These are the historic twin churches at Ramapuram, one of the cradles of Christianity in Kerala, India. The smaller of these, in the name of St. Augustine, was built around 1450, and the other in 1864.
These monuments may be razed to the ground soon. What no invader, no government, no other community, have dared to try, is being done with abandon by the Church itself. Aisanet TV reported last evening that a referendum is being conducted among the parishioners of Ramapuram on Sunday, April 29, 2007 about demolishing these famous shrines. The Church officials have taken a strong stand in favor of the destruction. Therefore the outcome of the vote is a foregone conclusion. The priests do not seem to be worried whether such actions and procedures conform to the laws of the country.
The move to demolish the twin churches and build a ‘modern’ one in their place has been on for some time. The Hindu carried a report about this on February 18, 2005. The reason given for this proposal by the Vicar was that more space is required to accommodate the increased number of pilgrims!
Apparently he was not alert to the fact that the newer of the two churches was also built for the same reason, but people who were responsible then had ensured that the old one was preserved.
The vicar went on to give a piece of wisdom to the world: “God created the whole world for man. Archaeology is for the benefit of man and not vice-versa”. Shades of Benito Mussolini! Il Duce was reported to have said when his car knocked down and killed a boy, “What is the life of a child in the matters of state?”
The Syro-Malabar Church of Kerala, under which Ramapuram comes, is the second largest (after Roman /Latin) Rite in the Catholic Diaspora. It is headed by a Major Archbishop who is a Cardinal. Can the authorities of the Syro-Malabar wash off the responsibility for the demolition mania?
What about the Pope? In the recent Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Sacramentum Caritatis’, the Pontiff states,
“A solid knowledge of the history of sacred art can be advantageous for those responsible for commissioning artists and architects to create works of art for the liturgy. Consequently, it is essential that the education of Seminarians and priests include the study of art history, with special reference to sacred buildings…”
Let us join hands in this initiative and preserve our heritage.
The construction of the present twin structure, should have been a lesson for those who call for destruction of the old church. Long time back we had this same problem and our forefathers decided in keeping the old church making it a twin structure.
Today we could point a symbol of our tradition only because our forefathers chose to allow the smaller church to remain there. If we take history, symbols of heritage are destroyed by attacking armies. Fortunately we have the Portuguese to blame for destroying our records and manuscripts.
We talk about the 2000-year-old heritage, but no church could boast of a history of a more few centuries. Barring the Malabar invasion of Tippu every other old churches were pulled down by Christians themselves in Kerala for constructing giant structures.
The Ramapuram twin church has a unique architectural style prevalent in the early colonial period with the Persian facade showing marked influence over the Portuguese style. The Roman columns and the veranda too are rare features of the churches of a bygone era.
The Department of Archaeology has urged the district Revenue authorities to take necessary steps to protect the centuries-old twin churches of Ramapuram, as the process of declaring them as protected monuments was nearing completion.
The Church authorities had proposed to demolish the twin churches built in 1450 and 1864 respectively, and erect a new church in its place. S. Hemachandran, director, Department of Archaeology, said the department had faxed a message to the RDO, Pala, stressing the need for conservation of the archaeologically important structures.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Church authorities decided to change the venue of prayers to a temporary structure, as the old church was “crumbling” and in a dilapidated condition. A final decision regarding the demolition would be taken only after the hearing on a submission made to the Government on the issue of the twin churches, sources close to the church authorities said. When contacted over telephone, Vicar of the Church Rev. Mathai Narivelil said there was no move to demolish the church immediately. “We will demolish it only with Government sanction,” he said.
The history of the churches also forms part of the history of Christendom in Kerala. The smaller of these Churches, built in 1450 in the name of Virgin Mary by the local people was later rededicated to St. Augustine by Portuguese Archbishop Alexis de Menesis. Its gold covered altar has intricate wood carvings. The original altar of the church, dedicated to Virgin Mary, is even today preserved and it has exquisite murals in the Kerala style.The bigger church was built in 1864 in memory of the first consecration.
The offerings in Ramapuram Twin church which is visited by thousands of pilgrims crosses more than a lakh in a week by any calculations. Its dishearten to know that the church authorities has not done anything so far to maintain or strengthen the structure. They are more interested to claim that the structure is weak and needs demolition.
