Early missionaries

1291 John of Monte Corvino

John of Monte Corvino, was a Franciscan sent to China to become prelate of Peking in around 1307. He traveled from Persia and moved down by sea to India, in 1291, to the Madras region or “Country of St. Thomas” .There he preached for thirteen months and baptized about one hundred persons. From there Monte Corvino wrote home, in December 1291 (or 1292).That is one of the earliest noteworthy account of the Coromandel coast furnished by any Western European. Traveling by sea from Mailapur, he reached China in 1294, appearing in the capital “Cambaliech” (now Beijing)



1321  Friar Odoric of Pordenone

Friar Odoric of Pordenone arrived in India in 1321. He visited Malabar, touching at Pandarani (20 m. north of Calicut), at Cranganore, and at Kulam or Quilon, proceeding thence, apparently, to Ceylon and to the shrine of St Thomas at Maylapur near Madras. He wrote that he had found the place where Thomas was buried.

1302-1330  Jordanus, Catalani, Bishop of Columbum

Jordanus, Catalani, Bishop of Columbum, is  also known as Jordanus Catalani de Séverac, Friar Jordanus, Severaco). Friar Jordanus recorded his journeys to India, Asia and the Middle East, reporting on local customs, products, and religion. His information includes China, distances between cities, etc.

In his second letter, dated in January, 1324, Jordanus relates how he had started from Tabriz to go to Cathay, but embarked first for Columbum with four Franciscan missionaries, and how they were driven by a storm to Tana, in India, where they were received by the Nestorians. There he left his companions, and started for Baroch, where he hoped to preach with success, as he was better acquainted with the Persian tongue than the others were. Being detained however at Supera, he there heard that his four brethren at Tana had been arrested, and returned to aid them, but found them already put to death. He was enabled to remove the bodies of these martyrs by the help of a young Genoese whom he found at Tana and, having transported them to Supera, he buried them in a church there as honourably as he could.  The only remaining date in the biography of Jordanus is derived from a bull of Pope John XXII, the date of which is equivalent to 5th April 1330, addressed to the Christians of Columbum, and in-tended to be delivered to them by Jordanus, who was nominated bishop of that place. The bull commences as follows:

"Nohili viro domino Nascarinorum et universis sub eo Christianis Nascarinis do Columbo, Venerabilem fratrem nostrum Jordanum Catalani, episcopum Columbensem, Prædicatorum Ordinis professorem, quem nuper ad episcopalis dignitatis apicem auctoritate apostolicâ duximus promovendum --" etc.

The Pope goes on to recommend the missionaries to their goodwill, and ends by inviting the Nascarini (Nazrání, Christians, in India) to abjure their schism, and enter the unity of the Catholic Church.

The Pope had shortly before nominated John de Coro to be Archbishop of Sultania in Persia. This metropolitan had, at least, three bishops under him, viz., of Tabriz, of Semiscat, and of Columbum. The two latter were entrusted by the Pope with the Pallium for the archbishop. Sultania, between Tabriz and Tehran, was the seat of the Persian kings pre-vious to the Tartar conquest in the thirteenth century, and was still a great centre of commerce between the Indies and Europe. The number of Christians was so great, that they had in this city, it is said, four hundred churches. (?).

We may suppose that Jordanus, after fulfilling his commission at Sultania, proceeded to his see in Malabar by the Persian Gulf, the route which he had followed on his first visit to India ; but whether he ever reached it, or ever returned from it, seems to be undetermined. M. Coquebert-Montbret assumes that he did both but as far as I can gather, this is based on the other assumption, that his Miribilia was written after returning a second time. My impres-sion is that it was written before he went out as bishop, for it contains no allusion to his having held that dignity. Nor does it appear to be known whether he had any successor in his episcopate.


Father Jordanus Catalani, a French Dominican missionary, followed in 1321-22. He reported to Rome, apparently from somewhere on the west coast of India, that he had given Christian burial to four martyred monks. Jordanus is known for his 1329 “Mirabilia” describing the marvels of the East: he furnished the best account of Indian regions and the Christians , the products, climate, manners, customs, fauna and flori given by any European in the Middle Ages - superior even to Marco Polo’s.

