Parish History

Parish HistorySt. Thomas Mar Thoma Church Kozhencherry


Well known civilizations in the world we know, flourished on the banks of rivers. Similarly, a settlement flourished on the banks of the sacred river Pampa from the thirteenth century at the earliest. The concentration of these settlements was near 'Kovilancheri', which according to legends is the original name for 'Kozhencherry'.

The founding of the Church at Kozhencherry

Certain ancient Christian families who resided on the banks of river pampa have recorded their origins and these evidences speak of the early Christian settlers around Kozhencherry to have worshipped in the churches at Maramon and Chengannur. According to these records, the earliest church at Kozhencherry was constructed in 775, according to the Malayalam Era (M.E, 1599). The location of the church, a small thatched building was at Vennapra, a hilly area on the eastern part of the mulayodil field which is situated towards the east of the present St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church. The service in those days was conducted by the ancestors of Maruthur Kadavil Kathanars and the increase in the number of believers necessitated the renovation of the church building to accommodate more people.

The society in those days of Hindu domination was plagued by the evils of caste discrimination and untouchability. While the renovation of the church was in progress, the Kovilansdemolished the church enraged by the supposed disrespect of some of the 'Mappilas'. The prominent Christians of the time organized themselves and brought their grievance to the attention of the ruling King Maharaja Thekkenkoor Kulasekhara. As a result, His Highness the Maharaja graciously granted the land which belonged to the Chengazhasseri illom (where the present Kochupalli is situated) and the land was exempted from giving tax by the authority of the seal of the Maharaja on a Chempola.

The worship was resumed in a temporary structure constructed on the north of the Kochupalli, where the present cemetery stands. The people of the locality joined the Maramon Church for worship until the church was re-established in Kozhencherry.

Around 950 M.E.(1774) a new church was established in the name of Virgin Maryin the location of the present Kochupalli. In those days, Ayroor Thazhamon Easo Kathanar and Thevarthundiyil Valliathundiyil Moppachan served as priests. After that Melel Chandy Kathanar, Pallipeedikayil Kurian Kathanar and Thevervelil Mathai Kathanar served as parish priests.

In the wake of Naveekaranam, on Chingam 21, 1012M.E. (1836), a memorandum submitted to the British Resident of the period Hon. Coloner Paeser complaining about the undue domination of the Patriarch of Antioch and about the inaccessibility to the Bible, it is seen that the vicar of Kozhencherry Church.

Vanchithra Valiya Thundiyil Geevarghese Kathanar too was one of the signatories. (Ittoop, History p.197, Mar Thoma Sabha Directory, 1983.p.71).

Kozhencherry Church after Naveekaranam

Subsequent to the 'Naveekaranam' in Malankara Church, launched by Abraham Malpan, in 1012 M.E. (1836) the Syrian Church split into the Mar Thoma Church and the Jacobite Church, following a court order. As a result, many churches and assets were lost to our ancestors. The Kochupalli was among the very few churches allotted to us. Afterwards, the Marthomites and the Jacobites conducted their worship in the Kochupallitaking turns.

Thomas Kathanar, the grandson of Kurumthottickal Tharakan was ordained as priest in 1047 M.E. (1871). when Cherukara PhiliposeMalpan became Malpan in Kottayam, he was consulted by the priests of Kozhencherry Church, who were enthusiastic supporters of Naveekaranam.

As the Malpan left Kottayam and settled in Ayroor in 1061 M.E. (1885), it became possible for him to devote more attention to the Kozhencherry Church, assisted by his disciples Rev. Geevarghese Valiya Thundiyil, Rev. Thomas Kurumthottickal and Rev. Mathai Poyanil. With the bifurcation that occurred in the Church in 1050 M.E. (1874) following the Patriarch of Antioch's visit, Rev. Mathai Thevervelil conducted worship once in five times, taking turns on the basis of the number of priests on each side. Rev. Geevarghese II Valiathundiyil and Rev. Philipose Cherukara (Ayroorachen) were ordained priests on the Marthomite side. In 1069 M.E.(1893) the Church was renovated. On the northern side of the compound wall, where the old Church had existed, a piece of land was set apart for use as a cemetery.The expenses were met by the Marthomites. On finishing the work, the Jacobites were asked to meet a share of the expenses which was not obliged to by them. The dissension which grew out of this resulted in a samaricase in Medam 1069 M.E. (1893). Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan and Ayroorachan appeared as witnesses and gave testimony. The judgement asked the Jacobites to remit a share of the expenses if they were to conduct the worship once in five times. But the Jacobites were not prepared to comply with it. They secured a place of their own and established a Church, which they could use with full freedom. This left the Kochupalli exclusively to the Marthomites. As the large majority of Christian families of this area continued to support Naveekaranam, the number of parishioners increased and the Kozhencherry Church grew stronger day by day.

