Mattancherry and Fort Cochin
Mattancherry and Fort Cochin are two cities in Kerala where various civilizations of the world have created significant impact which led to cultural and religious synthesis. The Portuguese followed by the Dutch and later on the British ruled the cities and used them as their first trade hub till independence of the country. Cochin became a thriving commercial centre, and a major religious centre where various religious groups tried to establish their administrative supremacy. This beautiful city surrounded by the Cochin backwaters was a common platform for various religious groups and cultural influences. The ancient temples, churches, mosques, historical monuments, old palaces. The backwaters and the beautiful beaches have made phenomenal contributions in making Kerala ‘The God’s own country’. In this regard, the St. George Church of Mattancherry, which still languishes in the historic memories of the legendary Koonankurishu Sathayam (Koonankurishu Oath) has played a significant role of its own, never to be ignored.
Mattancherry St. George Orthodox Church- Koonankurishu Pally
The St. George Church of Mattanchery, one of the oldest churches in India has played a significant role in the historic event that shaped the leadership of the Malankara Church, as it is today. The history of Mattanchery Church is closely connected with Mar Baselios Sacrella Maphriyono, the Bishop of Aleppo Town in Bravua. Mar Gregorios Yuhanon who came to India along with Baselios Sacralla Maphriyono ordained Kattumangattu Abraham Ramban (Monk) as Bishop Mar Kurilose in AD 1772 in this church. However, Mar Kurilose was not accepted both in Travancore or Cochin. He then moved to Malabar and established a church called the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Malabar Swathantra Syrian Church) also known as Thozhiyoor Church. Subsequently there was a dispute over the possession of the Mattanchery Church and the Dutch governor who heard the case finally gave the verdict in favor of Veliya Mar Dionysius, then the Malankara Metropolitan (Mar Thoma VI). In later years Fort Cochin and Mattanchery Churches were amalgamated to form one Parish. This church remained closed for 20 years following disputes but finally opened its doors again in 1997. The church is also known as “Mattancherry Muri” or “Erimeghapally” and is presently under the direct control of the Malankara Metropolitan.
The Koonankurishu Pally is a revered pilgrim centre. It has paramount position among other Orthodox churches as it is home to the holy remains of St.George. It was built on the land where the historical Koonankurishu Oath took place. The land has become sacred with the foot prints of the Persian Prelates, first Catholicos Mar Thoma 1 and our other forefathers of the Malankara Orthodox faith. The church was consecrated in 1751, and was renovated later in 1974 under the initiative of Late Lamented Metropolitan His Grace Yuhanon Mar Severios of Cochin Diocese. The church, elevated to Class A category falls directly under the control of Malankara Metropolitan. A council headed by the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan, assisted by Metropolitan of Cochin Diocese carries out the administration duties of the Mattanchery Church. Considering the historic importance of the Koonankurish Pally, the Holy Synod elevated the status of the Church and declared it a historic monument as well as a pilgrim centre. Today, the Church needs to be restored and maintained to a state that suits its dignity and sanctity of the holy pilgrim centre. The Church requires renovation and supporting facilities for the convenience of pilgrims who visit in large numbers for intercessory prayers. The Supreme Head of our Church has already initiated certain development plans under the aegis of a special council formed to plan and execute the construction. The development plans can only be completed with the whole-hearted contribution of all Malankara Christians.
The legendary Koonankurishu Sathyam and the celebrated Mattancherry Church affirm the spirit of independence, self reliance and the universally accepted cultural heritage of the Malankara Orthodox Christians. For the convenience of those who come for prayers and meditation, the church is to be renovated which breathes the antique beauty is necessary. The Orthodox Church has already begun certain constructive initiative in this line. The church is being renovated in the 15th century architecture with eco friendly construction process using compressed soil bricks with no steel and very less cement, reducing the CO2 emission. Importance is given to natural lighting and air circulation. This endeavour could be fulfilled only with the generosity and whole-hearted support of all those who pride themselves to be part of Malankara Orthodox Christian Tradition.
Even though the Koonankurishu Pally is not considered as a Parish, Holy Qurbana is conducted regularly on every Saturday and every first Sunday in addition to intercessory prayers to St. George, which is a regular feature. The special offering of unniappam by devotees for favours received and prayers heard is a specialty of this holy pilgrim center.