‘Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menezes: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar’ edited by Dr. Pius Malekandathil
The Synod of Diamper played a major role in changing the history of Kerala.1 The then Portuguese Archbishop of Goa, Dom Alexis de Menezes convoked the Synod of Diamper on June 1599. This was conducted after a prolonged power struggle spread over five months between Menezes and the St. Thomas Christian community headed by Archdeacon. During these months and another five months after the Synod Menezes visited most of the churches of St. Thomas Christians with a view to Europenizing and Latinizing this native Christian community of India by obliterating and erasing all their indigenous customs and practices. During these journeys Menezes took notes of what he saw and heard and probably these notes formed the main source for Antonio de Gouvea to compile “Jornada do Arcebispo”.
The book is written in Portuguese perspective, mixed with facts, distorted interpretations, pre conceptions, prejudices and ignorance. The entire account of Gouvea is written to praise the Portuguese missionaries especially the achievements of Dom Alexis de Menezes. There are many people who hold the view that Gouvea was the personal historian of Menezes and one has to read this book keeping in mind the purpose it is written.
The value of this work lies with the fact that it accounts the final latinization attempts by Portuguese which resulted in severing the ties of this native Christian community with the Church of East. Also the book accounts the traditions, customs, description of churches, places among the St. Thomas Christian community against the background of these visits by Menezes.
“Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menezes: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar” edited by Dr. Pius Malekandathil is an English translation of “Jornada do Arcebispo” by Antonio de Gouvea.
The original work was compiled in 1603 which was first published in Portuguese in Coimbra, Portugal in 1606. In 1609, a French translation came out from Bruxelles and Antwerp. There was a latin version in the eighteenth century. It took four hundred years for a complete English translation.
This painstaking effort was carried out by Dr. Pius Malekandathil.2 He is at present the Reader in History at the Department of History, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady. He undertook this work when he was the Reader in History at Goa University. His areas of specialization includes, Maritime History of India, History of European Expansion, Socio-Economic History of Medieval India Studies in Indian Ocean Societies and History of Science and Technology in Pre-Colonial India.
1. Overview of the Book
The book of Jornada has three parts. This book also has a 53 page, ten part, lengthy introduction written by Dr. Pius Malekandathil which will help the readers in being cautious and seriously critical in accepting the statements and assertions of Jornada. There are also 482 elaborate, scholarly notes which helps to evaluate the statements of Antonio de Gouvea.In translation the name of places have been kept as it is in original Jornada. There is also a 5 page index of places mentioned in Jornada and their corresponding modern names. It also has a Map of places of Malabar as described in Jornada attached.
2. Book in detail
Some observations from the 53 page Introduction by Dr. Pius Malekandathil,
– The purpose of the visit as we understand from Jornada was to purge St. Thomas Christians of their “heresies” and “errors” to give them true Catholic faith, to destroy all their “heretical” books, to convoke a synod of the church and finally to make them obey the Roman Church by severing their ties with the Mesopotamian Church and by making them take an oath to receive only the prelates send by the Latin Church. Menezes enjoyed second rank in authority in Portuguese India and he hoped that with his authority he would achive the target. It was the difference in the customs, practises and ritual traditions of St. Thomas Christians that were viewed as errors or heresies. Perfect conformity to the Latin cum Lusitanian practices was projected by Menezes as the best way to “obey the Catholic Church”.
– One should also see whether the so called “ attempt to bring this indigenous Christian community under Rome “ was actually meant to bring them under Rome at all or was it used as a pretext to bring them under the Portuguese nationalistic church structure of Padroado, a development which would also ensure the trader from Portugal to control the spice producer of Malabar better. Nothing can be conclusively said because of the merging of diverse motives at different historical phases.