1347, Giovanni de Marignolli

In 1347, Giovanni de Marignolli visited the shrine of St Thomas near the modern Madras, and then proceeded to what he calls the kingdom of Saba, and identifies with the Sheba of Scripture, but which seems from various particulars to have been Java. Taking ship again for Malabar on his way to Europe, he encountered great storms.  They found shelter in the little port of Pervily or Pervilis (Beruwala or Berberyn) in the south-west of Ceylon; but here the legate fell into the hands of "a certain tyrant Coya Jaan (Khoja Jahan), a eunuch and an accursed Saracen," who professed to treat him with all deference, but detained him four months, and plundered all the gifts and Eastern rarities that he was carrying home. Later he was appointed bishop of Bisignano;

Another prominent Indian traveler was Joseph, priest over Cranganore. He journeyed to Babylon in 1490 and then sailed to Europe and visited Portugal, Rome, and Venice before returning to India. He helped to write a book about his travels titled The Travels of Joseph the Indian which was widely disseminated across Europe.

Reformation in the Western Churches.


The historical development of major church branches from their roots. Protestantism in general, and particularly Restorationism, claims a direct connection with Early Christianity.


Re-formation of the Christian Church with respect to doctrines intertwined with local politics are not new.  As soon as the Church was institutionalized and the need for systematic theology and hierarchial system of administrations were felt, these eventually led to seperation and formation of independent churches.  Many people look upon this as a decay process.  However every form of growth in a living organism grow by seperation just as babies grow in the womb.  Each part of the body and its organ has its own function within the wider person.  This is the function of the multitudes of churches.  These are indications of growth and specialization of the organs within the body of Christ.  It is only the cancer cells that insist that it will have only its own type of cell growth and tries to stop and thereby bring in death for the body as a whole. 

The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and several early Protestants.  The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, from within the Church itself when scholars and monks and priests opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice.

Martin Luther's spiritual predecessors included John Wycliffe (1328-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415), who likewise had attempted to reform the Roman Catholic Church. 

John Wycliff and Jan Hus

Wycliff in opposition to the Roman Catholic policy wanted to translate the Bible into the languages of the people.  He himself personally translated the Gospels.  The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on 4 May 1415) a heretic and under the ban of the Church. It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth.

Martin Luther      95 Thesis of Martin Luther

The Protestant Reformation began on 31 October 1517, in Wittenberg, Saxony, where Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of the Castle ChurchIn Germany, reformation can be dated at  1517 CE the day when Martin Luther an Augustinian monk at the university of Wittenberg, called in for a debate and discussion on doctrines and practice.  This is known as  95 thesis. The consequent  Martin Luther's excommunication on January 3rd, 1521, from the Catholic Church, precipitated the Protestant Reformation

John Calvin (  Jean Calvin or Jehan Cauvin; 10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was a French theologian and pastor . His theology today is known as Calvinism.   He broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530.and  consequent to   a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where he published the first edition of his seminal work The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.


Historical chart of the main Protestant branches


Padroado Ultramarino Português

AD 1498 Arrival of Vasco Da Gama and Roman Catholic Mission

The Padroado (Portuguese: "patronage"), was an arrangement between the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church  and the Kingdom of Portugal, affirmed by a series of treaties, by which the Vatican delegated to the kings of Spain and Portugal the administration of the local Churches as Padroado Real (Royal patronage), Padroado Ultramarino Português (Portuguese Overseas Patronage) and,   Padroado Português do Oriente, (Portuguese Patronage of the East). In the 16th century, the proselytization of Asia was linked to the Portuguese colonial policy. With the Papal bull - Romanus Pontifex  written on January 8, 1455 by Pope Nicholas V to King Afonso V of Portugal, the patronage for the propagation of the Christian faith in Asia was given to the Portuguese, who were rewarded with the right of conquest.

An English translation of Romanus Pontifex is reproduced below, as published in European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, Frances Gardiner Davenport, editor, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917, Washington, D.C., at pp. 20-26. The original text in Latin is in the same volume, at pp. 13-20.

English Translation

Nicholas, bishop, servant of the servants of God. for a perpetual remembrance.

The Roman pontiff, successor of the key-bearer of the heavenly kingdom and vicar of Jesus Christ, contemplating with a father's mind all the several climes of the world and the characteristics of all the nations dwelling in them and seeking and desiring the salvation of all, wholesomely ordains and disposes upon careful deliberation those things which he sees will be agreeable to the Divine Majesty and by which he may bring the sheep entrusted to him by God into the single divine fold, and may acquire for them the reward of eternal felicity, and obtain pardon for their souls. This we believe will more certainly come to pass, through the aid of the Lord, if we bestow suitable favors and special graces on those Catholic kings and princes, who, like athletes and intrepid champions of the Christian faith, as we know by the evidence of facts, not only restrain the savage excesses of the Saracens and of other infidels, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion, sparing no labor and expense, in order that those kings and princes, relieved of all obstacles, may be the more animated to the prosecution of so salutary and laudable a work.

