Monday, 13 November 2017

St. Thomas Cross of India - steeped in history, first century!!

Saint Thomas cross en.wikipedia.org
Above image:  The image is that of a Cross called Saint Thomas Christian Crosses. They refer to the  are ancient crosses that belonged to the pretty old community of Saint Thomas Christians of India, whose forefathers were initiated into Christianity way back in the first century by  St Thomas the Apostle, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. century.................

it is a universally accepted fact that Cross has been a symbol of Christians  of various denominations all over the world.  Way back in the beginning, it is said that Primitive Christian groups used the image of fish as their symbol.  According to Tertullian (b AD 160) the Sign of  cross was reported to be used by primitive Christians.  Only in the  third century cross was linked with  divinity and Clement of Alexandria mentions that the Cross was considered as the symbol of the Lord. Emergence of cross as  the public symbol of Christians took place in the 4th century after the finding of the real Cross of Calvary by saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine who made the declaration that  Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Earlier, Romans and Greeks  used cross as a sign of punishment  and executed people on crosses. Later the cross became a well-established symbol of Christianity.  

Being a multi-religious country, India has been home to many religions for centuries, dating back to first and second centuries. The Saint Thomas Christian community of India traces their origins to the time of the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.  His main purpose was to spread the Gospel of Christ among the natives and engage in evangelistic activities in India. Considered as one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the  Cross been venerated by all St Thomas Christians from ancient times. They have inscriptions in Pahlavi (Middle Persian) and Syriac which indicate that they date to before the eight century.

These carved crosses are decorative and are set inside the churches. These are not typical crucifix as it is commonly found to be. It is a plain cross which doesn’t show Christ on the cross. it is imperative to note that In Eastern  and Syrian Christianity, the plain cross is the symbol of the triumph of Christ’s life over death, a typical symbolism in Eastern Christianity. The
Saint Thomas Christian crosses come under different categories. They are: Mar Thoma Silba (Saint Thomas Cross), Persian Cross (also called leaved cross as they have a set of leaves at the bottom), and Nasrani Sthambam (open-air rock cross; the plinth of this cross has rose petals, lotus flowers and a square base).

Mar Thoma cross is found at Kadamattom,
Kottayam Muttuchira, Kothanalloor  and Alangad in the South Indian state of Kerala. Outside Kerala, it is  found in Goa and Tamil Nadu in India, Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and Taxila in Pakistan. Flowery Persian Crosses are found at Kottakkavu, Pallipuram and Niranam. The large rock crosses with no shelter over them called  Nasrani Sthambams are found in the front part of many St. Thomas Christian churches in Kerala. An interesting  recorded fact is that before the Portuguese explorers landed in India way back in 1498 on the coastal Malabar, there existed 
more than 150 Syrian churches and many of them disappeared in the wake of  Goa Inquisition under Portuguese rule in the 1500s as part of Kerala came under their rule.


The following places are well-known for the installation of Marthoma crosses (silba is a Syriac term meaning cross):

St. Thomas Mount, Chennai, Tamil Nadu:
 
Our Lady of Expectation),St. Thomas mount, Chennai. Flickr

St. Thomas Mount, Senhora Da Expectacao (Our Lady of Expectation) iCitySeeker

Persian cross at St Thomas Mount,en.wikipedia.org/
Above image: Persian cross at St Thomas Mount, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. 
The Cross is at Our Lady of Expectations Church under the Roman Catholic diocese of Chingelpet (Madras-Mylapore). St Thomas, the Apostle of India visited and settle 
down in what is now Madras (now Chennai)
around 70 AD. It is strongly believed that he himself  carved a stone cross with his own fingernail. This cross was alleged to have  been bleeding  for close to 100 years.  It was the Portuguese who discovered the mountain and cave he called home  and  built 
the Church of "Our Lady of Expectations" here in 1523 and formed the fort town of San Thome in Madras. The shrine was built  on the spot where St. Thomas died (martyred)  way back in 72 AD. It may be small, but nevertheless, but it  is historically an important pilgrimage center for ardent Christian devotees..........