The habit of destroying the heritage of the past must stop. Let us bear in mind that Kerala is regarded as the cradle of Christianity in India because of its rich tradition and evidences.
Let us also bear in mind that our heritage as detailed in our past, but also as is evident today, is so unique that it is hard to find its replication elsewhere in the world. Because of this, we have every reason to portray and showcase the pre-historic, historic and present heritage of our community in a way that no other can.
Unfortunately, over the years, we have watched records of the past destroyed, historical buildings pulled down to replace big concrete structures.
Please join us in protesting the move to demolish the twin structure at Ramapuram after the reported opposition of the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church, Cardinal Vithayathil.
The twin churches of Ramapuram are part of our heritage and part of the legacy we are entrusted with safeguarding for the future.
Guest Article by Abraham Tharakan with additional inputs. Originally published at Song of the waves blog Additional information from, The Hindu dated March 24th 2007 and Save Ramapuram Twin Churches
splendid !!! This twin churches looks so beautiful.I wonder is there any reason to demolish ? Sincerely hope you people will be able to mobilize enough support to save these magnificent churches.
How can one have the heart to destroy one own heritage?
This church, I found, one of the last in Syro-Malabar Catholic sabha that was still unravaged by ‘modern’ mindsets and I found it beautiful.
The most outrageously newly built reconstructions is that of Koratty Muthy churchy…the most disgusting architecture to replace the antique.
I had been to the Mutichira church recently to check out the ancient Syrian cross…only to find it so insignificantly pasted into the wall carelessly in one of the doorways.
Moreover the people there had no idea of what it is!! I gave them a piece of my mind.
Dear all..Many regards to the efforts of nasrani.net to preserve the traditions of the christian community.
Why dont we start another discussion about the traditional christian dishes & recepies.
I came to know that certain cooking styles & food items are only to certain areas & communities even in christians.For example ‘Pidi’,which is common among christians in central kerala.
And another is ‘Thamukku’..which is made exclusively for ‘Thamukku nerchah’ in churches.
Please comment ?
IAM FROM KOTTAYAM DISTRICT OF KERALA AND THERE ARE TWO CHURCHES IN OUR AREA WHERE ” THAMUKKU NERCHA ” IS DONE. ONE IS THE FAMOUS KURAVILANGADU CHURCH AND ANOTHER ONE KUDAMALOOR CHURCH. VARUTHA ARIPPODI , PAZHAM , SHARKKARA , AVIL , ELAKKA , CHUKKU etc IS MIXED TO MAKE THE THAMUKKU NERCHA . THAMUKKU NERCHA IS DONE IN KUDAMALOOR CHURCH ON MOUNDY THURSDAY BY THE KUMARANALLLOR KARAKKAR AND IN KURAVILANGADU CHURCH ON PALM SUNDAY BY SOME KARAKKAR I DONT KNOW THE NAME . BUT BOTH THE NERCHAS ARE DONE TO REMEMBER THE FAVOURS RECEIVED BY THEM FROM THE KUDAMALOOR MUTHIYAMMA AND KURAVILANGADU MUTHIYAMMA. BOTH THE CHURCHES ARE VISITED BY LARGE HINDU DEVOTEES.
The thamukku nercha at Kuravilangadu was originally offered by “Kalathoor” karakkar for a favour received from St. Mary. Two events I heard about, the second one seems more authentic. 1. There was a rivalry between a Nair family and Christians of Kalthoor locality. A funeral was stopped causing various after effect. To solve this Christians sought the help of St. Mary of Kuravilangadu thus the Nercha starts. 2. About 1-2 centuries back one police officer of then King did great injustice to females of Kalathoor deshakkar when they were preparing for holy week. They sought Muthiyamma’s help and divine retribution taken place. The offering is related to this.
Recently I saw a photo of the old church at Aruvithura from this nasrani.net site and it did not go away from my mind. A comparison of that photo and what is the present St. George’s Church at Aruvithura will clearly show why we the nasranis do not have any written documents prior to the Portuguese. Because we DO NOT CARE at all about our heritage!!! It is such a pity especially when you consider the extra care the Europeans and Americans take to preserve their heritage and see they have a written history for several centuries.
