CHRISTIANITY IN TRAVANCORE
The Travancore Darbar proposes to publish an official Manual of the Travancore State and has entrusted to Mr. Nagam Aiya, Settlement Peishkar, the task of compiling this Manual. Mr. Nagam Aiya asked me to assist him with the chapter on Christianity. I have written this chapter and my cordial thanks are due to all who have given me information or advice. Some time will elapse before the other chapters of the Manual are completed and therefore His Highness the Maharaja has permitted the manuscript of this chapter to be printed for facility of perusal and correction, on the understanding that it will be regarded only as a paper written by me and not yet as part of the official Manual. My special thanks are given to Dr. E. Thurston of Madras who has promised to send four illustrations for this chapter.
British Resident in Travancore & Cochin.Trivandrum, October 23rd 1901.
The Travancore manual.
The Christian religion.
The history of Christianity in the Travancore State is a subject of very great interest, not only because there is ground to believe that from early times a Christian church was in existence on this coast, but also because at the present day one-fifth of the people of Travancore are Christians. The greater part of these Christians are known as Syrian Christians. They are Hindus by race and speak the Malayalam language that is spoken by their neighbours who are Hindus by religion. This name, Syrian Christians, has been given because in their churches they still use Syriac or Chaldaic liturgies. These Syrian Christians are found in central and north Travancore, in the Cochin State and in the Malabar district of British India. There are none in south Travancore. The bulk of them are Roman Catholics but nevertheless follow their own Syriac Rite1. Others adhere to the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch2. The remainder approach the Protestant standards of doctrine and ritual and are usually called the Reformed Syrians, although they themselves dislike that name and call themselves the Christians of St. Thomas3. These three bodies of Syrian Christians agree on one point in claiming to be the descendants of the converts made by the Apostle St. Thomas on this coast or of early Christian immigrants from Persia or Mesopotamia.
In addition to the Syrian Christians there is throughout
Travancore a large number of Roman Catholics who follow the usual Latin Rite.
They are the descendants of converts made in the last four
centuries since the Portuguese landed in India, and they have never used
the Syrian Rite. There are also numerous, Protestants who are
converts made in the last century by missionaries of the Anglican Church
Mission Society, of the London Mission Society and of the Salvation army.
If the Dutch, during their stay on this coast, did any mission work
no trace of it now remains.
Tradition assigns the origin of the ancient Christian Church on this coast to the labours of St. Thomas the Apostle. All the Syrian Christians firmly believe that St. Thomas landed at Cranganore in the year 52, established seven churches on this coast4 and suffered a martyr's death at Mailapur or St. Thomas' Mount near the modern city of Madras. This tradition was widely held from early times and it has been accepted as true by many writers of repute. There is in the tradition itself nothing improbable. At that date there was commerce between India and Europe by caravans overland, by the Persian Gulf and by the Red Sea, so that the Apostle could journey to India. The tradition is supported by numerous passages5 in which early writers allude to the work of St. Thomas in India or mention the existence of Christians in India. Several old liturgies and martyrologies speak of St. Thomas in India and this shows that the tradition had spread throughout the various Christian Churches. The truth of this tradition has been doubted by recent writers who suggest that some other man named Thomas in later centuries founded this church or suggest that the name India at that date was applied to the country on the west of the river Indus and not to the peninsula which now bears the name. The arguments put forward by these writers seem hardly sufficient to explain away all the passages which speak of St. Thomas in India and these writers do not give due weight to the antiquity and to the strength of this venerable tradition which is held so tenaciously by all the Syrian Christians.
This Christian Church on the Malabar coast, whether it was founded by St. Thomas or at a later date existed through long centuries and was here in full vigour when the Portuguese anchored at Calicut in 1498, but the materials before that date for any history of this Church are very meagre and to compile that history is a delicate task, because upon these meagre materials the various bodies of Christians now in Travancore have formed opinions wide as the poles asunder.
These opinions may be arranged in four classes: firstly, the Reformed Syrians and many Protestant writers see in this ancient Church a Church of primitive simplicity of doctrine, forcibly compelled by the power of the Portuguese to submit for a time to Rome, but escaping when the Dutch shook the Portuguese supremacy and ever since that date striving to return to its pristine purity of doctrine and ritual6. Secondly, the Latin Roman Catholics regard this Church as a Church which originally held the faith taught by the Apostles but fell into the Nestorian heresy and other errors7 because of the difficulty of communication with Rome. When that difficulty was removed by the arrival of the Portuguese this local Church willingly came into communion with Rome and has since remained in Communion with Rome, notwithstanding the defection of some of their number in 1653. Thirdly, some of the Syrian Roman Catholics are so eager in their zeal for the dignity of their Church that they deny that their Church was ever Nestorian. They say that their Church, founded by an Apostle and using the language which Christ himself spoke when on Earth, always kept the Catholic Faith, was hindered only by distance from union with Rome, embraced the opportunity given by the arrival of the Portuguese to enter into union with Rome and has ever since that date remained a Church of an Oriental Rite in full communion with the Holy See8. Fourthly, the Jacobites maintain that the Patriarch of Antioch has from early times included this coast in his Patriarchate and has therefore had jurisdiction over this Church9. These opinions are put forward at the present day, not only in academic controversy but also as the basis of litigation for the possession of Church property and of Trust funds. An official publication must be neutral in such disputes and all that can here be attempted is to set out the facts with little or no comment, indicating, so far as is possible, the sources from which information has been obtained.
The tradition of the Syrian Christians says that St. Thomas ordained clergy10 who after the Apostle's death carried on the ministry of this infant Church, but here, on the very threshold, controversy begins. The reformed Syrians say that the Apostle ordained priests only and that these priests ordained other priests by laying on of hands11. The Romo-Syrians and the Jacobites say that St. Thomas consecrated bishops and one Latin writer12 tells us that in the East the Apostle founded eight Archbishops' Sees, of which Malabar was one. There is no historical support for either tradition. The first historical fact on record is that one of the bishops present at the council of Nicea in 325 signed the decrees of the council as John, Bishop of Persia and Great India. Nothing is known of this bishop beyond what his signature tells us. He may have been a Persian bishop and the part of his diocese which he calls Great India may be the India west of the Indus13.
A few years after this date a merchant named Thomas Cana trading on this coast became acquainted with this Christian Church and in the year 34514 he brought to Cranganore a colony of four hundred Christians from Bagdad, Nineve and Jerusalem. Among them was a bishop from Edessa named Joseph and several priests and deacons. From the time of this immigration the Church seems to have been on a much firmer footing. It is said that the Ruler of Cranganore, Cheruman Perumal, conferred privileges upon Thomas Cana and on his people. that this Church was now in communication with the Churches of Asia appears from the tradition that the body or part of the body of the Apostle was carried, towards the close of the fourth century, from Mailapur to Edessa.
In the sixth century the Alexandrian traveller, Cosmas Indicopleustes, visited this coast. He says that in Male where the pepper grows, there are Christians and that at Kalliana there is a bishop, usually ordained in Persia. It is supposed that Male here means Malabar and Kalliana seems to be not Quilon but Kalyan near Bombay, but in order to form an opinion it is necessary to read the whole passage: "We have found the Church not destroyed but very widely diffused and the whole world filled with the doctrine of Christ which is being day by day propagated and the Gospel preached over the whole Earth. This, as I have seen with my own eyes in many places and have heard narrated by others, I, as a witness of the truth, relate. In the island of Tabrobane, in the interior India where the Indian ocean is, there exists a Christian Church where clergy and faithful are to be found: whether also further beyond I am unaware. So also in the Male, as it is called, where the pepper grows. But at Kalliana, so named, there is a bishop, generally ordained in Persia. Likewise in the island of Diascoris, situated in the same Indian sea, where the inhabitants speak Greek and are settlers deported there by the Ptolemies, successors of Alexander the Macedonian, you find priests ordained in Persia sent there; there are also a number of Christians15."
The coming to this coast of bishops from Persia seems to have been interrupted in the seventh century by a revolt of the Persian Metropolitan against the Nestorian patriarch of Babylon, the Metropolitan of Seleucia. In Asseman,16 iii. 131, is a long letter from the Patriarch Jesujabus Adjabenus who was Patriarch from 650 to 660. The Patriarch says:- "Not only India, which extends from the shores of the kingdom of Persia as far as Quilon, a space of more than twelve hundred parasangs, but also your own country of the Persians lies in darkness, deprived of the light of divine doctrine which shines forth through bishops of the truth." About this date one of the bishops in India obtained the rank of Metropolitan. From the passage in Asseman, iii. 346, it appears that this dignity was conferred by Saliba- Zacha who was Patriarch of Babylon from 714 to 728. The names of the Indian bishops have not been preserved, except in the case of two bishops, Mar Sapir and Mar Prodh, who landed at Quilon.
The Council of Nicea laid down a rule that all bishops should meet the Patriarch in an annual synod. This rule was from time to time relaxed and finally in a synod held under Theodosius, who was Patriarch from 852 to 858, the obligation upon the more distant Metropolitans was reduced to sending a letter and funds every sixth year. The words of the Synod are quaint:- "But other Metropolitans, that is to say, of the Chinas, of India, of Persia and of Samarcand, situated in very distant countries, hindered by mountain ranges infested with robbers and by seas fatal with shipwrecks and tempests, so that they cannot come to us so often as they otherwise might wish, shall take care to send, every sixth year, letters of consent and union and in the same letters to set forth any business of their countries which requires an opportune remedy: and they shall take trouble that from all cities, great and small, be sent to the Patriarch what is right according to the ability of each man and the Canons of the Fathers for the expenses of the patriarch's house."
Some light upon the condition of the Church on this coast at this date may be obtained from four documents which have been preserved to this day. They are two copper-plate grants and the inscriptions on two stone slabs. These stones can be seen in the Periapalle church at Kottayam. That church is only three hundred years old but the stones are said to have been brought from a much older church that existed near Cranganore. On each of the stones is carved a Cross and an inscription runs above and below the cross. The older stone has the legend in Pahlavi, which was the official language of the Sassanides dynasty in Persia. A similar inscription and cross is on the stone in the church on St. Thomas' Mount near Madras. The letters of this inscription on the older stone at Kottayam and on the stone at the Mount are said to be of date about the second half of the seventh century, but may, of course, be much later, because lapidary inscriptions are often written in antique characters of a former period. The letters are said to resemble the letters on a stone in China17 erected in the year 781 to record the arrival of some Chaldean missionaries in 636. Attempts to translate the inscription at the Mount and on the older stone at Kottayam have given widely differing results. Dr. Burnell translated as follows: "In punishment by the cross was the suffering of this one, who is the true Christ God above and Guide ever pure." The translation by Dr. E. W. West is: "What freed the true Messiah, the forgiving, the upbraiding, from hardship? The crucifixion from the tree and the anguish of this." Dr. Haug of Munich translates it as follows: "He that believes in the Messiah and in God in the height and also in the Holy Ghost is in the grace of him who suffered the pain of the cross." The other stone in the Periapalle church at Kottayam is said to be of later date, probably about the tenth century. Above the cross is half of the Pahlavi inscription of the older stone, "The Messiah and God in the height and the Holy Ghost." Below the cross is a Syriac version of Galatians VI. 14, "Let me not glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The copper plate grants are in the Seminary at Kottayam. The older grant is on a single copper plate, said by Dr. Burnell to be of date 774. It is a grant by King Vira Raghava Chakravarti to Iravi Korttan of Cranganore, making over to him the territory of Manigramam and giving him the rank of merchant. It is in old Tamil letters with some Grantha letters intermingled. The later document is on five sheets of copper fastened together by a ring. Of the ten pages of copper thus furnished, seven pages are written in Tamil and two pages are written in Pahlavi and Arabic with Kufic characters. Four of the signatures are Hebrew. This Kottayam five plate grant is said to be of date 824. Its purport is that with the permission of King Sthanu Ravi Gupta one Miruvan Sapir Iso gives certain land near Quilon to the church. From these inscriptions on stone and copper it appears that the christians at that time built and endowed churches and had a recognised position in the country18.
The history of this Christian Church during the following six centuries is almost blank. The Saxon Chronicle relates that in 883 King Alfred the Great of England sent to India alms for St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew. Le quien, in his Orient. Christ. ii. col. 1272, says that about the year 1129 the Catholicus of Bagdad sent to Malabar a Nestorian bishop, Mar John III. The Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, about 1295 speaks of Nestorian Christians in Malabar and narrates the tradition of the death in India of St. Thomas the Apostle. He says:- "The Christians who have the administration of the church possess forests of trees that bear the Indian nuts and from them they draw the means of their livelihood. As tax they pay monthly to one of the Royal brothers a groat for each tree."
The first Latin missionary who is known to have visited India was John of Monte Corvino, afterwards Archbishop of Cambalec in Cathay. Sent out by Pope Nicholas IV as a missionary to China, he on his way halted in India about the year 1291. In a letter which he wrote from Pekin in 1305 he says:- "i remained in the country of India, where stands the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, for thirteen months and in that reign baptised in different places about one hundred persons." In a letter dated 1306 he speaks of Malabar and says:- "There are a very few Christians and Jews and they are of little weight. The people persecute much the Christians and all who bear the Christian name19.The next Latin missionary was a Dominican Friar named Jordanus, a Frenchman from near Toulouse. Perhaps as early as 1302 with other Dominican and Franciscan Friars he found his way to the Bombay coast where his companions were put to death by the Mahomedans. After various adventures Friar Jordan returned to Europe and wrote a small book called Mirabilia in which he briefly mentions the wonderful things he saw in the East. The only mention of Christians is as follows:- "In this India there is a scattered people, one here, another there, who call themselves Christians but are not so, nor have they baptism nor do they know anything about the faith. Nay! they believe St. Thomas the Great to be Christ! There, in the India I speak of, I baptised and brought into the faith about three hundred souls." In 1328 Pope John XXII at Avignon consecrated Friar Jordan as bishop of Quilon and sent him in 1330 with a Latin letter addressed to the chief of the Nazarene Christians at Quilon. The letter asked the goodwill of the Nazarene chief towards Bishop Jordan and his missionaries and ends by inviting these Christians to abjure their schism and to enter the unity of the Catholic Church. Bishop Jordan set out for India with this letter but it is not known if he reached his destination or if he had any successors in the See of Quilon20. Another traveller, Friar Odoric, collected the bones of the martyred companions of Friar Jordan and in 1321 passed down this coast and touched at Quilon, where there were Christians, and at Mailapur, where were fifteen houses of Nestorian Christians21.
Some years later john de Marignoli22 arrived at Quilon on his return journey from a mission to China. He says:- "On Palm Sunday, 1348, we arrived at a very noble city of India called Quilon, where the whole world's pepper is produced. Now this pepper grows on a kind of vines which are planted just as in our vineyards. These vines produce clusters which at first are like those of the wild vine of a green colour and afterwards are almost like bunches of our grapes, and they have a red wine in them which I have squeezed out on my plate as a condiment. When they have ripened they are left to dry upon the tree and when shrivelled by the excessive heat the dry clusters are knocked off with a stick and caught upon linen cloths and so the harvest is gathered. These are things that I have seen with mine eyes and handled with my hands during the fourteen months that I stayed there. And there is no roasting of the pepper as authors have falsely asserted, nor does it grow in forests but in regular gardens, nor are the Saracens the proprietors but the Christians of St. Thomas. And these latter are the masters of the public weighing office (qui habent stateram ponderis totius mundi ), from which I derived, as a perquisite of my office as Pope's Legate, every month a hundred gold fanams and a thousand when I left.
There is a church of St. George there, of the Latin communion, at which I dwelt, and I adorned it with fine paintings and taught there the Holy Law. And after I had been there some time I went beyond the glory of Alexander the Great, when he set up his column. For I erected a stone as my landmark and memorial and anointed it with oil. In sooth, it was a marble pillar with a stone cross on it, intended to last till the world's end. And it had the pope's arms and my own engraved on it, with inscriptions both in Indian and in Latin characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitude of people and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter or palanquin like Solomon's. So after a year and four months I took leave of the brethren (valefaciens fratribus)23."
It is said by the Syrian Christians that during this period they were governed by a dynasty of Christian Kings and Asseman iv. 442 has a passage on the subject. "In process of time the prosperity of the Christians of Quilon and Cochin so increased that they gave themselves a King. The first, Baliartes, called King of the Christians of St. Thomas, reigned in Malabar; and when after him some of his sons had reigned, at last by the law of adoption the dynasty passed from the Christians to the Heathen kings of Diamper. When the Portuguese first came to these shores the Malabar Christians were obeying the king of Cochin." However, Father Francis de Souza in his Oriente Conquistado, ii, 69, says that Beliarte was not a Christian, that the Christians only paid him a tribute because he had assisted them in a war against the Mahomedans and that the Christians obeyed the king in whose territory they happened to dwell. It is conjectured that the name Baliartes or Beliarte may be a corruption of the Malayalam valeyadattu or valyarvattam. One fact is certain that the Christians preserved the sceptre of their king. The Portuguese describe it as a red rod, tipped with silver, having three small silver bells at the upper end. The Syrian Christians say that it was the existence of this dynasty that caused Pope Eugene IV in 1439 to send Envoys with a letter that commenced as follows:- "To my most beloved son in Christ, Thomas, the illustrious Emperor of the Indians, Health and the Apostolic Benediction:- there often has reached us a constant rumour that Your Serenity and also all who are the subjects of your kingdom are true Christians." The Envoys sent with this letter did not reach India.
We at last come to the period for which there is some documentary evidence. In 1504 certain Nestorian bishops in India wrote a report to the Nestorian Patriarch of Babylon and this Syriac report is in the Vatican library24 with a latin translation dated 1533 of the report and of an addition to the report, which addition gives the history of these bishops and of their companions. From this document we learn that in 1490 three faithful Christian men set out from the remote regions of India to ask Mar Simeon, Patriarch of the East, to give bishops for their provinces, One of the three travellers died but the two survivors, Joseph and George25, appeared before the patriarch and stated their errand. Two monks were selected from the monastery of St. Eugene and were consecrated by the Patriarch under the names Thomas and John. The Patriarch furnished the two bishops with letters under his signature and seal and sent them forth with prayers and blessings to seek the shores of India. The four arrived safely and were received with great joy by the Christians who ran to meet them and carried before them the book of the Gospels, the Cross, torches and a thurible. The two bishops consecrated altars and ordained a large number of priests, because for a long time there had been no bishop there. Mar John remained in India but Mar Thomas, with Joseph, returned to the patriarch taking first fruits and offerings. In 1493 Joseph returned to India but Mar Thomas remained for some years in Mesopotamia. The Patriarch Simeon died in 1502 and was succeeded by Elias, who chose three monks from the monastery of St. Eugene to be consecrated as bishops for India. Of these three, David, who took the name of Jaballah, was Metropolitan. The others were George, who took the name of Denha, and Masud, who took the name of Jacob.
