Leaving Kanyakumari, we decided to drive up the western coast toward Rameshwaram. Gopal guided us to Manappad, which was an interesting place. It was a small, poor town with large cathedral-like churches at each end and interesting, large European houses. Sort of strange, really.
Traditional stories say that in 1540, a Portuguese trading vessel, while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope on its way to the East, encountered a violent storm splitting its sails and snapping the hind mast, leaving it at risk of foundering. The captain, who was devoted to the veneration of the Holy Cross, implored and entrusted the safety of the vessel and that of the crew to the crucified Christ. He also made a vow that he would construct a cross from a portion of the splintered mast and have it planted on the shore where they alighted in safety. By chance, the vessel, after having drifted for several days, sought haven in the then well known port of Kulesakharapatnam.
A miracle is said to have occurred when the cross was still in the form of a log cut off from the broken mast. When the mast was lying on the shore, an inhabitant of the village who had trampled on filth had cleansed his foot on this log. No sooner had he wiped his leg than he felt a pain and instantaneous swelling. That night the man had a vision in which it was revealed to him that the ailment was due to his defiling the log intended for a sacred purpose. He was asked to wipe the muck off the log, smear the log with oil, and then apply the same oil to his foot to cure it. Early next morning, the patient was carried to the log, and to the amazement of the crowd that had collected there, the man was cured immediately and able to walk back home unaided. This remarkable event made the planting of the Cross by the captain an occasion of great piety and festivity. From then onwards, the name and fame of the captain's cross spread throughout the Coromandel Coast.
St. Francis Xavier
Manapad was mostly inhabited by the Paravars who had embraced Christianity in 1532. However, for want of missionaries, the neophytes remained nominal Christians until the arrival and ministration of St. Francis Xavier in October 1542. Xavier chose a grotto which he preferred to use for a home. The cave was known in the pre-Christian era as "Valli's cave", a counterpart of the one at Tiruchendur. It is now a signal grotto with a carved stone at its entrance carrying the words: "This cave, the dwelling of a saivite sanyasi, has been sanctified by the prayers and penance of St. Francis Xavier".
Xavier used the Captain's Cross which, with its raised platform and an overhead covering, worked as a built-in chapel, enabling him to offer daily services. St. Francis ministered the area until November 1543 when he returned to Goa. The next year, he was again at Manappad in March, June, August and September 1544 and went to Travancore in November.
Xavier was held in high regard by the people of Manapad for his austerity, moral strictness, compassion, and wise counsel. During his stay there, with the help of the pandits of Manapad, he translated the rudiments of the common prayers and trained the first catechists. (from Wikipedia)
Church of the Holy Cross (Turns out we never actually saw the Church of the Holy Cross as it is outside the village, so this picture is from Wikipedia.)
After more miracles, the church of the Holy Cross was built in the year 1581, encasing the Captain's Cross. Contributions towards building of the church were spontaneously given by the inhabitants and Rev. Fr.John de Salanova, the parish priest of the only church in the village (then dedicated to the "Queen of Heaven"), was able to complete construction long before the scheduled time.
Relic of the True Cross
With the erection of the church, Rev.John de Salanova decided it should possess a relic of the True Cross. In 1583 he appealed to Rome through the General of the Jesuits Rev. Fr. Aquaviva for a fragment of the True Cross. Pope Gregory XIII obliged and the relic appears to have arrived at Cochin in the first week of August 1583. Rev. Mathew de Medina of the Order of Christ [disambiguation needed ], the prelate of Cochin, received the relic, after exposing it for three days for the veneration of the faithful, he inaugurated the grand tour of the relic all along the coastal belt with halts in places of Catholic predominance. The procession reached Manapad a few days before the festival of the Exaltation of the True Cross. Many Catholics followed in procession with the relic. In later years, Manapad came to be a traditional place of pilgrimage to those of the Malabar Coast. (from Wikipedia)
The following pictures are two impressive churches in this small place. I didn't get the names of them.
|This was the first church we came to.|
|Apparently, the first church had saintly relics at this altar.|
|There's one little street between the two large churches.|
|This is one of the interesting, large houses on that little street.|
|This is the other church at the other end of the street. I liked this photo because it gives you that sense of desolation I felt when I was there.|
Manappad was a strange little place, but apparently it has significant importance to Christians as you can see in the fascinating history.