We have lately heard, not without great joy and gratification, how our beloved son, the noble personage Henry, infante of Portugal, uncle of our most dear son in Christ, the illustrious Alfonso, king of the kingdoms of Portugal and Algarve, treading in the footsteps of John, of famous memory, king of the said kingdoms, his father, and greatly inflamed with zeal for the salvation of souls and with fervor of faith, as a Catholic and true soldier of Christ, the Creator of all things, and a most active and courageous defender and intrepid champion of the faith in Him, has aspired from his early youth with his utmost might to cause the most glorious name of the said Creator to be published, extolled, and revered throughout the whole world, even in the most remote and undiscovered places, and also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the Saracens and all other infidels whatsoever, [and how] after the city of Ceuta, situated in Africa, had been subdued by the said King John to his dominion, and after many wars had been waged, sometimes in person, by the said infante, although in the name of the said King John, against the enemies and infidels aforesaid, not without the greatest labors and expense, and with dangers and loss of life and property, and the slaughter of very many of their natural subjects, the said infante being neither enfeebled nor terrified by so many and great labors, dangers, and losses, but growing daily more and more zealous in prosecuting this his so laudable and pious purpose, has peopled with orthodox Christians certain solitary islands in the ocean sea, and has caused churches and other pious places to be there founded and built, in which divine service is celebrated. Also by the laudable endeavor and industry of the said infante, very many inhabitants or dwellers in divers islands situated in the said sea, coming to the knowledge of the true God, have received holy baptism, to the praise and glory of God, the salvation of the souls of many, the propagation also of the orthodox faith, and the increase of divine worship.

Moreover, since, some time ago, it had come to the knowledge of the said infante that never, or at least not within the memory of men, had it been customary to sail on this ocean sea toward the southern and eastern shores, and that it was so unknown to us westerners that we had no certain knowledge of the peoples of those parts, believing that he would best perform his duty to God in this matter, if by his effort and industry that sea might become navigable as far as to the Indians who are said to worship the name of Christ, and that thus he might be able to enter into relation with them, and to incite them to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet, and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown but most sacred name of Christ, strengthened, however, always by the royal authority, he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole. And so it came to pass that when a number of ships of this kind had explored and taken possession of very many harbors, islands, and seas, they at length came to the province of Guinea, and having taken possession of some islands and harbors and the sea adjacent to that province, sailing farther they came to the mouth of a certain great river commonly supposed to be the Nile, and war was waged for some years against the peoples of those parts in the name of the said King Alfonso and of the infante, and in it very many islands in that neighborhood were subdued and peacefully possessed, as they are still possessed together with the adjacent sea. Thence also many Guineamen and other negroes, taken by force, and some by barter of unprohibited articles, or by other lawful contract of purchase, have been sent to the said kingdoms. A large number of these have been converted to the Catholic faith, and it is hoped, by the help of divine mercy, that if such progress be continued with them, either those peoples will be converted to the faith or at least the souls of many of them will be gained for Christ.

But since, as we are informed, although the king and infante aforesaid (who with so many and so great dangers, labors, and expenses, and also with loss of so many natives of their said kingdoms, very many of whom have perished in those expeditions, depending only upon the aid of those natives, have caused those provinces to be explored and have acquired and possessed such harbors, islands, and seas, as aforesaid, as the true lords of them), fearing lest strangers induced by covetousness should sail to those parts, and desiring to usurp to themselves the perfection, fruit, and praise of this work, or at least to hinder it, should therefore, either for the sake of gain or through malice, carry or transmit iron, arms, wood used for construction, and other things and goods prohibited to be carried to infidels or should teach those infidels the art of navigation, whereby they would become more powerful and obstinate enemies to the king and infante, and the prosecution of this enterprise would either be hindered, or would perhaps entirely fail, not without great offense to God and great reproach to all Christianity, to prevent this and to conserve their right and possession, [the said king and infante] under certain most severe penalties then expressed, have prohibited and in general have ordained that none, unless with their sailors and ships and on payment of a certain tribute and with an express license previously obtained from the said king or infante, should presume to sail to the said provinces or to trade in their ports or to fish in the sea, [although the king and infante have taken this action, yet in time it might happen that persons of other kingdoms or nations, led by envy, malice, or covetousness, might presume, contrary to the prohibition aforesaid, without license and payment of such tribute, to go to the said provinces, and in the provinces, harbors, islands, and sea, so acquired, to sail, trade, and fish; and thereupon between King Alfonso and the infante, who would by no means suffer themselves to be so trifled with in these things, and the presumptuous persons aforesaid, very many hatreds, rancors, dissensions, wars, and scandals, to the highest offense of God and danger of souls, probably might and would ensue --

