Tuesday, November 21, 2017

St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Kottar, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari

St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Kottar, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari
St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral also St. Xavier Church is a Roman Catholic Latin Rite shrine located at KottarNagercoil in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu stateIndia. While Saint Xavier was doing missionary work at Kottar and its neighborhood, he averted an invasion of Padagas with the help of his cross alone and thus protected the people of Venadu kingdom from that attack which was appreciated by the king, Unni Kerala Varma, who became closer to the priest and befriended him from then on. In recognition of Xavier’s services, the king allotted him a piece of land to construct a Catholic church, as a gesture of goodwill, as per the church records.

There was already a small church, in the same place where St. Xavier’s church stands at present, dedicated to Mary the Mother of God, since AD 1544. Church records indicate that St. Xavier Church was built in 1600. In 1865, the Shrine of Mary was renovated and enlarged. In 1930, the church was raised to the status of a cathedral. The annual festival is celebrated during November – December, lasting for 10 days.

St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Jesuit missionary, landed in Goa in May 1542 and he sailed from Goa to Cape Comorin in October 1542 on missionary tour to Travancore  Once a great band of dacoits attacked Travancore. Raja`s forces couldn’t combat the enemy successfully, but Xavier chased away the marauders at Vadasery by raising his Crucifix aloft and shouting at them. Very pleased with Xavier, the Raja showed special regards and gratitudes to him. At Kottar, Xavier had a dwelling house and a small church.
Tradition says that the heathens set fire to Xavier`s house and reduced it to ashes, but they were struck with awe when they saw the holy man on his knees devoutly praying, not in the least touched by the flames. To mark the place a cross was put up, to which miraculous powers were attributed. From the time, the church was built on the spot, a lamp is kept perpetually burning. Even Hindus go there and make vows and pour oil. Miracles are recorded to have taken place there; and hence multitudes of devout Catholic pilgrims from British India, Ceylon and Malacca resort to the annual festival at St. Xavier`s church, Kottar, about December of every year.
Christianity in Travancore was introduced by the disciple of Jesus Christ St. Thomas in 52 AD. The primitive or original church which still subsists was built by St. Francis Xavier himself between the years AD 1542 and AD 1550. Afterwards the Bishops of Cochin constructed a new and more spacious church that was richly endowed with precious ornaments and utensils gifted by the Kings of Portugal. The mortal remains of Christian martyr Devasahayam Pillai were given a Christian burial in front of the high altar of St. Xavier`s church at Kottar in January AD 1752. 
While being one of the oldest churches in the whole of erstwhile Southern Travancore, it is definitely the oldest Cathedral church of Roman Catholic Diocese of Kottar in the present-day`s Kanyakumari district (of Tamil Nadu) since there are three more dioceses got established here later on. In the year 1806, an engineer from Kolkata built a wooden altar with artistic works on it. And in 1865, the church was expanded. In May 26, 1930, the Diocese of Kottar was established from the Diocese of Quilon and St. Xavier’s Cathedral was announced as the Parish Church.
A 10-day festival from November 24th to December 3rd is held every year. The car procession in 1st, 2nd and 3rd December is the sight of beauty and devotion. While December 3rd being a Sunday it will be extended up to 4th December. In such cases the car processions will be on 2nd, 3rd and 4th December. In which thousands of people will be gathered to worship St. Francis Xavier to fulfill their needs. In 2010, the main altar and the altar in the Holy chapel where saint prayed were maintained by removing the old gold and decorated with more than 200 gms of 24ct Gold, which is then blessed by Most Rev. Bishop Peter Remegius, The Bishop of Kottar on 28th October10. In 2012, the Holy Tomb of the Blessed Devasahayam pillai has been maintained and the Holy Relics of Blessed Devasahayam Pillai has been erected above the Holy Tomb and dedicated to people’s worship.
The Church is located at about 3 Kms from Nagercoil, 1 Km from Nagercoil Railway Station, 1 Km from Nagercoil Bus Stand, 18 Kms from Kanyakumari, 5 Kms from Suchindram, 12 Kms from Boothapandi, 17 Kms from Thuckalay and 76 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Nearest Railway Station is located at Nagercoil and Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram.