“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan

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“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan

Note about the Author

“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan
“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan

Dr. Mathias Mundadan is a distinguished historian of Christianity. He is a member of the Carmelite Society of Mary the Immaculate ( CMI) and a priest of the Syro Malabar Church.

Dr. Mundadan is a senior professor at the Dharmaram College, Bangalore. He took his Doctorate in Church History from the Gregorian University, Rome. Part of his dissertation has been published in two Volumes. He has also authored many books and articles. Mundadan is also associated with the ecumenical initiative- Indian Church History Journal and is the Author of the ICHR Volume I- “History of Christianity in India”.

Contents in detail

The period chosen for this study is an important period in the history of the Christians of Saint Thomas. This is about their first contacts with the Portuguese: first half of the Sixteenth century, from 1498 to 1552 AD. Earlier there was no satisfactory effort to pursue the available documentation, the main deterrent being the difficulty to access sources. According to the Author, the situation has changed recently. The publication of many of the 16th century documents by Fr. Schurhammer SJ, Fr. Wicki SJ, Dr. Silva Rego etc has opened up new vistas.

The phenomenal encounter of East with the West was launched in Malabar Coast when Vasco da Gama set foot on the shores of Calicut on May 21st 1498. Both to the Portuguese and the Indian Christians the meeting came as revelation. But the end result was not so brilliant. Seeds of the unhappy developments of the later years and centuries were already sown from the very beginning. According to the Author, this was a question of two different mentalities, that of Malabar Christians and of the Portuguese. This was due to the Oriental Christian and Indian mentality of the native Christians and the sixteenth century mentality of the Portuguese Christians.

Archives and Manuscripts Consulted


Till the arrival of the Portuguese the Thomas Christians were living as if in two worlds. They were living in the geographical, political and social world of Malabar and their ecclesiastical world which was more or less Chaldean in Character. The Chaldean prelates governed the Church. The Thomas Christians shared the theological, juridical and liturgical traditions of the Chaldean Church.

The Church of Malabar was, subject to the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church of Chaldea or Persia. The Thomas Christians of Malabar were governed by bishops sent by the Patriarch of the Church till the year 1599. After the celebration of the Synod of Diamper in 1599, the Malabar Church was made a subject to the jurisdiction of latin bishops under the Patronage ( the Padroado) of the Portuguese crown.

Mar Jacob, a Chaldean bishop was sent to India in company with two or three other prelates, by the Chaldean Patriarch in the year 1503-4. The other prelates who came with him or who were there in Malabar already before his arrival, all but perhaps one, left Malabar or died soon. Thus Malabar Church came under the sole rule of Mar Jacob from the early years of the sixteenth century.

With the arrival of Portuguese they are introduced in to a new world, the latin or western Christendom. These worlds are described in the first chapter.

1. The Malabar
a. Geographically
b. Politically
c. The People of Malabar
d. The Christians of Malabar

2. The Chaldean Church
a. The Political background
b. The Church
c. The Chaldean Church and the Church of Malabar

3. The Latin Christendom as represented by the Portuguese
a. In General
b. Spain and Portugal
c. The Portuguese Civil and Ecclesiastical Administration in India


Chapter two details the initial enthusiasm of the encounter. An analysis is also done about the motives of the Portuguese in sending their first expedition to India. It also examine how far the attempts of the Portuguese were motivated by the crusade idea and the classical search of the West for the legendary Prestor John.

1. Introductory Remarks

2. Vasco da Gama’s First Voyage to India ( 1498)

3. Cabral’s voyage to India ( 1500)

4. Vasco da Gama’s Second Journey to India ( 1503)

5. Other Relations of Christians of Saint Thomas with the Portuguese till about 1520



The Portuguese missionaries influence appears to have real impact on the life of Saint Thomas Christians only from the year 1516/7. From then the opposing view points of Thomas Christians and the Portuguese missionaries come out openly. This Chapter examines the question of mutual relations from the opposing angles.

1. Introductory Remarks

2. The Chaldean Bishops

3. From the beginnings till 1524
a. The Portuguese Apostolate among Thomas Christians till 1516
b. Father Alvaro Penteado
c. Mar Jacob’s letter of 1524

4. From 1524 till 1530
a. The Cranganore Church burnt
b. Penteado again
c. Mar Jacob and the Franciscans

5. The Events from 1530 till 1536
a. The Young Bishop
b. Latinizing Simon



This chapter details the organized efforts of Portuguese missionaries to change the mode of life of the Thomas Christian community.

1. Introductory Remarks

2. The General Events

3. The Cranganore College
a. Frey Vincente de Lagos
b. The College
c. The nature of the training given in the college

4. The last years of Mar Jacob
a. Mar Jacob and the College of Cranganore
b. Mar Jacob’s retirement
c. His death



The Conclusion is an analysis, based on the facts explained in earlier chapters from the primary sources, of the relation of the Thomas Christians and the Portuguese during this first stage of contacts.

