St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal: History

The former church of Arthunkal is made of coconut palm leaves and wood years back, the land area that come under the diocese of Alleppy was governed by a group of ie, 72 Madampees {a baron’s title among Nayars} Kaimals who were the followers of king of cochin were the most prominent among them Though the land came under the province of the king, Moothedathu Kaimal who governed place was not interested in building church. But a cardinal (Casanar/Kathanar) used to comes to do all the religious ceremonies for the people who belonged to the kingdom of Moothedathu (Arthunkal). This is reported by Mulbavar (Mullbuer), a historian of the time According to this tradition There was a chapel in 1569 which was thatched with coconut palm leaves. It was named after St. Thomas Chapel. To commemorate this Statue is kept in the southern side of the new church. In 1581 the granted permission to make a church by the noble endeavors Fr.Gasper Pious S.J. in “Ishosabha” monk who came from Italy. Even the Hindus who lived there helped financially to construct the church building. Even before the feast day of St. Andrews {November 30} the church building was completed with wood and palm leaves. It was first church at Arthunkal and was named after St. Andrew’s. It was later visited by the King who suggested vicar of the church to reconstruct the same. During these days many people started converting as Christians. The Portuguese missionaries established "Santharthre mission" and forced the Marthomite Christians to accept the Latin rite. The first vicar was Fr.Gasper Pious S.J. Died in 1584. After his death Fr. Jaicomo Fenicio who was an Italian by birth became the parish priest in the year 1584. He is the real architect of the Christian society at Arthunkal. In order to protect the church from battles and robbers Fr. Jaicomo Fenicio got permission from the king to build the new church using stones. It was successfully completed it in 7 years. After Fr Fenicio was transferred to Kozhikode in 1579, eight priests took charge in succession.

Fr Fenicio was appointed again in 1619, and in the next year, he reconstructed the church. He was much loved and was considered a holy man by the people and the administrators. People called him saint and 'Veluthachan', meaning white father. 'Veluthachan' later became the popular name of St. Sebastian. Fr Fenicio said to have performed lots of miracles while he was still alive. Even Hindus believed in the power of his prayers and approached him for his blessings. He was known as the second Apostle of the east and died in 1632. Huge was the crowd including kings flowed in, to pay him the final tribute. His body was buried inside the church and people used to pray and light candles there. The tomb is still preserved near the altar of the old church. Later in 1640, Fr. Fossaseka who took charge after Fr.Fenicio rebuilt it facing towards west.

In 1647 the statue of St. Sebastian was brought from Milan and placed here. In 18th Century, the church was taken charge by Carmelite missionaries from Jesuit missionaries. During the Carmelite service on 29 November 1829. Blessed Chavara Kuriyakose Ealiyas was ordained by Rt. Rev. Dr. Stabalini the Bishop of Verapoly who was residing in Arthunkal St.Andrew's church.

In the second half of the 19th century, Fr Gasper Bylon de Mariatoris Kaithavalappil was appointed vicar, to be the first local priest to take charge of Arthunkal Church next Fr.Francisck Xavriyar Thy Thereath 1890--1905. During the vicar ship of Fr. Vincent Das Navis, in 1910, foundation stone for the present new church was laid.

Fr. Sebastian Presentation who was considered a holy priest, Msgr Silvarius Jackson who later became the first Vicar General of the diocese of Alappuzha and Msgr Daniel Kurisunkal who completed the present church, were the successors. Msgr Daniel Kurisunkal was followed by Msgr Peter Karumancherry, Rev. Dr. Dominic Koil Parampil, Msgr Andrew, Fr. Paul Arackal, Fr. Mariyan Jose Periera.

The present Vicar Forane is Rev. Fr. Pius Arattukulam assisted by Rev. Fr. Titus Chullickal, Rev. Fr Sebastian Sasthamparampil, and Rev Fr Joseph Jenesius Saiza, who is in charge of Little Flower Church, Ayiramthai.

The Church sextons are Sam James Koil Parampil and Vincent Johnson. The Church trustees are Jos Kakkariyil, Simon Kurisunkal and Johny Pulickal.

Arthunkal St. Andrew's Forane Church, the first Parish of the Diocese of Alleppey has been elevated to the status of Basilica on 9th of July 2010. Arthunkal Basilica will become the first Basilica in the Diocese of Alleppey and the 7th Basilica in Kerala.

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