We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso -- to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit --

by having secured the said faculty, the said King Alfonso, or, by his authority, the aforesaid infante, justly and lawfully has acquired and possessed, and doth possess, these islands, lands, harbors, and seas, and they do of right belong and pertain to the said King Alfonso and his successors, nor without special license from King Alfonso and his successors themselves has any other even of the faithful of Christ been entitled hitherto, nor is he by any means now entitled lawfully to meddle therewith -- in order that King Alfonso himself and his successors and the infante.may be able the more zealously to pursue and may pursue this most pious and noble work, and most worthy of perpetual remembrance (which, since the salvation of souls, increase of the faith, and overthrow of its enemies may be procured thereby, we regard as a work wherein the glory of God, and faith in Him, and His commonwealth, the Universal Church, are concerned) in proportion as they, having been relieved of all the greater obstacles, shall find themselves supported by us and by the Apostolic See with favors and graces -- we, being very fully informed of all and singular the premises, do, motu proprio, not at the instance of King Alfonso or the infante, or on the petition of any other offered to us on their behalf in respect to this matter, and after mature deliberation, by apostolic authority, and from certain knowledge, in the fullness of apostolic power, by the tenor of these presents decree and declare that the aforesaid letters of faculty (the tenor whereof we wish to be considered as inserted word for word in these presents, with all and singular the clauses therein contained) are extended to Ceuta and to the aforesaid and all other acquisitions whatsoever, even those acquired before the date of the said letters of faculty, and to all those provinces, islands, harbors, and seas whatsoever, which hereafter, in the name of the said King Alfonso and of his successors and of the infante, in those parts and the adjoining, and in the more distant and remote parts, can be acquired from the hands of infidels or pagans, and that they are comprehended under the said letters of faculty. And by force of those and of the present letters of faculty the acquisitions already made, and what hereafter shall happen to be acquired, after they shall have been acquired, we do by the tenor of these presents decree and declare have pertained, and forever of right do belong and pertain, to the aforesaid king and to his successors and to the infante, and that the right of conquest which in the course of these letters we declare to be extended from the capes of Bojador and of Não, as far as through all Guinea, and beyond toward that southern shore, has belonged and pertained, and forever of right belongs and pertains, to the said King Alfonso, his successors, and the infante, and not to any others. We also by the tenor of these presents decree and declare that King Alfonso and his successors and the infante aforesaid might and may, now and henceforth, freely and lawfully, in these [acquisitions] and concerning them make any prohibitions, statutes, and decrees whatsoever, even penal ones, and with imposition of any tribute, and dispose and ordain concerning them as concerning their own property and their other dominions. And in order to confer a more effectual right and assurance we do by these presents forever give, grant, and appropriate to the aforesaid King Alfonso and his successors, kings of the said kingdoms, and to the infante, the provinces, islands, harbors, places, and seas whatsoever, how many soever, and of what sort soever they shall be, that have already been acquired and that shall hereafter come to be acquired, and the right of conquest also from the capes of Bojador and of Não aforesaid.

