794, for bringing and rehabilitating 52 Syrian Christian families from the neighboring centers of Aranattukara, Ollur and Kottekkad.  He rendered all necessary help to these Christians.  The option of the number 52 was as if to perpetuate the great Apostle’s arrival in Kerala.  Since there was no Christian Church in the town, they had to go their parent churches to fulfill their spiritual needs.  The Maharaja who perceived their difficulties, promptly permitted them to build a church.

In 1814, His Ex. Dominicos, Archbishop and Governor of Cranganore (Kodungallur) Arch diocese, gave his approval and blessing to build the first Catholic church in the name of Our Lady of Dolours.  From 1814 to 1838, this church was under the jurisdiction of the Cranganore (Kodungallur) Archdiocese.  On 24th April, 1838, H.H. Pope Gregory XVI issued a proclamation, “Multa Praeclara”, whereby the Cranganore (Kodungallur) diocese ceased to exist.  Consequently the Church of Our Lady of Dolours came under the authority of the Bishop of Verapoly which continued till 1861.  Unfortunately, with the advent of the Persian Catholic Bishops Rocos and Melus, who came here without the necessary permission from the pope, there started differences among the Catholics of Trichur and its suburbs.  The differences resulted in the so-called Rocos-and-Melus Schisms. Bishops Rocos and Melus had to go back owing to strong protest from the people in 1862 and 1882 respectively.  In the year 1886 Pope Leo XIII suppressed the Archdiocese of Cranganore (Kodungallur) and  in 1887 separated the Kerala Syrian Catholics from Verapoly and brought them under the Syro lMalabar Vicariates of Trichur and Kottayam.  He appointed His Ex. Adolph Medleykot as the first Bishop of Trichur.

In the fickle vagaries of history that followed, the Catholics lost possession of the Church of Our Lady of Dolours which they constructed in 1814.  To compensate that loss, the Catholics of Trichur decided to build another church.  Petitions seeking permission for this were sent to the Maharaja of Cochin, the Governor of Madras, the Viceroy and the British Emperor.  Eventually on 8th October, 1925 , as per the order of H.H. Ramavarma Maharaja of Cochin, the Cochin Sarkar issued royal sanction to build a new church within the premises of the fort city of Trichur

At sharp 10 a.m. on 10th October, 1925, His Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly Mar Francis blessed and offered Holy Mass on the altar built temporarily in the School hall which stood in front of the present church.  He named the Church as the church of Lady of Dolours and Proclaimed St. Theresa of Infant Jesus (Little flower) as the Co-patroness.  As the small temporary church was not spacious enough for the convenience of the believers, they tried to build a church  conforming fully to their needs and grandeur of the town.  His Ex Bishop Mar. Francis Vazhapilly visited Rome and European countries keenly observing the architecture of the churches there.  The present church, known as the largest in Asia was built on the plan he drew on his return from abroad.  On 21st December, 1929, His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly laid the foundation of the colossal church.  It took eleven years under the supervision of the famous Engineer Jnanaprakasam and the superintendent Ambros to almost complete the construction of the new church.  On 18thSeptember 1935 Sri. Ramavarma Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, saw in person, the Progress in the building of the Church, and donated all the teak wood needed for building it.  On 24th November, 1940 His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly consecrated the Church.  It was then under  the jurisdiction of the Lourdes Cathedral Church.

New Church

At sharp 10 a.m. on 10th October, 1925, His Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly Mar Francis blessed and offered Holy Mass on the altar built temporarily in the School hall which stood in front of the present church.  He named the Church as the church of Lady of Dolours and Proclaimed St. Theresa of Infant Jesus (Little flower) as the Co-patroness.  As the small temporary church was not spacious enough for the convenience of the believers, they tried to build a church  conforming fully to their needs and grandeur of the town.  His Ex Bishop Mar. Francis Vazhapilly visited Rome and European countries keenly observing the architecture of the churches there.  The present church, known as the largest in Asia was built on the plan he drew on his return from abroad.  On 21st December, 1929, His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly laid the foundation of the colossal church.  It took eleven years under the supervision of the famous Engineer Jnanaprakasam and the superintendent Ambros to almost complete the construction of the new church.  On 18thSeptember 1935 Sri. Ramavarma Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, saw in person, the Progress in the building of the Church, and donated all the teak wood needed for building it.  On 24th November, 1940 His Ex. Bishop Mar Francis Vazhappilly consecrated the Church.  It was then under  the jurisdiction of the Lourdes Cathedral Church. 