– The Portuguese period of Indian history exhibits frequent clashes between the old world system and the emerging new world system. In the old world system, whose trade routes terminated in the Mediterranean, the St. Thomas Christian played a vital role because of their linkage with religious and commercial networks of West Asia. It was for integrating the spice producing community of St. Thomas Christians to new world system, the Portuguese entered the hinterlands of Malabar. The spice production centers are located far away from the coast and were outside the control of Portuguese. Right from the very beginning Portuguese has to depend on the producing community, the St. Thomas Christians to receive consignments of Pepper. In 1520, this was accomplished with the help of Chaldean prelate Mar Jacob Abuna. The efforts to get pepper in exchange of artilleries and guns were not very successful in the kingdoms of Edappilly, Vadakkenkur and Parur. These days people can buy ar-15 pistols for their safety but need a lot of responsibility. Further attempts to integrate spice producing community with Portuguese commercial networks begin in the form of annual monetary rewards paid to the inland rulers from 1533 onwards. From 1554 onwards Portuguese state paid annually an amount of 72,000 reais each to the rulers of Vadakkenkur, Thekkenkur, Parur, Purakkad, Diamper and Alengad. 640 cruzados to the king of Cochin as well as 42,000 reais to the Karta of Alwaye and 72,000 reais to the king of Thodupuzha for ensuring regular flow of Pepper to the Portuguese factor at Cochin. These did not bring the desired results and latinization of the spice producing community of St. Thomas Christians seems to be the alternative to control the hinterlands of production where commanilty in religion was projected as a cementing factor to suit the commercial interests of Portuguese. In a wider mercantile context this was the effective way for the trading group to control the producing group.
– One has to specially note that the Patriarch, whom the Synod of Diamper and the Archbishop in his visit of churches condemned and declared as a heretic was a Catholic Patriarch in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and the bishops who were suspected to be heretics were send by the Patriarch in communion with Roman Catholic Church. This clearly shows that at the time of this exercise, St. Thomas Christians were already Catholic and then in that case the purpose of the visits made by Archbishop to the hinterlands of Malabar was not for converting the St. Thomas Christians to Catholic as was claimed but was for something else.
– The depiction that the visits of Archbishop was undertaken to cleanse the St. Thomas Christian community of “heresy” as well as “wrong practices” and to “true faith” enabled the Portuguese to cover the hidden motives they had. The use of these phrases and the equation of practices and customs of the community with heresy against the context of Protestant Reformation in Europe had assured its desired results, on one hand it gave sufficient justification for Portuguese to intervene in the activities of this community for “cleaning” and on the other hand it ensured support in Catholic Europe for the Lusitanian ventures to change the affairs of St. Thomas Christians according to their politico- commercial interests.
2.2 Synopsis of Jornada
2.2.1. Book One
First part has 22 chapters, dealing with the early history of St. Thomas Christians and mostly about the activities of Menezis leading to the convoking of Syond of Diamper.
There is also an account of the Portugues efforts to intervene in the affairs of the Coptic Christians of Ethiopia. The visit of Menezes to the different churches and Christian settlements of St. Thomas Christians and the opposition he has to face from them. The Portuguese attempts to capture Kunjali Marakkar and his Muslim allies who resisted the naval hegemony of the Portuguese in Indian waters. It also mentions efforts to contain the emerging power of Travancore which are of serious concern for Portuguese interests.
Christian custom of Chaverpada (amoucos) is also discussed. There are also minute details about the indigenous traditions of liturgical celebrations, practices and customs are detailed. A detailed description of how Menezes won the co-operation of resisting St. Thomas Christians to his side is also given.
One of the most impressive one that touched the hearts of many of the St. Thomas Christians was the washing of feet of 12 Kathanars at Kaduthuruthy on Holy Thursday. This ritual being a novel thing for the community was viewed by many as the holiness and humilty of the second greatest officials of Portuguese in India.
The Archbishop who had manifold plans and strategies stunned the opponents with his impressive undertakings. By fully knowing that the priests of Malabar had their allegiance towards Patriach of Bablyon, he resorted to a chain of ordinations at Diamper, Kaduthuruthy and Parur, that earned him more than hundred priests and their relativies as supporters in the Syond of Diamper. The Archbishop spend 18,000 pardaos for the bestowal of gifts for his opponents, defiant chieftains and inland rulers to gather support to his actions.
