memories of family outings.....


Where Vasco once lay.......

 One of the first  buildngs the  enterprising portuguese erected in Kochi, right after the local Raja gave them his benign nod to put up a " fort" for their trading  purposes, was a logwood Church decicated to  St . Bartholomew . 

That was in 1503. With further privileges granted by the Raja, it was reconstructed in brick and mortar in 1516 and the grand new edifice was dedicated to Santo Antonio, patron saint of Portugal. (  Bye, Batholomew? ) 

It underwent further name changes as it changed hands among other colonisers.

In the meanwhile, Vasco da Gama touched shore the second time in 1524. And  died. He was laid to rest  in this church with a simple grave stone. But it was not  to be Eternal Rest . He was dug up 14 years later and repatriated to Lisbon, to a permanent resting place.  His Kochi gravestone, ofcourse , dint accompany him . It lies here still, with a signboard marking it . Informative posters are thoughtfully put up close to it , so that the visitor understands why one person has two tombs now.

Tall pillars, wooden rafters , high windows , british time fans ( pankhas) all make the interior very interesting. Ancient gravestones of Portuguese and Dutch adventurers who were buried in the old graveyard by the church, are now embedded on the walls. The church is said to have in its possession an old Dutch Baptism  and Marriage Register, called The Doop Book , with entries between 1751- 1804 . But visitors will be shown only a photocopy.........not interested in looking at a photocopy . 

This church , along with another, was spared from destruction by the Dutch, who pulled down all Catholic establishments when they captured Kochi, and was used to store arms.
Later, in 1795, when it  passed on to the Anglican Church of the conquering British, it languished in neglect. 
Only in 1886, with the influx of missionaries, it  was renovated. And promptly renamed too. As St.Francis Church, perhaps to honour the Franciscan Friars who first built it. 

A cenotaph honouring local heroes who died in World War 1 , stands in front of the entrance of this  beautiful , gabled  , charming, old worldly church.

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