1. The attitude of Thomas Christians towards the Portuguese
2. The attitude of Portuguese towards the Thomas Christians


Alphabetical Index
Maps- Malabar 16th Century
– Central portion of the same.

“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan
“The Arrival of the Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob 1498-1552” by Dr. Mathias Mundadan

In General

This book gives a very detailed description of the contacts with Portuguese in the first half of sixteenth century from primary sources. The list of the documents and manuscripts consulted is also provided.

It also describes the personalities of the period 1498-1552 AD. The saintly Mar Jacob, who governed the Thomas Christian Church and who was warmly recommended to the Portuguese King by Saint Francis Xavier. The Kathanar, Joseph the Indian who visited Rome in sixteenth century. Alvaro Penteado, who wanted to change the rite of Thomas Christians to latin rite. Frei Vicente de Lagos, who founded the College of Cranganore etc are some of them.

The meeting of the West and East in Malabar soil was phenomenal. The Portuguese found the realization of their hopes and dreams in coming in to contact with the true Christians of India and the Indian Christians came to know the shape and form of the Christian world.

The Portuguese interest, sympathy and their love for the Thomas Christians was immense. The Thomas Christians, were perhaps behind the Portuguese in their reciprocation. By the arrival of Portuguese the community of Thomas Christians stood many gains. Their prestige rose in the eyes of their non Christian compatriots. Their rights and privileges were more scrupulously respected. They were also brought in to direct contact with Western Christianity and their faith became more and more definite.

According to the Author, all this and more would have achieved more easily and more happy with out resentment had the Portuguese, a little more care to study the nature of Oriental Christianity and the Indian mentality. If they were following what Carneiro and friends told these Christians in the mid century “ Both you and we hold the same faith: the difference of customs matters little” many unfortunate incidents would have been avoided. But history tells a different story.

The death of Mar Jacob about 1552 had a special importance from the Portuguese point of view. This was the opening of a stage in their sustained effort to bring the Thomas Christians under latin jurisdiction and rite. Mar Jacob’s presence was a symbol of the relation of the Church of Malabar with the Chaldean Church and by his death this was broken. The attitude of the Portuguese from that time on appears to be led by this impression. The presence in Malabar of any prelate coming from Chaldea becomes increasingly intolerable to them. All kinds of vigilance and precaution are taken to prevent any one entering India from those regions. If some one appeared suddenly he is considered as “thief and robber”.

There is very little material available from Indian side for this period. This consists of a letter of the Chaldean prelates and two letters of Mar Jacob. According to the author despite this, by relaying on Portuguese records we get a more or less comprehensive view of the mind of Thomas Christians.

The book, 164 pages was first published in 1967 by Dharmaram College, Bangalore. The book is priced at Rs. 10/- and is out of stock.

Author can be reached on admin at nasrani dot net

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  1. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Admin,

    Thank you for intruducing this book to us. As this book is out of print, is there any chance we can have a digitalised version available for us to read ? There are many nasrani history books out of print- eg books of Joseph thekkeadthu, J kollaparambil etc which all contain immense information. The authors have done a great job of research work.

    I think we should contact the copy right holders of these books to allow us to share these books. Or at least to make digital copies available to buy at a good price.

  2. rp says



  3. Sunny says

    Dear Admin,
    It is unfortunate such books become out of print and eventually extinct. This and similar books alone are giving information on our ‘unknown’ history.
    These are written with no profit motive, hence once no voluntary buyers, author dont take initiative to re-print at his risk. (esp. at their old age cannot cope with the hazles of organising the reprint.
    Somebody, either people like you or if more cooperation is needed sort of a trust must take initiative in finding out such books and reprint with authorisation of author (they will be most happy).

    If needed, I will be happy to cooperate in any manner.
    How can I get a copy of the said book, even at 10 times higher price?

  4. Aji Matthew says

    It is absurd to say that Indian Christians got many advantages by getting contact with Portugese. Portugese came here for business becuase our land was rich cultured. Not showing the love of Christ, instead they expolited us in every way. Finally they destroyed every information regarding the early Christians of Kerala. If the Christians of Kerala had any relation with them, Portugese would have kept them. So please do not express such baseless ideas to become a servant of the Roman Catholicism.

    In Christ,
    Aji Matthew

  5. Johncy Panicker says

    Dear Admin:

    How can I get a copy of the above mentioned book “St. Thomas Christines 1498-1552”.. Please inform me on [email protected]

  6. JOEL says

    Where is the tomb of mar jacob who died in AD 1553?

  7. Jose p o says

    How I can get a copy of the book ? please inform me ” [email protected].
    Jose p o