Chapter 1- Regarding the origin and growth of St. Thomas Christians
Chapter 2- Regarding the persecution of Christians at Mailapor and how they moved on to those who were living in Malabar and the expansion of the community
Chapter 3- Of how the Church of Serra was made Metropolitan of India and among them entered the heresy of Nestor.
Chapter 4- Of the death of last Nestorian Archbishop and efforts of Menezes to bring the Christians of St. Thomas to the obedience of Roman Church
Chapter 5- About how the Archbishop of Goa made the Archdeacon the Governor of the Bishopric of Serra
Chapter 6- Of how the ArchBishop left Goa and what he did at Cannanore
Chapter 7- Of the Origin of Catholics who are there in the Empire of Abyssinia which we call Prester John
Chapter 8- Of how the Bishop Dom Andre de Oviedo reached the Emperor of Abyssinia and how he died
Chapter 9- How the Archbishop left from Cannanore and arriving in Cochin started to deal with matters of Serra
Chapter 10- Of how the Archbishop started to visit churches of Serra and what happened in churches of Vaipicotta
Chapter 11- What the Archbishop went through in the churches of Alengad, Chowara and Kanjoor.
Chapter 12- Of how the Archbishop went to Quilon and of what was done there in the fortification of the fort.
Chapter 13- Of how the Archbishop gave ordinations at Diamper and went to Kaduthuruthy where he performed the rituals of the Holy Week.
Chapter 14- Of how the nobles and Cassanars of the people of Kaduthuruthy subjected themselves to obedience of Archbishop, on the friday of the cross.
Chapter 15- Of how the whole people of Kaduthuruthy accepeted the Archbishop as their prelate in the procession of the resurrection and gave obedience to the Holy Roman Church.
Chapter 16- Of what the Archbishop did in Diamper and retired himself to Cranganore to convene the Synod.
Chapter 17- Of how the Archdeacon ultimately submitted himself to the obedience of Roman Church and of the Archbishop, and both of them convened the people for the Diocesan Synod of Diamper.
Chapter 18- Of the errors which the Christians of St. Thomas had in the things of the Faith and what they observed in Ecclesiastical matters.
Chapter 19- Of the customs of the Christians of St. Thomas in secular matters.
Chapter 20- Regarding the celebration of the Synod.
Chapter 21- In which one proceeds regarding at what happened at the Synod of Diamper.
Chapter 22- Of the end of the Synod, and of how the Christians became more confirmed in the faith by what happened in the procession.
2.2.2 Book Two
Second book which has fifteen chapters deals with the visit of Archbishop Menezes to the various settlements of the St. Thomas Christians after the conclusion of Synod for implementing the decesions. Gouvea pictures him as a Victor. The dissenting priests and the protesting group are pictured as insignificant minority who are either punished by the wrath of God or rectified by the admonition of the Archbishop
He also emphasizes on evangelization and the priests of St. Thomas Christians were send to Malleas for evangelization work. Gouvea also furnishes extensive details on the tradition of the veneration of the cross in Malabar. It might be one of the earliest documents that refers to Pahlavi inscribed cross as St. Thomas cross.
Chapter 1- Of the manner in which the Archbishop used to visit the churches after celebrating the Synod.
Chapter 2- How the Archbishop started to visit the Churches, and of the visitation of Diamper and Kottyam, and the of the miracle of the Cross of St. Thomas.
Chapter 3- Of how the Archbishop ordered the preaching of the faith to the Malleas, and of the beginning of their conversion.
Chapter 4- How the Archbishop came with the King of Purakkad about the visit of the churches of Diamper,Small Parur and Mulanthuruty
Chapter 5- Of the Visitation of the churches of Akaparambu, and of Alengad and of very noble case which took place in this bazaar.