The four bishops journeyed to India, found Bishop John still living and in 1504 they wrote a long report to the Patriarch, in the following words:- "There are here about thirty thousand families common in faith with us and they pray God for your prosperity. Now they have commenced to build more churches and there is abundance of all things and they are mild and peaceable. Blessed be God. Also the Church of St. Thomas is now again inhabited by Christians. It is distant a journey of 25 days, situated on the sea near a city called Meliapor in the Province of Silan. Our province in which the Christians dwell, is called Malabar and has about twenty cities, of which three notable and firm cities are Carangol, Palor and Colom and others nearly come up to them. In all these the Christians live and churches have been built. Near by there is a large and rich city, Calecut, which the infidels inhabit". The report then gives a narrative of the fighting at Calecut between the Mahomedans and the Portuguese and then continues. "About twenty Portuguese live in the city of Cannanore. When we arrived from Ormuz at Cannanore we presented ourselves to them, said that we were Christians and explained our condition and rank. They received us with great joy, gave us beautiful garments and twenty drachmas of gold and for Christ's sake they honoured our journey more than it deserved. We remained with them for two and a half months and they ordered us that on a fixed day we also should perform the holy mysteries, that is, should offer the Oblation. They had prepared a fitting place for prayer and their priests every day sacrifice and complete the holy Oblation, for that is their custom and rite. Wherefore on Nosardel Sunday26, after their priest celebrated, we also were admitted and performed the holy rite and it was very pleasing in their eyes. Setting out thence we arrived at our Christians who dwell at a distance of eight days from that place."
Joseph, one of the two men who went to the Patriarch in 1490, took passage for Europe with the Portuguese admiral Cabral, sailing from Cochin on January 10th 1501. Arrived at Lisbon this Joseph was an object of much interest. He travelled to Rome, where he had an audience of Pope Alexander VI, to Venice, to Jerusalem, again to Lisbon and so back to India. From the information obtained by persons who talked to Joseph a book was published. Gouvea, p.5, says that it is in Latin and appended to Fasciculus Temporum. An Italian version appeared at Vicenza in 1507 called Paesi novamente retrovati, it is cited also as Novus Orbis or as The travels of Joseph the Indian. It gives a description of the Thomas-Christians which may be taken for what it is worth. Joseph says that the Church was under the control of a supreme head "summus antistes", who had under him twelve Cardinals, two Patriarchs, and many Archbishops and bishops. From one passage he seems to say this of the Patriarch of Antioch although Asseman says that he must have meant the Nestorian Patriarch. Joseph goes on to say that there were priests, deacons and sub-deacons. The priests shaved the whole of the upper part of the head as a tonsure. The churches were buildings similar to those in Europe, with vaulted roofs and adorned by a cross but by no pictures. The faithful were called to prayer not with a bell but by the voice. Baptism is administered when an infant is fourteen days old unless there is danger of death. Unfermented bread is used in the Eucharist. They have confession but not extreme unction. Both Advent and Lent are kept as strict fasts. Their festivals are Sundays, the festivals of the Apostles, Ascension, Trinity, Christmas, Epiphany and the Purification, Assumption and Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Their greatest festival is the Octave of Easter, because on that day St. Thomas put his hand in the wounded side of Christ. There are monasteries, a supply of books and eminent teachers. In the palace of the Zamorin at Calicut are four large halls, one for Hindus, one for Mahomedans, one for Jews and one for Christians. This description by Joseph of the Christians has been cited by many writers with an authority which it cannot deserve. There is no certainty that the persons who spoke to Joseph clearly understood what he said or accurately remembered it27.
In 1498 Vasco de Gama anchored at Calicut but on that occasion he had no intercourse with the Christians. On his second voyage to India, when he arrived at Cochin on December 7th 1502 the Christians applied to him for protection against their Mahomedan neighbours and presented to him the sceptre above mentioned, as a sign that they became the vassals of the King of Portugal. Vasco de Gama dressed his ships with flags, assembled around him his most brilliant suite, fired a salvo with all his artillery and formally accepted the sceptre in the name of the King of Portugal and dismissed the Christian Envoys with gifts, assuring them that fleets would arrive more powerful and able to free them from their neighbours28. Notwithstanding this exchange of courtesies, forty years passed in which the Portuguese took no notice of the Thomas-Christians, who went quietly on their own way under the Nestorian bishops sent by the Patriarch of Babylon29. In the Vatican Library is a New Testament translated by Bishop Jacob at Cranganore30 in 1510 and it is said that this Bishop Jacob entrusted to the custody of the Portuguese the famous copper- plate grants of the Syrian Christians. On board the Portuguese ships were numerous priests but they appear to have worked as chaplains to their countrymen in the forts and factories which the Portuguese erected along the coast-line. Because of this Chancellor Geddes abuses the Portuguese for their neglect of the Thomas Christians and Archdeacon Robinson says, "The Portuguese were too much occupied with securing and enlarging their conquests to attend to the wants of a poor and defenceless Church31.
