CSI Home Church, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari
CSI Home Church is located in Nagercoil Town in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. CSI Home Church is one of the largest and oldest churches in Asia. It is having a rich history of close to 200 years. It was the first Major church in the erstwhile state of Travancore. It currently has the most number of members of all the churches in South Asia. It was built during the British reign. This Church comes under Church of South India (CSI).
Rev. Charles Mead:
Rev. Charles Mead, known as the “Father of the South Travancore Mission”, was born on the 1’st of October 1792 at Bristol, England. He was ordained at Chichester on 6th March 1816. As per the London Mission Society’s report, Rev. Charles Mead was nominated for Travancore as Missionary Rev. Ringle Taube’s successor. He left England on 20th April, 1816 for Travancore State and arrived at Madras on 28th of August 1816 along with Rev. Richard Knill, who was the Pastor of the church at St. Petersburg. He left for Travancore from Madras on the 9th of September 1817 along with his wife and arrived at Colachel on the 17th of January 1818.
During his journey, the ship was stabled at Prince of Wales Island where his wife passed away leaving behind a child due to her prolonged ill-health. Finally, Rev. Charles Mead arrived at Colachel with his child John Hunt after his tragic journey. Rev. Charles Mead, was heartily welcomed at Colachel by Vedamanickam who was holding charge of the mission work. Col. Munroe had already issued instruction to the Sircar officers to repair the small mission house at Mylaudy in consultation with Vedamanickam and suggested certain alterations for the stay of Rev. Mead.
In the meanwhile, Colonel Munro offered his own circuit bungalow at Nagercoil for his occupation and invited him to stay at Nagercoil. Rev. Mead gratefully accepted it, and then made Nagercoil as his headquarters for the Missionary works he was about to accomplish. In April, 1818, Rev. Mead was appointed as the Civil Judge of Travancore State by the Travancore Queen.
With the permission of the queen of Travancore, Rev. Charles Mead, utilized the elephants of the Nagaraja Temple and the prisoners in the construction of the church, which has been called as Kalkoyil” (stone church) as it is built with huge stones. The church construction was started on 1819. The Church was built under the supervision of Rev. William Tobias Ringeltaube an Prussian. By the effort of Rev. Charles Mead, the Church foundation stone was laid on the 1’st of January 1819 on New Year’s Day by Rev. Richard Knill, and was completed by the Rev. Charles Mault in 1843.
The land on which the church was built was donated by the then British Travancore Resident, General John Munro, 9th of Teaninich, who had acted as a catalyst between the Missionary and the government of Madras and the Kingdom of Travancore. H.H the Maharani of the State gave free timber, free use of the temple elephant to assist in the work, and allowed convict labour.
Later His Highness the Maharaja of Travancore who happened to pass this way and see this noble structure rising, gave a donation of Rs. 2,500/-. H.H the Maharaja of Cochin and the Rajah of Tanjore also donated liberally. These prove that though this was meant for a place of worship for Christians, non – Christians also helped and encouraged the efforts thus appreciating the all-round uplifting influence which is bound to result through Christian Missionary enterprise in the lives of everyone irrespective of one’s religion.
In 1830, the Home Church hosted the wedding of Dr. Robert Caldwell, one of the best-known linguistics scholars in the World. The Home Church has a completely democratic constitution since 1860 and has ever since elected its own Pastors who have been eminent preachers. This helped in the Theological Education for about two Centuries.
This Home Church is perhaps the largest Church in the East, 140 ft. X 70 ft. The imposing building is built in Greek style. This is one of the oldest and biggest of the Protestant churches in South India. The edifice can provide accommodation for nearly 2500 people at a time. This is an outstanding example of the architectural achievement of the missionaries. Four families, comprising thirteen souls, were the first Christians. But today there are more than four thousand on the rolls.
The building, a very strong one, is of stone work, and hence its name, the Stone Church (Kal Koil / Kar Koil). The basement is of huge hewn ashlar stones, so huge that elephants were employed during the construction. There is a tall terraced portico and a spacious vestry and store – room at the back. The large doors and windows and the tall pillars of the terrace, together with the elevated location, give a majestic appearance to the Home Church.
Originally the roof was thatched with coconut leaves. In around 1862, the present roofing was built. It was of galvanized iron sheets over closely placed rafters arranged in Malabar style. The acoustic arrangements of the Home Church are excellent. The building is electrified and the original chandeliers were fitted with eight bulbs and one with thirty. These add to the beauty of the evening service.
The Church is located at about 750 meters from Nagercoil Bus Stand and 2.5 Kms from Nagercoil Railway Station. Nagercoil is located at about 21 Kms from Kanyakumari, 13 Kms from Thuckalay, 23 Kms from Colachel, 27 Kms from Marthandam, 12 Kms from Padmanabhapuram, 27 Kms from Thiruvattaru and 72 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Adequate rail and road facilities are available to reach Nagercoil from all parts of the state. Nearest Railway Station is located at Nagercoil and Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram.