Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health

Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health

Infobox religious building
building_name=Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health

caption=Basilica view from the aisle of Stations of the cross leading to "Our Lady's Pond"
location=Flagicon|IND Velankanni, India
religious_affiliation=Roman Catholic
status=Minor Basilica

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is located at the small town of Velankanni in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The Roman Catholic Basilica is devoted to Our Lady of Good Health. Devotion to Our Lady of Good Health of Velankanni can be traced to the mid-16th century and is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and the Christ Child to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the rescue of Portuguese sailors from a violent sea storm. [ [ History of Velankanni] ]

Although all three apparitions ultimately resulted in the erection of a shrine to our Lady, it was the promise of the Portuguese sailors that was the proximate cause of a permanent edifice being built at Velankanni. The chapel was dedicated on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8), the day of their safe landing. More than 500 years later, the nine-day festival and celebration is still observed and draws nearly 2 million pilgrims each year. The Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni, also known as the "Lourdes of the East," [ [ "Hindus join in India's Marian pilgrimage " on Catholic World News] ] is one of the most frequented religious sites in India.


Though there are no historical documents or records about the Apparitions of Mary at Vailankanni, the oral tradition substantiates the two apparitions of the Blessed Mother of Vailankanni in the 16th century and the saving of the Portuguese sailors from a tempest in the Bay of Bengal in the later 17th century. [ History of the Basilica on its home page] ]


The first of the apparitions in Vailankanni is claimed to be to a Hindu boy during the mid sixteenth century. It is said that Mary appeared to him and requested milk for her Son to which the boy readily agreed. Later, upon reaching the home of the customer the boy had intended to deliver the milk to, he apologized for his delay and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way. However, upon inspection of his order, the customer found the milk pot to be full and was convinced that something miraculous had happened. Together the man, also a Hindu, and the boy returned to the place where the apparition had occurred. When they reached the pond, Our Lady appeared once again. On learning that it was Our Lady who appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic and promptly renamed the pond "Matha Kulam" or, "Our Lady's Pond". [ [ Mary Page News] ]

The construction of a chapel or church is attributed to the second apparition, not the first. This time, it is said, Mary appeared to a crippled boy (and also a son of a widow) in a place called "Nadu Thittu". The boy is claimed to have offered her buttermilk and then be cured of his illness. The Catholics in the nearby town of Nagapattinam are said to have built the first shrine after being informed of the incident. [ [ History of Annai Vailankanni] ]

Portuguese sailors

In the 17th century, a Portuguese merchant vessel, sailing from Macau in China to Colombo was caught in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal. The sailors, then at the point of desolation, vowed to build a chapel in the name of the Virgin Mary wherever they could reach safety. The legends claim that the stormy sea became quiet and their ship reached the shore of Vailankanni on 8 September, the birthday of Mary. Fulfilling their vow, the Portuguese sailors put up a chapel at Vailankanni by transforming the earlier thatched chapel. On their next visit, the Portuguese decorated the altar with porcelain plates illustrating Biblical themes.

From shrine to basilica

The shrine that started as a thatched chapel in the mid sixteenth century became a parish church in 1771 when Catholics in India were under persecution from the Dutch. Later in 1962 it was granted a "Special status of a Minor Basilica" by Pope John XXIII. [ VAILANKANNI - an Overview] on Tamil Nadu government website]


The Basilica is built in Gothic style of architecture. [ [ Velankanni] on Barathonline.] The southern side was extended in 1928 and northern in 1933. [ About Velankanni] on] The Shrine Basilica contains three chapels, Our Lady's Tank, Church Museum, Priests' Residence, Offering Center, Stations of the Cross, Stations of the Rosary, Shrine Mega Mahal and Vailankanni Beach. [ [ About Velankanni Church] on Tamilnow tourism website.] The building is totally painted in white, except for the roof that is made of tiles of striking red color. [ [ Velankanni Church] on]

outhern side

Early part of 20th century marked rivalry between Jesuits and Franciscans on influence on the missionary in Velankanni. In 1928 a solution was found to this problem. The church of Immaculate Heart of Mary (managed by the Jesuits) was demolished and the statues were brought to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health, eventually in 1933 the Shrine expanded with two new wings, to the right and to the left of the 'Main Altar', meeting the nave at right angles.

Northern side

A spacious vestry was also provided immediately behind the Altar. Thus the entire sacred edifice began to assume the shape of a Latin Cross. Right over the center of the ancient main altar was the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Health.

hrine altar

In 1956, a new welcome arch was blessed and opened by Bishop Sundaram. The illuminated arch stood to show the way to the eager pilgrims, who sought the protection of Mary. In January 1961, a new central altar, delicately executed in spotless white marble, was erected replacing the former one made of cement concrete.