About the year 1532 there arrived at Cochin a deputation of seventy men from the fishermen who live on the coast between Cape Comorin and Ramnad. They complained that they were oppressed by the Mahomedans and they solicited the aid of the Portuguese, expressing their willingness to become Christians. The Portuguese took this opening, baptised the seventy men who had come to Cochin and established garrisons on the Tuticorin coast32. Miguel Vaz, afterwards Vicar General of Goa, with other priests was sent to the spot and baptised twenty thousand persons, the people of thirty villages. In 1542 Francis Xavier landed at Goa and in 1543 he was sent to Cape Comorin to look after the fisher converts of Father Miguel Vaz. Francis worked on the Travancore coast in 1543 among those Christians and in 1544 he turned his attention towards the adjacent State of Travancore. In a letter33 dated March 20th 1544 Francis speaks of a splendid opening and in a letter dated March 24th he writes in anger because his plans to enter Travancore were thwarted by some misconduct of Portuguese officials that had annoyed the Maharaja of Travancore. After this he entered Travancore territory near Cape Camorin and worked under the protection of the Prince of Tala (Tovala?). In July 1544 the Madura troops invaded the Travancore State, entering by Aramboly pass. Letters written by Francis on August 19th and 20th show that he took an active part in forwarding to Tuticorin the Brahman Envoy who was sent by the Maharaja to make peace with Madura. About this date Francis had audience of the Maharaja who received him favourably34. It is said that before the close of 1544 Francis had founded forty- five Churches in Travancore. In a letter dated 2nd September 1544 he says, "We find this nation of the subjects of the King of Travancore more easy to persuade and better disposed than any other in all that concerns the interests of religion." Paolo tells us that where Francis made any converts he first erected a cross and next a booth of branches and palm leaves which in time was replaced by a church built with stone and cement. The letters written by Francis show that his great anxiety was to provide a schoolmaster at each of these churches. After Francis left the neighbourhood of Cape Comorin, things did not work smoothly. There is a letter, dated 19th October 1548, to the priest who was left in charge of these converts, exhorting him not to despond and not to give up his post. In the year 1571 and 1574 the Senior Rani of Travancore at Attingal took fright at the growing power of the Portuguese and set on foot an agitation against the Christians in the course of which three churches were burned down. But these sturdy fishermen on the coast towards Cape Comorin always remained steadfast under the Portuguese Bishops of Cochin and the strip of coast-line which they inhabit forms part of the Cochin diocese at this day35.
In 1530 John d' Albuquerque came to Goa as the first Bishop. He sent to Cochin a Franciscan Friar, Vincent de Lagos, with instructions to work among the Thomas-Christians. Father Vincent settled at Cranganore and in 1547 he opened a Seminary for Syrian youths who wished to study for the priesthood. In a letter dated January 14th 1549 from Francis Xavier at Cochin to Ignatius Loyola, the seminary is described as follows:"There is a town called Cranganore, which belongs to the Portuguese, about 20 miles from Cochin, where Fra Vincenzo of the Order of St. Francis, a most true friend to our Society, has founded a really fine seminary, where quite as many as a hundred native students are maintained and are formed in piety and learning. Fra Vincenzo told me that he wishes to entrust and hand over his seminary to our Society: and he has asked me again and again to inform you of his intention and to provide a priest of the Society who may teach grammar to the students of this seminary and preach to the inmates and the people on Sundays and festivals. There is reason for this, because, besides the Portuguese inhabitants of the place, there are a great many Christians living in sixty villages in the neighbourhood, descended from those whom St. Thomas made Christians. The students of this seminary are of the highest nobility."