In Kumbham 1065 M.E. (1889) Kurumthottickal Thomas Kathanar passed away and in 1070 M.E. (1894) his third son was invested as a deacon. He was ordained priest in Medam 1074 M.E. (1898) and entered the service of the church. As Rev. C. P. Philipose had the charge of other churches and social commitments also, the other four priests of Kozhencherry church became the Vicars for one year each in turn. While this practice was being followed, the parishioners of Kozhencherry felt that it would be more helpful to appoint Kurumthottickal Thomas Kathanar II (Rev. K. T. Thomas) as the Vicar of the church. Accordingly Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan appointed him the Vicar of the Kozhencherry church in 1087 M.E. (1911).

After the appointment of Rev. K. T. Thomas as Vicar, worship and prayer meetings came to be conducted regularly. The income and expenditure accounts began to be recorded systematically. He received the unstinting support of the parishioners in all this. In the church activities, he was assisted by the evangelists Thanathottathil Mathen Upadesi, Kuriannoor and KoyikalethuMathaiUpadesi, Keezhukara. The Church which had been in a state of financial insecurity till then reached a state of total financial self-reliance by the tireless efforts of Kurumthottickal Achen.

The establishment of the Valia Palli at Kozhencherry

In order to accommodate the increasing number of parishioners, it became inevitable to enlarge the Kochupalli. To renovate the church, Achen subscribed to several curies (Chitties). When the terms of thechitties were about to end and the amounts due were about to be realized, plans were discussed in the kaisthanasamiti and EdavakaSangham. As Achen had foreseen it, there was strong opposition from the parishioners about demolishing the Kochupalli. Many of them wanted the Kochupalli to be kept intact as it was one of the very few buildings representing the antiquity and the treasured traditions of the Mar Thoma church. However, the edavakasangham was aware of the inadequacy of the available plot and it was decided to secure a new plot and construct a new church. Some were of the opinion that if a plot adjoining the church ground on the western side was purchased there would be enough space to construct a new Church. But there was a pathway in between the two plots. The intervention of the influential Rev. C. P. Philipose was instrumental in arranging a new pathway in place of the old one. After this, the Mannurethu plot on the western side of the church was bought and under the inspiring leadership of Kurumthottickal Achen, the initial steps were taken to build the new church.

Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan laid the foundation stone of the church on 8 Vrichikam 1108 M. E. (23-11-1932). Koikalethu Mathai Upadesi gave constant and able support to Kurumthottickal Achen in constructing the Church. On 8th April 1941, the dedication ceremony of the biggest church in Travancore at that time was led by Abraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan. According to the church records, it took only 46, 000/- for the entire construction of the church. Even today, this imposing edifice, remarkable for its architectural beauty, with its walls built of perfectly shaped stones stands tall in central Travancore in all its grandeur and majesty.

In 1979 with the formation of Immanuel Mar Thoma Church at Cherukole, 140 families who had been members of the Kozhencherry Church left the Church. Today St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Kozhencherry has the largest congregation with more than 1780 families and about 13475 members. As a result of the efforts of our Church, several institutions which have proved a blessing to many in the entire area have been established. A reputed college, an Industrial Training Centre, separate High schools for Boys and Girls, a Higher Secondary School adjoining St. Thomas High School, an English Medium Senior Secondary School, a magnificent auditorium in the proximity of St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, shopping complexes, a Pain and Palliative care unit and a counseling Centre are all our contributions. Indeed the Mar Thoma Church has played a key role, in many ways the most significant role, in the development of Kozhencherry and its surrounding areas. All these years we have been blessed by the grace of the Almighty God. May the Lord help us to "dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness" in all humility and mutual care.

© Copyright 2024 St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church All rights reserved.

Designed by : Dom Technolabs