Chapter 6- Of the Visitation of the churches of Vaipicotta,Muttam,Pallipuram and Kalloorkadu
Chapter 7- Of the Visitation of the churches of Purakkad, Kayamkulam and Quilon
Chapter 8- Of what Archbishop did in the fort of Quilon
Chapter 9- Of the Visitation of the Church of Tevalakkara, and what the Archbishop discussed with King of Kundara
Chapter 10- Of the Visitation of the Churches of Kallada and Kadambanad
Chapter 11- Of how the Archbishop made peace with King of Kayamkulam and of the visitation of the churches of Karthikapally, Cheppadu,Puthiakavu and Niranam
Chapter 12- Of the Visitation of church of Chengannoor
Chapter 13- Of the Visitation of churches of Changanacherry, Pulinkunnu, Piravam and Kaduthuruthy
Chapter 14- Of the Visitation of churches of Kuravilangadu and Elenji
Chapter 15-Of what the Archbishop passed through in Parur and of how, coming over to Goa, left us Governor of the Bishopric of Serra its Archdeacon.
2.2. 3. Book Three
Third book deals with the departure of Archbishop from Malabar and his activities in Calicut, Mangalore, Basrur and Honawar on his way to goa. This part also contains the customs and practices of the Bedouins of Socotora as well as the activities of the Augustinian monks sent by the Archbishop to the court of Shah Abbas I of Perisa among them Gouvea was also a delegate.
Chapter 1- Of what the Archbisjhop did in Cochin before embarking for Goa.
Chapter 2- Of how Archbishop swore in the King of Porca as Brother in arms of the King of Portugual and of the agreement made with him.
Chapter 3- Of how the Archbishop left Cochin, and what happened until he met King Samorin.
Chapter 4- Of how the Archbishop met Samorin, King of Calicut on the beach of Coriche.
Chapter 5- Of how the Archbishop visited church of Mangalore and of a noteworthy case of a penitent who confessed to him, where also is given information of the place of the fort of the Serra of Assarim.
Chapter 6- Of the Visitation of the churches of Basrur and Honawar, and of a feast which was celebrated in Honawar in the Kingdom of Gerussoppa.
Chapter 7- Of the Archbishop arrived in Goa and of a notable conversion of a gentile, which took place before he entered the city.
Chapter 8- Of what happened in the Bishopric of Serra after the Archbishop returned to Goa.
Chapter 9- Of how the Archbishop was determined to take Cassanars of Serra to the Island of Socotora and to do for its Christendom, what he had done for that of the Malabar.
Chapter 10- Of the rites and customs observed by the Bedouins of Socotora who were called Christians.
Chapter 11- Of how was discovered a settlement in the bishopric of Serra of Christians who were not baptized and received the baptism and of three Religious of the Order of our Father St. Augustine whom the Archbishop send to Great Shah of Persia.
Chapter 12- Of the three Religious Ambassadors left from Ormuz and made their voyage until they reached the Court of Shah Abbas I and what they discussed with him.
Chapter 13- Of how Shah Abbas I sent an Ambassador of his in my company to the Viceroy of India.
Jornada is an important historical document of Sixteenth century. Scholarly footnotes, introduction makes this book a must read for those interested in the history of St. Thomas Christians. The book is published by LRC and prized at Rs.500 /-
Picture – 1. Front Cover of Jornada of Dom Alexis de Menezes: A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth century Malabar edited by Dr. Pius Malekandathil
Picture – 2. Original cover of “Jornada do Arcebispo” by Antonio de Gouvea
Picture -3 Map of places of Malabar as described in Jornada 1606.
Author can be reached on admin at nasrani dot net
- The controversial Synod of Diamper has been proved invalid by late Bishop Jonas Thaliath in his thesis at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1952 on the ground that it was convoked without authority, conducted not according to the Canon of the Church and was never properly approved by Rome – Synod of Diamper by Jonas Thaliath [↩]
- http://www.tanap.net/content/universities/counterparts.cfm?ArticleID=159 [↩]