- Our Lady of Ransom Church, Kanyakumari
Our Lady of Ransom Church Country India Denomination Catholic Church Architecture Architect(s) Pakiam Pillai Style Gothic Revival Clergy Priest(s) Rev. Fr. Leon S. Henson
From the shore where the fishing boats are moored you can see the three towering spires of this off-white Gothic structure with a distinct Portuguese feel. The Church of Our Lady of Ransom is a more than 100-year-old building dedicated to Mother Mary. But what catches your eye first-up is the 153-foot-high (46 meters) central tower crowned with a Cross of pure gold. Truly a beautiful structure; the church looks particularly gorgeous against the molten-blue noon sky. Astonishingly, the grand Gothic façade is a striking contrast to its almost bare interiors.
Once you tread in you will be goggled by its hollowness; no pews anywhere in sight, only a beautiful idol of Mother Mary clad in a sari – like in most South Indian churches – and a little Cross on the altar. This emptiness is further accentuated by colorful light patterns thrown by the stained glass windows on the bare floor.
And one is given to wonder that the church is probably no longer functional! On the contrary, in fact, the church holds mass regularly on the floor made of sand. Since the parish here predominantly comprise local fishing folks, mass is always held in the regional language Tamil.
Kanniyakumari village is situated in the District of Kanniyakumari which is the southern most part of the Indian subcontinent. The Kanyakumari Parish almost coincides with the civil village of Kanyakumari. It is closely associated with the mainstream Catholic faith in India. There were archeological evidences suggesting that St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ visited this soil. The tomb stones unearthed at Kumari Muttom, near Kanniyakumari contain evidences to show that Catholics were living there for many centuries. The tomb stones dated 1496 contain the edict of the local ruler granting tax exemptions to the residents of Kumari Muttom and authorizing levy of a cess from the fishermen in Kumari Muttom. The aggregate income thus generated had to be used to keep the lights of the church burning. The second inscription dated 1526 AD reads “on the twentieth day of the moth of Panguni king Siraval Muttambiranar was pleased to order Mootha kangan and Illayakangan and others among the subjects living at the place of Muttom. We having been pleased to put a stop to riots, quarrels, injustice, tyranny, blackmail and confiscations of fish, they shall here after live here as in an asylum for the oppressed”. In 1542 when St. Francis Xavier came to Cape Comerin (Kanniyakumari) he was delighted to find ‘Our Lady of Delights Grotto’, at Kanniyakumari. Then it became a center for mission activities of the Jesuits from Thoothoor to Ramanathapuram. It is believed that Our Lady of Delights Grotto, in which St. Francis Xavier worshiped, later became the church of Our Lady of Ransom. Our Lady of Ransom is the Patron of the congregation in Spain which redeemed the Christians from the Muslim invasion in the year 1218. The people of Kanniyakumari were delighted to combine the name Ransom with Delight and call their patron as Alangara Upakara Matha. The wooden alter elegantly depicts the artistic Roman Art. This church remains part and parcel of the new church. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 31st May 1900 by Rev. Fr. John Consolvez. Mr. Pakiam Pillai of the Vadakkankulam was the architect of the new church. It is the model of ancient Gothic Art and culture. The length of the new Church is 153 feet, breath 53 feet and height is 153 feet. All these depict the breads of the Holy Rosary. Many eminent priests have served as parish priests of the church. In 1914 Msgr. Vincent Fdo celebrated the First Mass in the newly built Church. In 1956 Rev. Fr. Josaphath Maria completed the front elevation and the pinnacles. In 2006 the parish celebrated the golden jubilee of the erection of the golden cross and 106th year of laying foundation of the church. At present Kanniyakumari parish has 2,850 Catholic families, which are organised into 88 Basic Christian Communities. The total Number of the Catholics amounts to 12,839. There are 21 pious associations. The parish established an elementary school in the year 1882 and now 540 children are studying in the vernacular language. The parish has a Higher Secondary School established in the year 1921, where 1350 students are studying. The spiritual life of the parishioners is well attended too under the able leadership of the parish priest. The co-pastors and a few guest priests constantly render spiritual services to the people. The Sunday Catechism is well organized, nearly 800 children attend the Sunday Catechism. Tsunami which struck the coastal villages of Tamil Nadu on 26th December 2004 had great impact on Kanniyakumari village too. Thanks to the Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Religious Organizations, other establishments and philanthropists for their great yeomen services in relief and rehabilitation of the tsunami affected people. A remarkable achievement is nearly 750 houses for the poor fishermen of Kanniyakumari were established in addition to the support extended to reestablish their sources of livelihood. The local catholic church at Kanniyakumari is growing day by day in the love of Christ and ever pray for the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ through the interceding of Alangara Upakara Matha.
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