Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Holy Cross Church, Manappad, Thoothukudi

Holy Cross Church, Manappad, Thoothukudi
Holy Cross Church is located at Manappad Village in Thoothukudi District of Tamilnadu. This church has a fragment of the Holy Cross in which Jesus was killed and is visited by people from all over Tamil Nadu who come to worship here. Holy Cross church in Manappad is located at 8°22'22.8"N 78°03'53.8"E or 8.373000, 78.064943.
Manappad is a predominantly Roman Catholic coastal village in India, 70 km from Tirunelveli and 18 km south of Thiruchendur, and one of the first places to be visited by St. Francis Xavier in 1542 when he initiated missionary activity on the Fishery coast.

St. Francis came to Manappad in 1542, when he began missionary activity on the Fishery coast. He lived in a grotto cavern on the seaward face of a cliff and held mass at a chapel of the Captain's Cross, built from a ship's mast after a storm in 1540.
Holy Cross Church, built close to the sea in 1581, has a relic fragment believed to be from the True Cross of Jerusalem. From 1 to 14 September, every year, the cross is publicly displayed for thousands who attend the festival season.

The church was built in 1581. It is said that a cross was there in the place where the church stands now and it was found to be growing. It is now behind the sanctum sanctorum. It is sealed now so as to protect it from the pilgrims who scrape pieces from it to take home as mementos.
There is also a piece of the real cross sent from Rome via Kerala. It is said that pilgrims brought the piece by walk through seashore some 400 years ago. Till today pilgrims from Kerala, visit every year for the Holy cross festival on 14th September.

Traditional stories say that in 1540, a Portuguese trading vessel, while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope on its way to the East, encountered a violent storm splitting its sails and snapping the hind mast, leaving it at risk of foundering.
The captain, who was devoted to the veneration of the Holy Cross, implored and entrusted the safety of the vessel and that of the crew to the crucified Christ. He also made a vow that he would construct a cross from a portion of the splintered mast and have it planted on the shore where they alighted in safety.

By chance, the vessel after having drifted for several days sought haven in the then well-known port of Kulesakharapatnam. A miracle is said to have occurred when the cross was still in the form of a log cut off from the broken mast. When the mast was lying on the shore, an inhabitant of the village who had trampled on filth had cleansed his foot on this log.
No sooner had he wiped his leg than he felt a pain and instantaneous swelling. That night the man had a vision in which it was revealed to him that the ailment was due to his defiling the log intended for a sacred purpose.

He was asked to wipe the muck off the log, smear the log with oil, and then apply the same oil to his foot to cure it. Early next morning, the patient was carried to the log, and to the amazement of the crowd that had collected there, the man was cured immediately and able to walk back home unaided.
This remarkable event made the planting of the Cross by the captain an occasion of great piety and festivity. From then onwards, the name and fame of the captain's cross spread throughout the Coromandel Coast.

St. Francis Xavier
Manappad was mostly inhabited by the Paravars who had embraced Christianity in 1532. However, for want of missionaries, the neophytes remained nominal Christians until the arrival and ministration of St. Francis Xavier in October 1542. Xavier chose a grotto which he preferred to use for a home.
The cave was known in the pre-Christian era as "Valli's cave", a counterpart of the one at Thiruchendur. It is now a signal grotto with a carved stone at its entrance carrying the words: "This cave, the dwelling of a Saivite sanyasi, has been sanctified by the prayers and penance of St. Francis Xavier".

Xavier used the Captain's Cross which, with its raised platform and an overhead covering, worked as a built-in chapel, enabling him to offer daily services. St. Francis ministered the area until November 1543 when he returned to Goa. The next year, he was again at Manappad in March, June, August and September 1544 and went to Travancore in November.

Xavier's first miracle
Xavier was held in high regard by the people of Manappad for his austerity, moral strictness, compassion, and wise counsel. During his stay there, with the help of the pandits of Manappad, he translated the rudiments of the common prayers and trained the first catechists. While at Manappad, the saint had two youngsters, Augustine Paiva and Anthony Miranda, trained as acolytes.

One day at dawn, when young Augustine was on his way to the Captain's Cross, where Xavier offered the Eucharistic Service daily, a few yards away on the pathway, he saw his companion Anthony lying still and frothing at the mouth, with a cobra crawling away. Augustine approached Anthony and tried to rouse him, but upon finding no pulse, ran to the saint's niche. Xavier raised his head heavenwards, exclaimed some prayers and rushed to the scene.