Considering the need of the time, Mar joseph Kundukulam constituted this famous shrine also as a parish on 17th September, 1978.  It was made the headquarters of a forane division on August 1980.  The historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Trichur on 7th February 1986 was within the environs of this parish.

In commemoration of the centenary of the diocese of Trichur, His     Eminence Simon D. Cardinal Lourdu Swami, head of the Congregation of the Oriental churches in Rome, inaugurated the Perpetual Adoration Center in this Church. On 25th April 1992, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II issued a decree, elevating the church of Our Lady of Dolours to the status of a “Minor Basilica”. 20th May 1992, was a monumental day in the history of this Church.  His Eminence Cardinal Antony Padiyara consecrated the Church as a Basilica.  There after the Church has come to be called” Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours”
 
ThreeTowers
This basilica is not only a highly visited pilgrim center, but also a tourist attraction.  It has two colossal belfries built in gothic style.  The church is 370 feet long east-west side and 180 feet wide along north-south side.  The total plinth area of the church measures 25,000 square feet.  The rear side of the Church has a tower measuring 260 feet in height.

Altars of the Church

As one enters the Church through the massive main door (elephant door) one notices the expansive nave that leads to the main altar.  As he steps into the church and looks up, he finds, poised perpendicularly above him on the ceiling, the breath taking beautiful mural  painting of the Holy Trinity.  On both sides of the naves are a number of rock pillars wrapped in mosaic.  Thousands can participate in the liturgy, occupying the nave, aisles, transepts and the balcony on both sides.  The floor of the Church is paved with mosaic bricks and the whole church is gorgeously illuminated with varied varieties of electric lamps.  The main altar of the church is about 100 feet high.  There is a grand array of 10 altars, spread adjacent to the main one, fine altars on wither wing, all of them as grand and solemn as the main altar, but not in height.  In the center of the main altar, is the statue of Our Lady of Dolours and sides of this statue, are two beautiful statues of Holy angels Raphael and Michael.  Just below them there are the twelve apostles of Christ.  The magnificent dome resting on four gigantic pillars is above the main altar.  Inside the dome are painted in gorgeous colours of the Mother of dolours and pictures showing her seven Dolours.  There are the pictures of the four Gospel writers in the four corners of the dome.  In the front right corner of the main altar is installed the Episcopal throne – an elaborately carved sculptural marvel (It is noteworthy that H.H. Pope John Paul II was seated on this throne when he made his historic visit  to Trichur on 7th February 1986). The beautifully engraved lectern which was sanctified by His holy touch and which is preserved as a memento of his visit to Trichur, adorns the front left corner of the main altar.  On the right side of the main altar, there is a beautiful picture depicting the miracle of Jesus feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves.  The other side shows the picture of Holy Mary’s assumption.  The ten altars to the right and left wings of the main altar are consecrated with the statues of St. Francis Xavier, Little flower, St Thomas the Apostle of Christ, Christ the King, The Holy Family, St. George, St. Joseph, St. Antony, St. Sebastian and St. Maria Gorethy.  The statues of the Mother of Rosary in the altar in the end of the northern aisle are exquisite in their forms.  There are two more altars under the belfries on both sides of the entrance of the Church.  These altars are dedicated to St. Francis Assisi and St. Vincent De Paul.  Thus there are in all fifteen altars in the Church
Septic Cell Model Cemetery
Beneath the main altar of the Church can be seen tombs interring the mortal remains of bishops. It is in one of these tombs H. Ex. Bishop Vazhappilly, founder of the Church, rests eternally. On the southern wing of the Church there are crypts for burying priests. One of the belfries of the Church has eight bell carillon which chimes melodiously. The ‘Septic-cell model cemetery’, the largest of its kind in India, stands in the northern side of the rear of the church.
Perpetual Adoration
Day by day, people in large numbers come to pray at the Perpetual Adoration Centre. On all Fridays, believers assemble in the church to participate in the Novena of the Mother of Dolours. The main feast of the church is celebrated on the last Sunday of November every year. This feast is considered as the second biggest festival of Thrissur. The landscape of Thrissur includes a mighty monument of architectural skill, sculptural excellence and the sturdy faith of the Catholics of Trichur, attracting the solemn devotion of a large number of visitors including foreigners and art-lovers.
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Posted May 30, 2011 by davis in Uncategorized

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