The Santa Cruz Cathedral stands as one of India’s most remarkable and awe-inspiring churches, attracting tourists all year round. It serves both as a site of profound devotion and a repository of historical importance, boasting architectural and artistic splendor. Built-in 1505, this Catholic Church nestled in Fort Kochi is renowned for its Gothic architectural style and Portuguese-inspired interiors. The church’s unparalleled beauty and grandeur make it an essential destination for anyone visiting Fort Kochi.
Santa Cruz Basilica: An Overview
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, nestled in Fort Kochi, stands as one of India’s eight Basilicas. This awe-inspiring Roman Catholic Church is a significant attraction for tourists visiting Kochi. Being among the oldest churches in Cochin and throughout India, the Santa Cruz Cathedral is recognized as a cherished heritage site in Kerala. Its doors are open year-round, welcoming visitors from across the globe. Positioned near St. Francis, this church hosts vibrant celebrations during the revered church festival dedicated to Mother Mary, which is enthusiastically embraced by the diocese.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica also recognized as Kotta Palli, stands proudly in Fort Kochi, Kochi, as one of the eight basilicas in the state of Kerala. Regarded as a cherished heritage site in Kerala, this church holds a prominent position as one of India’s most exquisite and awe-inspiring places of worship. Tourists from around the world visit this architectural and artistic marvel throughout the year, making it a destination of both spiritual reverence and historical importance. Adorned with the splendid architectural features and vibrant colors of the Gothic style, this basilica encapsulates a rich tapestry of cultural significance.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica functions as the primary cathedral of the Diocese of Cochin.
Originally constructed by the Portuguese and subsequently granted cathedral status by Pope Paul IV in 1558, Santa Cruz was one of the few Catholic buildings spared during the Dutch conquest. However, it faced demolition by the British, after which a new structure was commissioned by João Gomes Ferreira in 1887. Consecrated in 1905, Santa Cruz was later honored with the title of basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica’s history harkens back to the sixteenth century, commencing with the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in 1500 CE. Construction began after the first Portuguese Viceroy, Dom Francisco de Almeida, obtained permission from the Cochin Raja to erect a church. The foundation stone was ceremoniously placed on May 3, 1505, coinciding with the feast day of the ‘Invention of the Holy Cross,’ which led to the church’s christening as Santa Cruz. Over time, the church underwent significant cycles of demolition and reconstruction. The present-day structure was consecrated on November 19, 1905. In 1984, Pope John Paul II elevated the status of Santa Cruz Cathedral to that of a Basilica due to its venerable age, artistic grandeur, and historical significance.
This remarkable edifice features two towering spires that extend a warm welcome even from a considerable distance. Its exterior is pristine and strikingly luminous, while the interior is adorned with pastel hues. Inside, the church showcases Gothic-style architecture characterized by its imposing arches and a profoundly awe-inspiring altar. The main altar was intricately adorned by the renowned Italian painter Fr. Antonio Moscheni and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore. Their artistic legacy is vividly displayed in the columns, adorned with frescoes and murals. The church also boasts seven large canvas paintings, including a splendid reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper,’ offering a visual delight. The church’s ceilings are adorned with paintings that narrate scenes from Christ’s Via Crucis, and its exquisite stained glass windows further enhance its allure.
Due to its unparalleled beauty and magnificence, the church has established itself as an essential destination in Fort Kochi.
The Historical Account Of Santa Cruz Basilica
The history of Santa Cruz Basilica commences with the arrival of Portuguese missionaries as part of the second Portuguese fleet led by Pedro Álvares Cabral on December 24, 1500 AD. They were warmly received by King Godha Varma I of Cochin, which led to the Zamorin of Calicut declaring war against Cochin. However, in 1503, the Portuguese army, under the command of Dom Afonso de Albuquerque, arrived in Cochin and successfully defeated the Zamorin’s forces. In appreciation for their support, the King of Cochin granted them permission to construct a fort in Cochin.
In the year 1505, Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy, secured permission from the Cochin Raja to construct a church using stones and mortar, a groundbreaking endeavor given the prevailing local prejudices, which restricted such structures to royal palaces or temples. On May 3, 1505, during the celebration of the ‘Invention of the Holy Cross,’ the foundation stone for the Santa Cruz church was ceremoniously laid. Consequently, the completed architectural marvel was christened “Santa Cruz.” This church occupied a location on the eastern side of what is now Children’s Park in Fort Cochin.