Moreover, since this is fitting in many ways for the perfecting of a work of this kind, we allow that the aforesaid King Alfonso and [his] successors and the infante, as also the persons to whom they, or any one of them, shall think that this work ought to be committed, may (according to the grant made to the said King John by Martin V., of happy memory, and another grant made also to King Edward of illustrious memory, king of the same kingdoms, father of the said King Alfonso, by Eugenius IV., of pious memory, Roman pontiffs, our predecessors) make purchases and sales of any things and goods and victuals whatsoever, as it shall seem fit, with any Saracens and infidels, in the said regions; and also may enter into any contracts, transact business, bargain, buy and negotiate, and carry any commodities whatsoever to the places of those Saracens and infidels, provided they be not iron instruments, wood to be used for construction, cordage, ships, or any kinds of armor, and may sell them to the said Saracens and infidels; and also may do, perform, or prosecute all other and singular things [mentioned] in the premises, and things suitable or necessary in relation to these; and that the same King Alfonso, his successors, and the infante, in the provinces, islands, and places already acquired, and to be acquired by him, may found and [cause to be] founded and built any churches, monasteries, or other pious places whatsoever; and also may send over to them any ecclesiastical persons whatsoever, as volunteers, both seculars, and regulars of any of the mendicant orders (with license, however, from their superiors), and that those persons may abide there as long as they shall live, and hear confessions of all who live in the said parts or who come thither, and after the confessions have been heard they may give due absolution in all cases, except those reserved to the aforesaid see, and enjoin salutary penance, and also administer the ecclesiastical sacraments freely and lawfully, and this we allow and grant to Alfonso himself, and his successors, the kings of Portugal, who shall come afterwards, and to the aforesaid infante. Moreover, we entreat in the Lord, and by the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom, as has been said, it concerneth, we exhort, and as they hope for the remission of their sins enjoin, and also by this perpetual edict of prohibition we more strictly inhibit, all and singular the faithful of Christ, ecclesiastics, seculars, and regulars of whatsoever orders, in whatsoever part of the world they live, and of whatsoever state, degree, order, condition, or pre-eminence they shall be, although endued with archiepiscopal, episcopal, imperial, royal, queenly, ducal, or any other greater ecclesiastical or worldly dignity, that they do not by any means presume to carry arms, iron, wood for construction, and other things prohibited by law from being in any way carried to the Saracens, to any of the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places whatsoever, acquired or possessed in the name of King Alfonso, or situated in this conquest or elsewhere, to the Saracens, infidels, or pagans; or even without special license from the said King Alfonso and his successors and the infante, to carry or cause to be carried merchandise and other things permitted by law, or to navigate or cause to be navigated those seas, or to fish in them, or to meddle with the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places, or any of them, or with this conquest, or to do anything by themselves or another or others, directly or indirectly, by deed or counsel, or to offer any obstruction whereby the aforesaid King Alfonso and his successors and the infante may be hindered from quietly enjoying their acquisitions and possessions, and prosecuting and carrying out this conquest.

And we decree that whosoever shall infringe these orders [shall incur the following penalties], besides the punishments pronounced by law against those who carry arms and other prohibited things to any of the Saracens, which we wish them to incur by so doing; if they be single persons, they shall incur the sentence of excommunication; if a community or corporation of a city, castle, village, or place, that city, castle, village, or place shall be thereby subject to the interdict; and we decree further that transgressors, collectively or individually, shall not be absolved from the sentence of excommunication, nor be able to obtain the relaxation of this interdict, by apostolic or any other authority, unless they shall first have made due satisfaction for their transgressions to Alfonso himself and his successors and to the infante, or shall have amicably agreed with them thereupon. By [these] apostolic writings we enjoin our venerable brothers, the archbishop of Lisbon, and the bishops of Silves and Ceuta, that they, or two or one of them, by himself, or another or others, as often as they or any of them shall be required on the part of the aforesaid King Alfonso and his successors and the infante or any one of them, on Sundays, and other festival days, in the churches, while a large multitude of people shall assemble there for divine worship, do declare and denounce by apostolic authority that those persons who have been proved to have incurred such sentences of excommunication and interdict, are excommunicated and interdicted, and have been and are involved in the other punishments aforesaid. And we decree that they shall also cause them to be denounced by others, and to be strictly avoided by all, till they shall have made satisfaction for or compromised their transgressions as aforesaid. Offenders are to be held in check by ecclesiastical censure, without regard to appeal, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances and all other things whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding. But in order that the present letters, which have been issued by us of our certain knowledge and after mature deliberation thereupon, as is aforesaid, may not hereafter be impugned by anyone as fraudulent, secret, or void, we will, and by the authority, knowledge, and power aforementioned, we do likewise by these letters, decree and declare that the said letters and what is contained therein cannot in any wise be impugned, or the effect thereof hindered or obstructed, on account of any defect of fraudulency, secrecy, or nullity, not even from a defect of the ordinary or of any other authority, or from any other defect, but that they shall be valid forever and shall obtain full authority. And if anyone, by whatever authority, shall, wittingly or unwittingly, attempt anything inconsistent with these orders we decree that his act shall be null and void. Moreover, because it would be difficult to carry our present letters to all places whatsoever, we will, and by the said authority we decree by these letters, that faith shall be given as fully and permanently to copies of them, certified under the hand of a notary public and the seal of the episcopal or any superior ecclesiastical court, as if the said original letters were exhibited or shown; and we decree that within two months from the day when these present letters, or the paper or parchment containing the tenor of the same, shall be affixed to the doors of the church at Lisbon, the sentences of excommunication and the other sentences contained therein shall bind all and singular offenders as fully as if these present letters had been made known and presented to them in person and lawfully. Therefore let no one infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our declaration, constitution, gift, grant, appropriation, decree, supplication, exhortation, injunction, inhibition, mandate, and will. But if anyone should presume to do so, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the eighth day of January, in the year of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand four hundred and fifty-four, and in the eighth year of our pontificate.

