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St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi

St. Francis Church, Fort Cochin


Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European Settlement in India and St. Francis Church was the first European Church to be built in India. The history of this Church reflects the colonial struggle of European powers in India, from the 15th to 20th Centuries. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama was the first European to discover the sea route to India. In 1503 Alphonso Alburquerque was given permission by the Rajah of Cochin to build a fort at the mouth of the river. Within the Fort they erected a church of wood, which was dedicated to St. Bartholomew. A new Church was completed in 1516 and dedicated to St. Antony. The Church remained in the Order of St. Francis until the arrival of the Dutch in 1663. They demolished all the convents and churches of the place, except the Church of the Franciscans, which they reconditioned and converted into their Government Church.

The change of name of the patron saint was presumably during the time of to the Anglicans. On the northern side can be seen Portuguese gravestones. The Dutch gravestones are on the southern wall. The Vasco da Gama stone is on the ground at the southern side. The Church became a protected monument in April 1923 under the Protected Monuments Act of 1904. The Cenotaph in memory of the residents of Cochin who fell in the First Great War was erected in 1920.

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