I heard that there was a great controversy at the time at Aruvithura parish whether to demolish the beautiful old church or not and finally the dry and empty minds won and they demolished and built something which is not even worthy to be compared as a shadow to the old grandeur.
Now the same controversy goes on at Ramapuram and I am sure the dry and empty minds will win again.
The British Museum will be more than happy to uproot this twin church without any damage and keep in their museum as a heritage to the world if WE do not want it!
What a robbery we make of the future generations!
Proud of being a Christian and part of this parish…
Some of them are against the reconstruction and some are supporting as well. How ever the fact is, this looks so good and aristocratic which most of all churches in India is loosing gradually..but saying that this is twin church is not stands for true as there so many differences in size, shape, interior, above all these were constructed in two different times and known to be Pazhaya palli and puthiya palli. So arguments with the word of twin doesn’t sound true….
May I have a suggestion saying that the supports and the non-supporters of demolishing the church need to be sat around the table to solve it instead of making useless effort to spoil each other’s reputation
So once again kindly requesting to the concern persons to take out the ego and talk out everything in the name of God …
We are all much bothered about our Christian community so always try to recognize and understand people like Joseph Pulikunnel who always behind the curtain to spoil our reputation and talk against the Christian community and the Dioceses if any discriminations and any thing going wrong then of course we have the right to solve it with out harming our believes and base.
So, let me conclude in this way i.e. let us have a unity instead search for others mistakes and let us all stand together for a solution by which can only be given by a real loving conversation in between.
May God shower his holy spirits on all of us to have the unity for the goodness.
Chessil Cherian Ramapuram
I too am from Ramapuram and though I have been away long, I have fond and beautiful memories of the Twin Churches…and never fail to visit when I go home…I would be heart-broken if the powers-that-be go through with their machinations… There are two ways of bringing the Church down – either hammer it down or let it crumble out of conscious neglect …. I believe sadly that the shortsighted one-up-manship of the Nasarani Catholics (My Church is bigger and newer than yours!!!) may ultimately prevail over any sense of history or heritage….
Dear Chessil Cherian / Louis Zacharias
Very good to read opinions from members of the parish. I have been to this Twin churches couple of times and found this as one of the most beautiful churches in the area.
I heard that due to resistance the move to demolish has been halted. Is there any updated information available on what exactly is happening ?. Thanks.
Not true at all … the powers-that-be are determined to bring the Church down… If not directly, then by default….I understand that no maintainance is being done on the Church … I think the aim seems to be that the Church will collapse on its own over a period of time !!! I am not sure of the exact status now, but I believe that no services are held in the Church now .. Sad but true … Heritage has no meaning or value.
Finally good news about Ramapuram Church.
The Kerala High Court upholded the Archaeological Department’s steps to declare the twin churches as protected monuments dismissing the writ petition filed by Fr Mathew Nariveli, Vicar, St Augustine’s Forane Church, Ramapuram, and two trustees.
Lets hope that Church will honor the HC judgment and would take measures to protect the Church.
Express campaign bears fruits – Express
“The churches are a treasure trove of invaluable murals and a rhythmic blend of Indian and Portuguese architecture. The mural ‘Last Supper’ at the church under the Pala diocese is a rare piece of art. ‘Express’ carried a report on the murals in the church and the painting, believed to be the work of Italian monk which is a unique composition.
‘The Last Judgement’ is the another masterpiece. The church, which is called ‘valiyapalli’ as it is the larger of the twin churches, nestled majestically atop the hillock in the picturesque Ramapuram village is a magnificent blend of typical Kerala and Portuguese architecture. The entrance has relievos of gun-wielding Portuguese soldiers and roaring lions.
Increase in number of parishioners and lack of space to accommodate them in the church is cited as the reason for the demolition of the church.
There was another argument that there was no need for demolishing the church to build a new one. The church is located in 20 acres of land so there is enough space to construct the proposed church without demolishing the existing one.
The Kerala Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1969 stipulates that the building and other structures which are historically and culturally important and which are century old and above should be preserved even if they have not been declared protected monuments.