 Kottakkavu Sliva, the Persian cross, Kerala:

Kottakkavu Mar ThomaNorth paravur. Kottakkavu Mar Thoma
 Above image: Kottakkavu Sliva, the Persian cross founded by Mar Sabor and Mar Proth, is well preserved at Kottakkavu Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Pilgrim Center, North Paravur, Kerala that was
 established in 52 AD by St. Thomas. It is the first church in India and is called an Apostolic Church credited to the Apostolate of St. Thomas who preached and also started conversion of people to Syriac Christianity here. It was part of the Ezharappallikal (seven and half churches) that he established in India; the other six churches were established at Kodungalloor, Kokkamangalam, Palayoor, Kollam, Niranam, and Nilackal and the last one bein in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu..........

Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Church, Arakuzha, Kerala:
Mariam Syro-Malabar Church, Arakuzha,kerala en.wikipedia.org

Above image:  This is the image of  an open air rock cross also called Nasrani sthambam (pillar) in front of Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Church, Arakuzha, Kerala.
It is  under the Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabar Church. This Cross is considered to be the oldest one in India. It is a historical  fact that St. Thomas Christians of Arakuzha have more than 1500 years of recorded history. This region  covering Kothamangalam, Vazhakulam, Arakuzha, Mylakompu, Nagapuzha, Muthalakodam of erstwhile Travancore kingdom has some very old Syrian churches dating  several centuries back . Arakuzha, being an ancient Syrian Christian centre, it is recorded,  gave  asylum to thousands of  migrant Syrian Christians during the Tipu Sultan (of Mysore)'s invasion here and  persecution of Nasranis and destruction of churches. 

Kadamattam Church Kerala:

Nasrani cross at Kadamattom en.Wikipedia.org

Persian cross,Kadamattom Church. en.wikipedia.org
Above image: This Cross is at Kadamattom Church of the Oriental Orthodox Church.  It  situated close  to Kolenchery town near Muvattupuzha, Earnakulam District  is one of the ancient churches in India dating back to the 9th Century AD. It is believed the old church was built before AD 650, as  confirmed  by the fact that, at  that  time, Kolencherry Church (built around AD 650) had not yet come into existence. Built on a property  donated by  the 'Karthas', the then prominent family of Kadamattom, this church is located near the  Kochi -Madurai National Highway 49 and lies one kilometer (0.62 mi) after the Peruvammuzhi Junction.  The major attraction here is an old  Persian cross with four equal arms and ancient writings inscribed on it  and can be seen on the right wall of the Madhbaha or Holy of Holies.  The wings of the cross also end with floral designs.

Muttuchira church, Kerala:

Muttuchira Church en.Wikipedia.org
 Above image: This Cross is at Ruha d' Kudsha Church under the eparchy of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Muttuchira, Kerala. This Cross is at Holy Ghost Church under the diocese of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Kottayam, Kerala. The Muttuchira church, one of the most ancient churches in India, is believed to be built  in the sixth century AD. The Christians  were encouraged to come to this territory by the dependants of the then land lord Myal Pazhur Naboothiripadu and Mamalassery Kaimal. These local rulers helped the Christian congregation build a new church in that area. Kallarveli family played a key role in the construction of the church. Later many others came and settled here from other places The consecration day of Muttuchira church took plae on the arrival of Pentecost on 25 May, 550 AD.(?)..........


Cross in the Kaduthuruthy Valiapally:

Granite Cross of Kaduthuruthy Vallyapalli wikipedia org.