In 1558, Pope Paul IV elevated the Santa Cruz Church to the esteemed status of a Cathedral while also establishing the Cochin diocese as the second diocese in India. Subsequently, when the Dutch seized Cochin in 1663, they razed all Catholic structures to the ground. Only the St. Francis Church and the Cathedral were spared from this destructive fate. The Dutch repurposed the Cathedral as an armory, and it later came under British control in 1795, leading to its demolition. Today, a decorative granite pillar from the Cathedral’s ruins stands as a monument at the southeastern corner of the current Basilica grounds.
In 1887, a century after its initial construction, Bishop D. Joao Gomes Ferreira (1887-1897) arrived in Cochin and spearheaded the effort to rebuild the Cathedral. He initiated the construction, but it was his successor, Bishop D. Maheus de Oliveira Xavier (1897-1909), who ultimately finished the edifice. On November 19, 1905, the Cathedral was consecrated by Dom Sebastiao Jose Pereira, the Bishop of Damao.
In 1984, the Santa Cruz Cathedral was elevated to the status of a Basilica by Blessed Pope John Paul II through his decree, “Constat Sane Templum Sanctae Cruci,” recognizing its ancient heritage, artistic eminence, and historical importance.
In 2004, Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, a Roman Catholic place of worship, marked its quincentenary, commemorating five centuries of its existence.
The Structural Design Of Santa Cruz Basilica
The Dutch approach to architectural design presents another intriguing facet. The church boasts two imposing spires, a strikingly bright white exterior, and a pastel-hued interior. The church’s interiors predominantly feature Gothic elements, with the main altar adorned by renowned Italian painters. Notably, the Portuguese-built Basilica recently celebrated its 500th anniversary. With its graceful and awe-inspiring interiors, a Gothic facade crowned by towering and resplendent spires, the Basilica stands as a delightful place of worship. The interior is adorned with a vibrant Indo-Romano style of decoration.
The Dutch takeover of Kochi on December 24, 1500 AD, led to the transformation of warehouses into places of worship. The undeniable allure of the stained glass and the majestic Caryatids adorning the confessional boxes may have influenced the Dutch to preserve this site. The Basilica was established shortly after the arrival of the first Portuguese explorers in India.
How to get there Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica Fort Kochi
Via Air: The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, located around 45 km from the destination.
By Train: The closest railway station is Ernakulam railway station, approximately 12 km away.
By Bus: There are frequent bus services connecting Ernakulam and Fort Kochi. The bus journey from Ernakulam town, located approximately 13 kilometers away, typically lasts about an hour. The KSRTC Central Bus Station is conveniently located near Ernakulam Junction Railway Station. Additionally, you can also opt for a taxi or cab from anywhere in Kochi to reach your desired location.
When To Go?
Season: All Year Round
What Should You Know?
Forane: Fort Kochi Forane
Contact Information: Ph.: (0484) 2215799
Address: Bastian Street, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala
Did You Know?
Art Forms: Gothic Architecture
Period Built: 1505 AD
What Will You Spend?
Entry Fee : Free
Proximity To Prominent Attractions In Kochi
Chinese Fishing Nets : A mere 571 meters away
Jew Town : Just 2.21 kilometers away
Jewish Synagogue: Approximately 2.15 kilometers away
Kerala Folklore Museum: About 7.26 kilometers away
Mattancherry Palace : Situated around 2.13 kilometers away
Church of Saint Francis: A short 341 meters away
Wonderla Amusement Park : Located at a distance of 18.14 kilometers
Fort Kochi Beach : A convenient 493 meters away
Cherai Beach : Approximately 21 kilometers away
Kerala Backwaters: A scenic 50.49 kilometers away
Princess Street : A short stroll of 612 meters
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica Mass Schedule
4:30 PM (English)
Special Feast Days
Titular Feast: Holy Cross on November 14th
Our Lady of Most Holy Rosary on the 1st Sunday of October
Our Lady of Fatima on December 31st
Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Help: Saturdays at 5:45 PM