                                                             P. de Noxeto.)

The kings ordered the construction of churches; and also nominated pastors and bishops. Thus the Portuguese colonisation was effectively both political and religious by default.  It was under this condition we should be looking at the Portuguese Colonisation and the behavior of Bishops in their treatment of the Malankara Suryani Christians.

AD 1498 Arrival of Vasco Da Gama and Roman Catholic Mission

The squadron of Vasco da Gama set sail from Targus River in Lisbon onleft Portugal in July 8. 1497, rounded the Cape and continued along the coast of East Africa, where a local pilot was brought on board who guided them across the Indian Ocean.  He was carrying a letter from the Pope to the Eastern Christian King - Prestir John  and to the Ruler of Malabar City of Calicut. , He commanded the flagship St. Gabriel, accompanied by the St. Raphael and Berrio (commanded, respectively, by his brother Paulo and Nicolas Coelho) and a large supply ship. Rreaching Kappad near Calicut (the capital of the native kingdom ruled by Zamorins) in south-western India in May 20, 1498. The second  in 1500 under Pedro Álvares Cabral landed also in the Brazilian coast.  Two follow up voyages were sent in 1501 and 1503. 

                           Vasco Da Gama and the  Portuguese colonization routes and the Portuguese Indian coin minted 1799


1460 or 1469
Sines or Vidigueira, Alentejo, Kingdom of Portugal


23 December 1524 (aged 54-64)
Kochi, India


Explorer, Governor of Portuguese India


Vasco da Gama lands at Calicut, May 20, 1498.

 Vasco de Gama

Vasco da Gama was the first European to open a sea-based trade route to India. In an epic voyage, he sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope and succeeded in breaking the monopoly of Arab and Venetian spice traders

Vasco Da Gama (1460 – 1524 AD) was commissioned by the King of Portugal King Manuel I to over ride the Muslim hegemony over the Oriental oceanic trades.  He also hoped to join with the Eastern Christian forces (symbolized to medieval Europeans by the legend of the Priest King Prestor John) in an attempt to crusade against Islam.  Gama carried with him a personal letter from King Manuel to Prester John and to the ruler of the Malabar city of Calicut  from the Tagus River of  Lisbon on July 8, 1497.  After the circuitous journey round Africa he landed in Calicut in AD 1498. So when Gama landed in Calicut he assumed that the people were all Christians.   He even went to the temple to worship “Our Lady” and prostrated before the goddess Mariamma.  The name Krishna very much sounded exactly as Christ.   They were soon to realize their mistake.

    Sanctum of the Black goddess
Mother Mary and Mariamman

Sri Kanyaka Paramesvari temple in the heart of old Georgetown in Chennai. December, 1994

The Tamil word "Amman" means "mother", so the name Mariamman means "Mother Mari".  Alternative versions of her name include Mariamma, Marika, Amman, Mari, Mahamaayi, and Maariamma. She is considered to be a form of Mother Parvati, consort of Siva, the Father God; who also manifests Herself as Durga and Kali. Hindus have statues of Mariamman in the temples, and pictures of Her in their houses.Very often she is called Virgin Goddess (Kanyaka Parameswari) Ghee or oil lamps are lit in shrines to Mariamman, and some devotees may place ghee lamps before Her shrine in the temple. There are special prayers and hymns to Mariamman.    Hindus   observe a vegetarian diet on Fridays - they refrain from eating meat. 

Without the understanding of the emergence of Hinduism from the early Thomas Christianity all these could not make sense.  From the 8th C defining period of Hinduism, it grew up into a distinct religion.  It also shows how the Greco-Roman Churches almost fall in line with the Hindu Churches except for the fact there was the redeeming presence of the Reformation which halted such extreme idol worship and ritual acts be taken to their extreme.