 :

Above image: The historic monolithic Cross in the Kaduthuruthy Valiapally is 50 feet in height and is the highest open air monolithic stone (made of granite) Cross in Asia. Bishop Mar Abraham (1568-1597) directed the Southists to build a 
cross from a granite block and to place in the courtyard of the church. Southist soldiers of Kaduthuruthy effectively protected Mar Abraham by making a formation against Portuguese army and frequently changed his seat from Kaduthuruthy to Udayamperur, Kottayam and Chungam. Mar Abraham was the last Syrian bishop sent by East Syrian Catholicos to his Malabar church. The sculpture and carving work of the Cross from a single stone block had completed with a total height of 50 feet in AD 1596. It was so huge a structure that it was very difficult to position the cross in the courtyard of the Valiapally. During that time when they faced difficulty in erecting the cross in upright position, a miracle had happened. Virgin Mary-the patron of the Kaduthuruthy Vallyapalli revealed herself as an old woman (Muthiyamma) and helped them to set the cross in upright position, This cross is believed to have been touched by her divine hand. 

St. Mary's Knananya Church,Kottayam:

St. Mary's Knanaya Jacobite Syrian Church Syriac Christianity

Above image:  The Cross here at St. Mary's Knananya Church  is considered of late origin (Ca 10th century);  the Pahlavi inscriptions of this church are famous. Built in 1550 C.E, this church belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community. The Persian cross, believed to be one of the seven brought here by St. Thomas. St. George's Feast, an annual event,  falls on April 24. It is situated 2 km to the west of Kottayam city.

Akaparambu Catholic Church,Kerala:

This Cross is at St. Gervasis and Prothasis Church under the eparchy of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

St. Gervasis and Prothasis othanalloorforanechurch.com

Catholic Church at Akaparambu is  about 1.5 km. away east of Kariyad  on Angamally-Aluva national high way. The Akaparambu Catholic Church, which is one of the twin churches, is named after twin brothers, Saints Gervasis & Prothasis, who were martyred in Milan, Italy for protecting the Christian faith in the second century. This is the only church in the patronage of these twin Saints in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamally. The Christian faith and tradition of Akaparambu  goes back to  first century. Knanaya rite  was introduced with the arrival of Knanaya priests along with foreign migrants in the fourth century. At that point of time,  a church was built here with the support of Knanaya missionaries in 825 A D. This Church has been  known as ‘Church of Kanthisans’ since the ancient time.

Thomas Cross at Agasaim, Goa: 

Thomas Cross in Agasim,700 AD/ gaunkar.com/
Above image: The Thomas Cross found in Agasim is from 700 A.D and has Phalavi letters. It suggests the presence of Persian Christians living in Goa.The Cross is now kept at Pilar Seminary Museum.

 Agasaim: The port of Gopakpattan on the banks 
of Zuari  was once a busy one, but now has receded into  relative obscurity long ago, and the archaeological remains of its glorious past and global links are faded beyond redemption due to  neglect. The Port's links with Persia in the 6th century and the first archaeological findings have become a heap of trash and stones. A cross with unique features at Dandi marked the past links with Persia.
Lying in a serene corner of Agasaim, barely 500m north-west of the Zuari bridge, this cross outside St Peter's chapel holds sentimental value for researchers, as another small granite cross with an inscription in Persia's Pahlavi language was found within its structure that shows signs of fading due to age and vagaries of weather conditions.

According to 
a historian and priest of Pilar society, Fr Cosme Costa, ."The unique half broken granite cross is a valuable find for Goa's history, as it resembles other crosses found on the rim of Indian Ocean," . The cross is two-and-half feet in height, about one foot in breadth and six inches in thickness. Adorned with a lotus pedestal, it has a depiction of the Holy Spirit descending on it. The existence of Christianity in Goa before the advent of the Portuguese has been always known.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/A-cross-to-pay-homage-to/articleshow/44903344.cms


Other Crosses:

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.  It is  at Anuradhapura museum and was found during excavations of Anuradhapura in 1912. This cross is considered as the oldest cross in Sri Lanka.

Taxila, Pakistan:  The cross is kept at the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection, Lahore.


There is a St Thomas cross in stone on the porch of the Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Killinghall, carved by Charles Mawer of Leeds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kottakkavu_Mar_Thoma_Church,_North_Paravur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arakuzha

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas_Christian_cross