The State Archaeology Department had issued a notice to the church authorities through the Revenue officials, directing them not to alter the structure of the church building.”
HC upholds decision of Archaeological Dept –Express
“The Kerala High Court on Tuesday upheld the steps taken by the State Archaeological Department to declare as “protected monuments’’ the ancient twin churches at Ramapuram in Pala”
INDIA Court rules against demolishing ancient churches- UCA News
“These monuments speak volumes about our rich culture and history. If we destroy them, we are wiping out our past,” said P.J. Cherian, director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research and a member of the Mar Thoma Church. The Church is one of seven in Kerala that trace their faith to Saint Thomas the Apostle.
He welcomed the ruling as it will help to “protect many more historical monuments facing demolition threats.”
If you check out the wiki page for Ramapuram, it presents a beautiful portrayal of the town. But then again, I felt that it missed something. I strongly felt that the presentation failed to mention that it is a town fought over by many political interests. It is one thing to propose an argument in a debate. But when you post a well written paper like this, it shows how biased the viewpoint. Now I can understand the need for preserving our heritage. And I find utmost validity in all of the reasons stated by “Admin.”
When I visited the wiki page for Ramapuram, I found this article at the bottom as one of the sources regarding the controversy with the demolition of the Twin Churches at Ramapuram. I also felt that the Wikipedia page lacked a small fact consisting of how many political interests are currently in play regarding this issue and the future of Ramapuram.
First of all, I find the article above very much biased as if it is less of a factual presentation and more of a propaganda like the kind the A to Z groups of Congress, Communist Party and BJP rant on about in the middle of the town. I’m sorry for this harsh analogy but for any decent reader, a good article comprises of presenting good viewpoints from both sides and showing how one side better than the other. Now I agree that both Churches hold a lot of history. Both of them hold a lot of memories for me and for my ancestors. It is undeniably the primary landmark of the town even though the town has Hindu name and a Hindu temple which also holds a lot of religious, historical and sentimental value. The town is infamous in Kottayam district due to honorary Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar and Blessed Kunjachan who has in such a few decades become the patron saint (I’m not using this term with its technical but rather the sentimental meaning) of thousands.
Before I address the present, I want to look at the past. Ramapuram has modernized very quickly in past ten years very quickly with a brand new college, a hall, a renovated high school, multistory houses going up on every block and businesses springing up all over the place. Nobody complained about the high school being renovated or the college being built when Fr. Cyriac Kunnel was the vicar. No archaeological significance was found when three shopping malls sprang up in the middle of the town almost simultaneously. I remember people used to change tombstones of family burial grounds from cement to marble or granite. I didn’t see anybody complaining at that point. As soon as Kunnelachan left and the new vicar came in, renovating the Church was discussed by every tongue in the town. Of course, I always wonder who took the first initiative to bring it to the interests of the government and what that person’s true interests were. Was he/she worried about the heritage or just trying to stifle up a controversy to advance personal political agendas?
Since the government has taken charge, no maintenance is being conducted. One of the pillars on one side has collapsed. As a patron, I’m scared to walk into the bigger church. There were no annual decorations for Christmas and New Year. After the Kunjachan was titled as Blessed Kunjachan and Alphonsamma was named as St. Alphonsa, the flow of visitors has increased dramatically. With this kind of attention, political interests will always take advantage of the situation. And I believe this is what is happening here. I love how we call ourselves a democracy yet the patrons of the Church were never asked about their opinions. I’m not saying Kerala High Court is wrong but a precedent doesn’t always apply to every similar scenario and that is where law fails. Are any funds being allocated by the government to preserve this site? If so, where is the proof? The church has a lot of land. Why couldn’t anybody propose building a new church (with possibly some seating arrangements because we don’t live in 1450 or 1846 anymore) for ceremonial purposes while actually preserving the other two? Why there wasn’t a discussion within the town before the issue was taken to court?
When I visit India, two monuments I never fail to visit are the Ramapuram Church and St. Alphosamma’s Church at Bharananganam. You should really visit both places. St. Alphonsa’s Church and surroundings have become so much more beautiful and agreeable for every type of person because of the renovations. I know it is a sin to be jealous but I was jealous of how much difference there is between both churches. They even renovated the burial grounds of St. Alphonsa without losing any heritage and religious importance. It is all good to preserve heritage, but beauty and structures also goes hand in hand.