Vasco Da Gama - First Voyage to India
Vasco da Gama's first voyage to India

Goa was settled by the Portugese in 1498.
Daman and Diu were not annexed by the Portugese until 1537 CE.
St Jerome Fort built by the Portugese in Daman between 1614 and 1627 CE.
There were 2 other small enclaves which were under Portugese control. These were called Dadra and Nagar Haveli. These 2 small enclaves came under Portugese control in 1783 and 1785 and were administered from Daman, They became semi-independent in 1954 - because they were still recognized by the international connunity as Portugese possessions. But in 1961 when the Portugese were forced to leave India, these 2 enclaves signed an agreement to become part of India.

Along with this came the religious domination of Roman Catholic Church over the independent churches of Malabar. Portuguese being of Roman Catholic persuasion wanted to bring the Malabar Christians under the pontificate of Rome.

According to the Roman concept the Pope of Rome is the heir to the throne of Peter and is the Vicar of the Church Universal all over the world wherever it may be. The Roman Catholicism claimed that Pope of Rome was the supreme head of all the churches of the world and Indian Churches should also submit to this supremacy if they are to remain true as Catholic Church. The first such claim came with Friar John, whom Pope John XXII ordained as Bishop of Quilon in AD 1330 when he was sent him with a letter. Friar John is reported to have come to Quilon and founded a church in Latin rite. However historically there is no evidence that he ever came to Quilon. He is said to have been martyred at Kalyan in Bombay. There were similar visits from other legations from Rome. Though these were received with Christian courtesy it did not lead to acknowledgement of Papal supremacy as expected. 

vasco madeira 1898
Vasco-da-Gama's flagship San Gabriel        Vasco-da-Gama

vasco madeira 1898 

Fleet departing         Fleet arriving at Calicut        Embarking at Rastello

from the stamp collection of  Kasinath R.

During the second expedition, the Portuguese fleet comprising 13 ships and 18 priests, under Captain Pedro Álvares Cabral, anchored at Cochin on Nov. 26, 1500.

Half-length portrait of a bearded man wearing a hat with a large feather.

Cabral soon won the goodwill of the Raja of Cochin. He allowed four priests to do apostolic work among the early Christian communities scattered in and around Cochin. Thus Portuguese missionaries established Portuguese Mission in 1500.

Dom Francisco de Almeida  also known as "the Great Dom Francisco"   distinguished himself as a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1503 he was appointed as the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia). Almeida is credited with establishing Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean, with his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509.

Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy got permission from the Kochi Raja to build two church edifices - namely Santa Cruz Basilica (Founded : 1505) and St. Francis Church (Founded : 1506) using stones and mortar which was unheard of at that time as the local prejudices were against such a structure for any purpose other than a royal palace or a temple.

Fort Kochi, Santa Cruz Basilica 

Santa Cruz Basilica (Founded : 1505) and St. Francis Church (Founded : 1506)

A canon from Fort Emmanuel

Duarte Pacheco Pereira, first commander of Fort Manuel of Cochin

Profiting from the rivalry between the ruler of Kochi and the Zamorin of Calicut, the Portuguese were well received and seen as allies, getting a permit to build a fort (Fort Manuel) and a trading post that were the first European settlement in India. The Battle of Cochin ensued where  a series of confrontations, between March and July 1504, fought on land and sea, principally between the Portuguese garrison at Cochin, allied to the Trimumpara Raja, and the armies of the Zamorin of Calicut and vassal Malabari states.

Profiting from the rivalry between the ruler of Kochi and the Zamorin of Calicut, the Portuguese were well received and seen as allies, getting a permit to build a fort (Fort Manuel) and a trading post that were the first European settlement in India. In 1505 King Manuel I of Portugal appointed Francisco de Almeida first Viceroy of Portuguese India, establishing the Portuguese government in the east. That year the Portuguese conquered Kannur where they founded St. Angelo Fort. Lourenço de Almeida arrived in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), where he discovered the source of cinnamon.  In 1509, the Portuguese won the sea Battle of Diu against the combined forces of the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II, Sultan of Gujarat, Mamlûk Sultan of Cairo, Zamorin of Kozhikode, Venetian Republic, and Ragusan Republic (Dubrovnik). .