Extension basilica-altar

In 1974-75, an extension of the basilica was built behind the existing central altar to accommodate the multilingual pilgrims. The extension included a two storied church with convert|93|ft|m high dome and convert|82|ft|m high gothic spirals. The extension was designed to resemble the Basilica in Lourdes, France. [ [ All roads lead to Velankanni] on The Hindu news.]


Pilgrims to the basilica are common during September, around the time of the feast. Then, millions from all over India and abroad come to join in prayers. The feast day prayers are said in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Konkani, Hindi and English. [ [ Lakhs throng Velankanni church] on] The pilgrims include people of many faith backgrounds, especially including Hindus as well as Christians. The centuries of pilgrimages and devotion by Hindus have had a profound influence on Marian devotion in Velankanni.She is sometimes prayed and said to be the Meenakshi and Kamakshi of Vailankanni. According to Goan and konkan coast Hindus she is called Shantadurga (most compassionate one). [Margaret Meibohm [ Cultural complexity in South India: Hindu and Catholic in Marian pilgrimage] University of Pennsylvania] This especially includes use of "kotimaram", which has been described as an extended influence of Hinduism on Catholicism. This has made the Basilica a meeting point of two of the major religions of the world. [D. Mosse [ "Catholic Saints and the Hindu Village Pantheon in Rural Tamil Nadu, India"] Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland] It is said that the portrayal of Virgin Mary as a curer of illness and a victor over all demonic forces is seen by local Hindus as an attribute equivalent of Hindu Goddess "Mariamman". [Corinne G. Dempsey, Selva J. Raj [,M1 "Popular Christianity in India: Riting Between the Lines"] State University of New York press.] Such pilgrims are also common during Christmas. [ [ "Thousands of pilgrims throng Velankanni for Christmas"] news from "The Hindu"]

The town of Velakanni was affected by the tsunami on Boxing day of 2004 causing heavy loss of life but no damage to the Church. [ [ Tsunami: Status Report on Tamil Nadu] ] Aftermath of the tsunami found slowing down of pilgrims for a year. [ [ Tsunami slows pilgrims' progress to Velankanni] on Yahoo! news.]

List of parish priests

The basilica first became a parish in 1771. The list of parish priests from 1771 till now is as follows: [ About Church] on]

*1771 Sep. Fr. Antonio de Rozario
*1774 Aug. Fr. Jose de Santa Roza de Viterbo
*1777 Jul. Fr. Antonio de Rosario, Commissary
*1779 Sep. Fr. Luis dos Remedios
*1783 Jan. Fr. Antonio de Rosario, Commissary
*1788 Dec. Fr. Antonio do Jesus Maria Jose
*1789 Sep. Fr. Antonio de Rosario Commissary
*1792 Sep. Fr. Jos. Roza de Giterbo Commissary &V. F.
*1814 May Fr. Constantine de Jesus Maria Commissary
*1819 May Fr. Thomas de Piedade
*1822 Feb. Fr. Francisco Xavier Masearenhas
*1822 Aug. Fr. Francisco Das Dores
*1824 May Fr. Felipe de Jesus
*1825 Sep. Fr. Francisco Dos Dores
*1828 Jun. Fr. Felipe de Jesus
*1829 May Fr. Clemente Das Dores
*1847 Oct. Fr. Isidore Manuel Alimao
*1858 Apr. Fr. Jose Felis Fernandes AG.PP
*1863 Nov. Fr. Felipe Nery Joaquim Dias
*1876 May Fr. Ignacio Antonio d' Andrade
*1886 Aug. Fr. Miguel Francisco Fernandes
*1890 Dec. Fr. Joaquim Jose Ag. P. Vic. Nagapattinam
*1891 Feb. Fr. Cuilherme Jose Dias
*1892 Dec. Fr. Joaquim Jose Luis Ag. P. Vic. Nagapattinam
*1893 Mar. Fr. Martinho Valeriane de Sa
*1899 Sep. Fr. Joaquim Francisco da Fiedade Dias
*1900 Aug. Fr. Camilla Fernandes
*1910 Jun. to 1942 Fr. Sebastio Xavier de Noronha
*1942 Sep. to 1963 Fr. M. V. Rodriguez
*1963 Jun. to 1980 Fr. S. Mariasoosai
*1980 Sep. to 1982 Fr. Thomas Vaz
*1982 Sep. to 1990 Fr. S. L. Gabriel
*1990 May to 1998 Fr. M.M. Sammanasu
*1998 Jun. till date Fr. G. Arul Iruthayam

ee also

*Our Lady of Good Health
*Poondi Matha Basilica
*Our Lady of Snows Basilica
*Roman Catholicism in India
*Christianity in India
*Kamanayakkanpatti Church of Our Lady of Assumption (பரலோக மாதா திருத்தலம்)


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