October 13, 2017
Kochi: The oldest European church in India is dying to get the Tourism Department’s big push. Built in 1503, the St Francis CSI Church is one of the main attractions of Kochi in Kerala.
The heritage site can be turned a gold mine if the Tourism Department makes a sincere attempt to promote it as a major destination.
The body of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who navigated the rough seas and landed in India, was buried on the church premises in 1524. His death happened during his third visit to India. It was 14 years later that his remains were removed to Lisbon.
The church was witness to the European colonial struggle in the subcontinent. The advent of the Dutch in 1663 led to expulsion of all European Catholic priests and demolition of all churches, except this. They rebuilt it and made it a government church. Later, the British took possession of it and it is now a CSI church supported by Archaeological Society of India.
The main attraction here is the hand driven fans and the Doop Book which gives details of baptisms and marriages that took place between 1751 and 1804. The record was made up of leaves and as it started to get damaged it was sent to London to be converted into a paper book.
Unfortunately, most of those visiting the church are not fortunate enough to see a demonstration of the working of these fans. They also do not get to see the Doop Book as there is none to brief them. Like the non-functional fans are the volunteers of the Tourism Department as they are never found in the vicinity. Tourists reaching the place complain that it a great disservice despite the fact that tourism is also a huge foreign exchange earner, given the number of visitors from abroad.