Of the five Bishops sent by the Nestorian Patriarch only one, Mar Jacob, was now alive and he was, in his old age, a dependent on the hospitality of the Franciscan Convent in Cochin. On January 26th 1549 Francis Xavier wrote from Cochin the following letter to the King of Portugal about this Bishop. "It is now five and forty years that a certain Armenian bishop, by name Abuna Jacob,36, has served God and Your Highness in this country. He is a man who is about as dear to God on account of his virtue and holiness as he is neglected and despised by Your Highness and in general by all who have any power in India. God thus rewards his great deserts Himself and does not think us worthy of the honour of being the instruments whom he uses to console his servants. The Franciscan Fathers alone take care of him and show him kindness to which nothing can be added. But for this the good old man would have long ago breathed out his soul, worn out by affliction. Allow me, Sire, to advise what I think would be well. I would very much recommend Your Highness to order a letter to be written in your name to this good bishop in kind and honorable terms and to let an order, which may be shown to the Governors and Procurators, Your officers, be inserted in the letter enjoining them and especially the Commandant of Cochin to show him honor, give him hospitality and treat him with favour and attention especially when he asks for or is in need of anything. While I have been writing this, I have seemed myself to be serving and doing a favour and not so much to that pious bishop as to Your Highness, for at present, from the charity of the Franciscan fathers he wants for nothing, while Your Highness is very greatly in want of the goodwill and intercession of a man very acceptable to God as he is, and this benefit you will be able to earn by such an act of kindness as I mentioned. This bishop very greatly deserves such treatment on this account if on no other, that he has spent much labour in attending to the Christians of St. Thomas and now in his all but decrepit old age he conforms himself most obediently to all the rites and customs of our Holy Mother the Roman Church. I know that Your Highness is in the habit of writing to the Franciscan Fathers and this letter to the Armenian bishop might be inserted in the same packet and I would urge Your Highness to write it full of all manner of expressions of your esteem, favour and affection for him."
Before this year 1549 was over the aged Mar Jacob died in the Franciscan convent at Cochin and after an interval of six years there arrived a Roman Catholic bishop for the Thomas-Christians. at this time there was a movement among the Nestorians in Mesopotamia to seek reconciliation with Rome and in 1551 on the death of the Patriarch Simeon a large number of the Nestorians chose as their Patriarch a monk named John Sulacca who went to Rome and was recognised by Pope Julius III as Patriarch of the Chaldeans. Returning to his own country he was put to death by the Mahomedans in 1554 and was succeeded by Ebedjesus. this Patriarch Ebedjesus made his profession of faith before pope Pius IV and took part in the council of Trent. Ebedjesus consecrated as Archbishop of the Thomas-christians a priest named Joseph, the brother of his predecessor john Sulacca. Mar Joseph went to India and took charge of his diocese among the Thomas-Christians. On the ground that the students at the Cranganore seminary were not taught Syriac he refused to ordain the candidates sent to him from that Seminary. Before long the Portuguese bishop of Cochin denounced Mar Joseph as a teacher of Nestorian doctrine and thereupon Mar Joseph was sent to Goa and thence to Portugal. On the voyage he spent his time in copying out portions of the Syriac liturgy and the Carmen of Ebedjesus. A volume of his work dated at Mozambique the 8th July 1556 is in the Vatican Library37. Arrived in Portugal, Mar Joseph made so favourable an impression upon Queen Catharine, the Infanta Mary and the Cardinal Don Henry, that he was permitted to return to India, giving a promise to the Cardinal that he would clear his diocese of all heresies. He remained for some time in the Franciscan Convent at Bassein where in 1557 he finished another book which he may have written on the voyage out. this is a collection of the canons passed by synods of the Patriarchate of Babylon. This manuscript in the handwriting of Mar Joseph is in the Vatican Library38 and Asseman found it useful in supplying the gaps on the torn leaves of an older collection of the Canons. The preface which Mar Joseph wrote to his manuscript is a curious specimen of Oriental hyperbole39.
Meanwhile the Thomas Christians, when Mar Joseph was deported from the country, had written to Simeon VI, the Nestorian patriarch of Babylon, saying that they were now without a bishop and asking him to send one. the Nestorian patriarch sent a cleric named Mar Abraham who journeyed in disguise by a circuitous route to avoid the Portuguese and arrived among the Thomas- Christians. Thereupon the authorities at Goa thought it better to release Mar Joseph from his detention at Bassein and to send him to his diocese. They also contrived to arrest Mar Abraham and they put him on board ship for Portugal. at Mozambique Mar Abraham escaped from the ship and returned by way of Ormuz to Mesopotamia. He went on to Rome and persuaded Pope Pius V that he was a good catholic and free from Nestorian errors. As he confessed that he had not been validly ordained the Pope gave directions that Mar Abraham should receive Holy Orders, from tonsure to the Episcopate, according to the Roman Rite and sent him back to India as Archbishop of Angamale.
While this was passing at Rome, Mar Joseph was in his diocese among the Thomas- Christians40. The Portuguese still suspected him of Nestorian tendencies41 and sent reports on the subject to the Cardinal infant Henry, Regent of Portugal, who induced Pope Pius V to issue a Brief, dated 15th January 1567, ordering the Archbishop of Goa to enquire into the doctrine and conduct of Mar Joseph. In accordance with this Brief was held in 1567 the first provincial council of Goa. The charges against Mar Joseph were found to be established42 and in 1568 he was sent to Portugal and afterwards to Rome. Here the piety and erudition of the bishop aroused a feeling in his favour and there was some talk that he would be created a Cardinal when his death put an end to any such project43.
