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Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

Santa Cruz Rd, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001, India


The 500 year old Basilica that hosts the relic of The Holy Cross of Jesus Christ.

Location of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

More about Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the nine Basilicas in Kerala. This basilica is a place of devotion as well as a centre for historical significance, endowed with gothic style architectural and artistic magnificence. The basilica serves as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Cochin. The Basilica is more that 500 years old and it has an eventful past going back to the arrival of the Portuguese in Cochin, in AD 1500.

History of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

The history of the Basilica starts with the arrival of the second Portuguese fleet under Pedro Alvares Cabral on 24 December 1500 along with Portuguese missionaries. King Trimumpara Raja of Cochin Kingdom welcomed them and that caused the ruler of Kozhikode Kingdom, Zamorin to declare war on Cochin Kingdom as Zamorin and Portuguese had very bad relation in the Malabar region of Kerala.

The war efforts of Zamorin were not paid off well with the arrival of the Portuguese commander Afonso de Albuquerque in 1503. He and the Portuguese army defeated the enemies of the Cochin Kingdom and the king in return gave permission to the Portuguese to build a fort in Cochi.

Subsequently in 1505, Dom Francisco de Almeida the first Portuguese viceroy got permission from King of Cochin to build a church building and the foundation stone of the church was laid on 3 May 1505 on the day of the ‘Feast of the Cross’. Feasts of the Cross commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. While Good Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion, this day celebrate the cross itself as the instrument of salvation. Since the foundation of the church happend on the day of the Feast of the Cross, the church building when completed was named Santa Cruz, meaning Holy Cross.

Church to Cathedral and demolition

The Santa Cruz Church was raised to Cathedral in 1558 by Pope Paul IV along with the establishment of the second diocese in India- Diocese of Cochin. In 1663 the Dutch conquered Cochin and destroyed all its Catholic buildings (the Portuguese were Roman Catholics, Dutch were Protestants) except the Santa Cruz Cathedral and the nearby St. Francis Church. The Cathedral was converted into arms storehouse of Dutch after the attack.

After the time of the Dutch at the cathedral, it fell into the hands of the British who demolished it  when they took over Cochin in 1795. One of the decorative granite pillars of the destroyed cathedral is still kept as a monument at the south eastern corner of the present Basilica premises.

The present day Santa Cruz Basilica

About a hundred years after the British demolished the church, Bishop of Cochin- João Gomes Ferreira took the initiative to rebuild the cathedral and the next Bishop Mateus de Oliveira Xavier completed the building. The cathedral was consecrated on 19 Novemeber 1905 by Bishop of Damao- Sebastião José Pereira. The Cathedral was then elevated to the status of Basilica by Pope John Paul II on 23 august 1984 considering its antiquity, artistic dignity and historical importance.

Exploring the architecture of Santa Cruz Basilica

The Basilica has two tall spires. The architecture of the Basilica is in Indo- European and Gothic Style with an impressive use of colours.

The main altar is decorated by the Italian painter and Jesuit brother Antonio Moscheni and his disciple. Antonio Moscheni died in Cochin on 15 November 1905 few days before the newly built Cathedral was consecrated. The ceilings of the Basilica are adorned with seven large canvas paintings on the passion and death of Jesus on the Cross, with the painting of the last supper modelled after the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci. The frescos and murals on the life of Christ that decorate the ceilings, interior and the beautiful stained glass windows add charm to the building.

One of the most interesting fact about the basilica is that it hosts the relic of The Holy Cross of Jesus Christ.

Getting to Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

The Basilica is situated at Fort Kochi in Ernakulam City of Kerala State in southern India. There are numerous bus services within Ernakulam City to Fort Kochi bus station from where visitors can either walk or take a taxi/ rickshaw to reach the Basilica. The nearest major railway station too is in Ernakulam which is well connected to rest of the districts of the state and country.