Since my passage is not an article or use any credible sources other than my lifetime in Ramapuram, if anybody finds this as unnecessary or obstructive, I welcome all opposition. I hope the admin won’t be narrow minded and remove my comment totally just because I can present decent opposition which may raise some questions.
I think most of the points discussed in the review of Mr. Joe Augustine is very much valid.
Am neither parishioner nor conservationist.
And have stopped by at these churches more from an interest in history than in religion.
Every now and then, an old church is razed to make way for a modern monstrosity. While expansion is an acceptable reality, are bulldozers the only answer? The Church’s desire for the ‘larger’ and the ‘grander’ is getting a little indulgent. And sadly, it is not that the Church lacks the funds or the land to retain the old while it goes about the new. Why then?
A semi-expansion of the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Alappuzha brought that lovely, old structure down. (Must add ‘allegedly’.)
Please do take time to check out the nouveau-attempt.
Meanwhile, the Church builds Gothic monstrosity after boat-shaped monstrosity.But one near Mangalore takes the cake. The facade is this huge waist-up Christ.And you enter the church through his abdomen. (Longinus was gentler.)
While I do appreciate Mr. Augustine’s point of view, why do we have to rely on the government or its institutions for preserving our heritage? Why should an architect employed by the GOI be more interested in preserving Church heritage than the Church fathers themselves?
And I want to ask all concerned one question.
Today the Church is keen to demolish the Ramapuram churches and build a new, larger facility. If there had been a request to demolish the structures for the purpose of a new road, would it have shown the same keen-ness? Would not the Church have shouted itself hoarse about heritage? So, let’s not talk about the larger good.
Let’s move forward. But please, let’s not trample on the old.
since my childhood athing haunts in my mind am i a malyalee or christiyanee or roman catholic but the website nasrani net cleared my doubts i came to know tha t i am a syro- malabar catholic and then a malayalee.when i seen this article my heart was filled with grief and it is amazing that the clergy of ramapuram is not taking any decision to prevent the demolition of these churches.clergy have the time to defend and to support the sentiments of other religion but the sentiments of ours.whats this tradition and heritage is equal to the faith these churches are also the part of the heritage and belief if the community of indian christians including syro malabar catholics kananya marthoma,mangaloren catholics of karnataka goan catholics church of east and northern india had good co-operation between them then surely i would have converted that place into a museum or if possible i am necessary to sacrifice my life for the sake of my faith as a crusade.i many more things to say but sadly i am closing here,because i know that no one will come to save these churches and we the ever catholics of india will helplessly look at this demolition.hail jesus, hail mother mary hail saint thomas and proud to be syro malabar catholic
It must be suspected that the Catholic authorities are executing the agenda of RSS authorities. It is a hidden agenda of the Sangh Parivar to wipe off all the signs of ancient Christian presence in India. They propagate lies like St. Thomas never came to India, Mylapore tomb of the Apostle was a Shiva temple, etc. Therefore it is their need to somehow demolish historically important buildings. Since they cannot simply demolish all the ancient churches here, they are applying a tactics of using obedient Catholic clergy and “rebuild” a church which will yield a new insignificant church building. It is then easier for them to establish later that the area was historically a Hindu area.
The Syro-Malabar Church should reconsider its decision to demolish these churches. They are historically very important and a treasure and part of our heredity. Does the Church want to erase all the memory of the past. Now a days if you ask to Syro-Malabarian to which church he belongs, he will say Roman Catholic Church. If you ask whether he is a Syrian Christian, he will say No, because he does not know what ‘Syro’ stands for. The Discalced Carmelites who ruled the Pazhayacoor St Thomas Chucrh for 250 years succeeded in latinising lot of things in their Church. Even now we claim that we are an Eastern Catholic Church. But what is there remaining to claim that? Only the Syro-Malabar rite in Malayalm language and some old churches such as these. All our priests and Bishops dress in the Latin Church style. We have completely removed the usage of Suriyani from our liturgy. Our Church hierarchy is the same as in the Latin Church. Please, I am disappointed. Please preserve the very old important churches.