Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Monday, September 10, 2007

St. Francis Church, Cochin

This weekend we flew to Cochin (aka Kochi), on India's west coast. This old spice port is now a popular tourist spot, but in the monsoon it's not so full. So our hotel was empty or nearly empty while we were there, and restaurants and tourist sites were sparsely inhabited. We were mainly in Fort Cochin, the section with the most preserved old buildings---and westerners.

What was most surprising was just how Christian Kochi was. There wasn't a Hindu temple to be found in the immediate area around Ft. Cochin. This may just be because it's been preserved more or less the way it was when it really was a colony, in the 1500s/1600s, but when we went to Vypin, the island directly north of Ft. Cochin, we didn't see any temples either. There were lots of little shrines to saints.

These pix are from St. Francis church in Fort Cochin. Many of the girls pictured were on a field trip from Chennai -- that's quite a long way. The church is rather a celebrated place in that it once held the remains of Vasco de Gama, who died in Cochin in 1524. The Portuguese took his remains back to Portugal about 15 years later, but the much-worn gravestone has been mounted on the church floor. And presumably the church, being Catholic then, was a lot more shiny and colorful. The Dutch lay siege to Cochin in 1663 and took it over then. They left this church, but they did strip it down to its present Low Church appearance.

Below are the church's punkahs (old-fashioned fans), still operational. The vertical ropes just keep the fans in place, but the horizontals ones extend outside the building, where presumably during services there are punkah-wallahs ("fan-guys") pulling the ropes. I suppose it wouldn't be too bad a job, as long as you were in the shade and had a chair. I forgot to investigate or ask about the punkahs, so for all I know the ropes are attached to a motor these days. Somehow I doubt it.

The church is now part of the Church of South India, which takes its doctrine from several different Protestant denominations.

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