Blessing Anthony's body, he called upon Anthony to get up. To the amazement of all gathered there, Anthony Miranda not only got up, but followed the saint and assisted him at the Holy Mass as usual. The first miracle of his life had such an impact, that the people in and around Manappad started venerating Xavier as a saint long before he was canonized by the Church.

Church of the Holy Cross
After more miracles, the church of the Holy Cross was built in 1581, encasing the Captain's Cross. Contributions towards building of the church were spontaneously given by the inhabitants and Rev. Fr.John de Salanova, the parish priest of the only church in the village (then dedicated to the "Queen of Heaven"), was able to complete construction long before the scheduled time.

Relic of the True Cross
With the erection of the church, Rev. John de Salanova decided it should possess a relic of the True Cross. In 1583 he appealed to Rome through the General of the Jesuits Rev. Fr. Aquaviva for a fragment of the True Cross. Pope Gregory XIII obliged and the relic appears to have arrived at Cochin in the first week of August 1583.
Rev. Mathew de Medina of the Order of Christ, the prelate of Cochin, received the relic, after exposing it for three days for the veneration of the faithful; he inaugurated the grand tour of the relic all along the coastal belt with halts in places of Catholic predominance.

The procession reached Manappad a few days before the festival of the Exaltation of the True Cross. Many Catholics followed in procession with the relic. In later years, Manappad came to be a traditional place of pilgrimage to those of the Malabar Coast.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
The festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church on 14 September, as one of thanksgiving for the recovery of the True Cross from the Persians by the great Emperor Heraclius. Fragments of the True Cross were in due course brought from Jerusalem to many churches dedicated to the Holy Cross in the East and West. These churches sought to imitate the solemn ceremonies in use at Jerusalem, in order to do homage to the Holy Cross.

Possibly one of the earliest dedications to the Cross in India was the Church of the Holy Cross in Manappad. Throughout the year many pilgrims visit the church and thousands congregate during the festive season from 1 to 14 September, each year.

Though with the conferment of the fragment of the True Cross, the feast attained a certain dignity, it was only after the inauguration of the Confraternity of the Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord, that the festival won recognition as a major festival. The Confraternity was approved by Pope Benedict XIII on 25 February 1725 and on May 28 of the same year was established in the Church of Holy Cross in Manappad.

The most solemnity and pageantry occurs during the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when mostly maritime pilgrims throng to Manappad from the Coromandel and Kerala Coasts. They can be seen in village or family groups performing the Way of the Cross as they cover the fourteen stations built on the hillock, reminiscent of Jesus Christ's last journey on Mount Calvary. Incidentally, there are many who decline quick transport to trudge many miles, as reparation for their sinful lives.

Notable Religious Art
There has been much speculation about the crucifix that adorns the high altar of Holy Cross Church. The most popular belief is that the crucifix had come together with the well-known "Our Lady of Snows" statue in the Our Lady of Snows Basilica in Tuticorin.
This assumption is untenable, because there was no church or priest in Manappad until sometime in the 1570s. However, both the crucifix and the "Our Lady of Snows" statue originate from Manila, with the crucifix sent at a later date.

The two aforementioned items, as well as a statue of Child Jesus, were carried to Manila by Captain Ferdinand Magellan, a Spanish explorer who arrived in Cebu, Philippines, in March 1521. The first converts by Magellan were a chief named Humabon and his queen.
The latter, baptized as Juana, was given the statue of Child Jesus, which came to be known as Santo Niño de Cebu, standing to this day above the high altar of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. This statue for many millions of Catholic Filipinos is a national heritage.

Magellan's statue of Our Lady is a replica of the statue in the church of St. Mary of the Snows in Rome. It was gifted to Tuticorin by the Prioress of the convent in Manila in 1555. Subsequently, Fr. John de Salanova sought Magellan's crucifix for his newly constructed church of the Holy Cross in Manappad.
The Prioress was cooperative due to the rare papal conferment of the relic of the True Cross to Manappad. The exact date of the receipt of the crucifix is unknown.

Manappad is a coastal village in far south India, 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Tuticorin and 18 km (11 mi) south of Thiruchendur. Nearest Railway Station is located at Thiruchendur & Thoothukudi. Nearest Airport is located at Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram and Thoothukudi. 

No comments: