St. Andrews Basilica - Arthunkul, Kerala
India is a land of many religions which themselves bring variety of cultures and traditions. Christianity, though not very widely spread in India, is highly concentrated in the state of Kerala. This is because the Portuguese had landed on the coast of Calicut and thus had the influence of Christianity.
As a result, there are many beautiful and big churches all over Kerala, especially the southern and middle regions. One such pilgrimage center is the St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal.
Located between Aleppy and Kochi, the church dates back to 1500s when Father Gasper Pious, the first Vicar. of Arthunkal built the church in wood. It was the second Vicar, Father Giacomo Fenicio who took the permission of the then King of Cochin, Veera Kerala Verma and reconstructed the church in stone in 1602. Having spent 33 years and served 2 terms, Fr. Giacomo was called as the Apostle of Arthunkal.
The popularity of Arthunkal rose in 1647 when the miraculous statue of St. Sebastian was brought from Italy to Arthunkal by Ship. St. Sebastian was the captain of the bodyguards of the Roman Emperor Diocletian and was brutally killed. He was considered as a martyr on account of his faith in Christianity. It was his statue that was now in Arthunkal.
People from all walks of life visited the church in the belief that the epidemics will be cured. This also gave rise to the very popular feast of St. Sebastian in January which started attracting thousands of people.
Every year lakhs of people visit the church from Jan 10 to Jan 27 for the feast. The major attraction is the St. Sebastian statue that is shown on Jan 20th.
St. Sebastian inside the Ship
The story of Jesus
The church compound has beautifully crafted statues that depicts the life of Jesus. Once can simply have a glance of these while roaming in the compound and feel the Almighty and His sacrifices.
Interesting Fact: Even today, the ancient tradition is followed by Hindu devotees of Lord Ayyappa to give their homage to St. Sebastian while returning from Sabrimala Temple.
The location of the church is a treat for all the travellers. Not only the sacred monument, but the coastal route on which it lies is refreshing. As rightly said these days, #DekhoApnaDesh