When Mar Joseph was leaving Goa in 1568, Mar Abraham appeared at Goa with his credentials from Rome appointing him Archbishop of Angamale. The Viceroy and Archbishop of Goa regarded Mar Abraham as a man who had deceived the Pope by an untrue profession of conformity and they detained Mar Abraham in the Dominican Convent at Goa intending to send reports to Rome giving the Pope correct information about him. But on the night of the Thursday before Easter 1568, Mar Abraham escaped from the convent and made his way to his diocese, whence he wrote letters to the Viceroy and to the Portuguese bishops professing obedience to the Roman Church.
Seven years passed and then Mar Abraham received a summons to attend the second provincial council of Goa in 1575. He refused to attend and the Council requested the pope to order the Archbishop of Angamale to attend the provincial councils of Goa. Thereupon Mar Abraham induced the raja of Cochin to write to pope Gregory XIII a letter in Italian, dated 2nd January 1576. The Raja says:- " Our subject, Mar Abraham, Archbishop of Angamale and head of the Christians of St. Thomas, received an invitation from the archbishop of Goa to attend a Synod there. But as he was once before illtreated at Goa by the Portuguese and was twice thrown into prison, he informs me that he did not attend the synod and cannot therefore abide by the resolutions passed at the synod. That his action may not be misinterpreted, he desires me to inform Your Holiness, that he is unremitting in his devotion and attachment to the Holy See, that if ordered by Your Holiness he is ready to take part in the synods of Goa and co-operate with the Portuguese priests and prelates for bettering the status of the Syrians. The Archdeacon George44, likewise Our subject, has recently erected a church under the title of the Assumption of our Lady in August, for which he requests me to obtain from your Holiness certain Indulgences, which if granted, I shall regard as a favour done to me." On December 21st 1576 Pope Gregory XIII answered the Raja's letter as follows:- "About the Archbishop of Angamale we can decide nothing, because we do not know by what injuries he is hindered from going to the provincial synod, to which he was summoned, as appears by your letter, nor why he was twice imprisoned. So soon as we receive certain information we shall decide what we shall find to be just and right and we shall not suffer that he be oppressed or injured. The Indulgences that you ask for in the name of the Archdeacon George, we grant with pleasure and we have given orders to write and despatch special letters about them."
After the complaints of the council had reached Rome and had been considered, the Pope despatched three letters. The first letter, dated 20th November 1578, is to the Archbishop of Goa, as follows:- "Also, we wish that in the provincial synod you receive kindly our venerable brother, the Archbishop of Angamale, and that you will contrive that here and elsewhere he may experience your humanity and love. We understand that this is due to a brother and we consider it of great importance in order to bring these nations to the Catholic faith and to extend the honor of Christ." the second letter, dated November 29th 1578, is to Mar Abraham. In it the Pope expresses his joy at the catholic faith of Mar Abraham and exhorts him to convert his flock to it and advises him to attend the Goa Council as it was the only council he could attend. The third letter, dated 3rd December 1578, is to the King of Portugal, in the following words:- "We recommend also to your majesty the venerable brother, the archbishop of Angamale, who, we are told, has been grievously vexed by some persons. It will give us great pleasure if you order the Viceroy and Governors of India to protect him and to take steps that he be not oppressed with any injury." The effect of these papal letters was such that for fourteen years from their date there was no open breach between Mar Abraham and the Portuguese clergy.
In this year 1578 there arrived on the Malabar coast one Mar Simeon, claiming to be the Metropolitan of the Thomas-Christians. The previous history of this bishop is obscure45. All that is known is that he obtained a following among the Thomas-Christians and that the Portuguese authorities and the Pope supported Mar Abraham against him. On March 5th 1580 pope Gregory XIII wrote a letter warning the Christians of St. Thomas against a certain Simeon, who without lawful mission, had intruded amongst them. The Pope says:- "But be obedient in the Lord to Mar Abraham, your Archbishop, and to George46, the bishop of Palur, and in sincerity of faith and simplicity of manners, presevere and live in the unity of our holy mother the Church." At the third Provincial Council of Goa in 1585, at which Council Mar Abraham was present, it was resolved to remove Mar Simeon from this coast. He was accordingly arrested in the Franciscan Convent at Cochin and was sent through Goa and Portugal to Rome. Before he left the country he contrived to appoint a Syrian priest named Jacob as his Vicar General among the Thomas - Christians and this Jacob continued the dissension for twelve years more. When Mar Simeon arrived in Rome, Pope Sixtus V ordered an enquiry to be held into his case and pronounced a decision that Simeon should retire into a Convent for instruction. Simeon was then handed over to Philip II who placed him in a Convent at Lisbon. In 1594 when Archbishop Menezes was about to set out for India, the King offered Simeon to the Archbishop in case any use might be found for him in India, but the Archbishop would not have Simeon and left him in the Franciscan Convent at Lisbon where he died in 1599...
to be continued............
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