On June 12, 1514, Cochin and Goa became two prominent mission stations under the newly created Diocese of Funchal in Madeira. In 1534, Pope Paul III by the Bull Quequem Reputamus, raised Funchal as an archdiocese and Goa as its suffragan, deputing the whole of India under the diocese of Goa.  

 A second Battle of Diu in 1538 finally ended Ottoman ambitions in India and confirmed Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean.

In 1542 Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Goa at the service of King John III of Portugal, in charge of an Apostolic Nunciature.  The Portuguese built the Pulicat fort in 1502, with the help of the Vijayanagar ruler. There were Portuguese settlements in and around Mylapore. The Luz Church in Mylapore, Madras (Chennai) was the first church that the Portuguese built in Madras in 1516. Later in 1522, the São Tomé church was built on the grave of Saint Thomas.

This started the Colonization process of India by the Western Nations. The Portugese founded their Indian empire from Goa.  The Goan Empire was started by  Alfonso de Albuquerque who was the first Viceroy of Portugal from 1509 to 1515. Gama returned to India twice and on the second time entered India as the Viceroy of Portugal on December, 24 1524. and he died on the Malabar Coast at Cochin in India. 

A second Battle of Diu in 1538 finally ended Ottoman ambitions in India and confirmed Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean.


In 1542 Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Goa at the service of King John III of Portugal, in charge of an Apostolic Nunciature. , Francis Xavier, converted fishing communities all along  the southwestern coast of India, and they remain as Christians to this day.



Inquisition and Migration of  Goan Catholics


The Catholic saint Francis Xavier requested John III of Portugal to install an Inquisition in Goa, which became the cause of the first great wave of migrations towards South Canara

File:Mangalorean catholic migration.JPG

Many of the Goan ancestors of the present Mangalorean Catholics fled Goa because of the Goa Inquisition introduced by the Portuguese in 1560.   King Sebastian of Portugal decreed that every trace of Indian customs be eradicated through the Inquisition. But many Christians of Goa were tenaciously attached to some of their ancient Indian customs, especially their traditional Hindu marriage costumes and refused to abandon them.  Those who refused to comply with the rules laid down by the Inquisition were forced to leave Goa and to settle outside the Portuguese dominion,  which resulted in the first wave of migrations towards South Canara.

Distribution of Goan Catholics in India 2001

However, many Goan Catholics were tenaciously attached to some of their Indian cultural practices and customs.  Those who refused to give up their ancient  practices were declared apostates and heretics and condemned to death. Such circumstances forced many to leave Goa and settle in the neighboring kingdoms, of which a minority went to the Deccan and the vast majority went to Canara.  Historian Severine Silva reasons that the fact that these Catholics who fled the Inquisition did not abandon their Christian faith.  These migrations laid the foundations for two distinct Konkani Catholic communities in Canara—the Karwari Catholics of North Canara and the Mangalorean Catholics of South Canara, respectively.

It is interesting and instructive, in this light, to view the rituals and practices of Mangalorean Catholics. These Catholics of South fled from Goa (mainly from its northern districts) in successive waves. A large number fled to escape the scrutiny of the inquistion. Among them the ritual substances banned by the inquistion such as betel leaves, areca nuts, rice and flowers, continue to be employed in domestic celebrations and the pattern of ritual practices appears much more resemble forms described in the Inquisitorial edict. — A.P.L. D'Souza, Popular Christianity: A Case Study among the Catholics of Mangalore  

Portuguese viceroy forbade the use of Konkani the local language of Goa on 27 June 1684 and further decreed that within three years, the local people in general would speak the Portuguese tongue and use it in all their contacts and contracts made in Portuguese territories. The penalties for violation would be imprisonment. The decree was confirmed by the king on 17 March 1687.

The Christians who left Goa were skilled cultivators who abandoned their irrigated fields in Goa to achieve freedom. At the time of migration, Canara was ruled by the Keladi king, Shivappa Nayaka (1540–60). He evinced great interest in the development of agriculture in his empire and welcomed these farmers to his kingdom, giving them fertile lands to cultivate.  They were also recruited into the armies of the Bednore dynasty.  This was confirmed by Francis Buchanan, a Scottish physician, when he visited Canara in 1801. In his book, A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (1807), he stated that "The princes of the house of Ikkeri had given great encouragement to the Christians, and had induced 80,000 of them to settle in Tuluva."   

Under the provisional treaties between the Portuguese and the Bednore rulers, and the Paradox (Protectorate privileges) the Christians were allowed to build churches and help the growth of Christianity in South Canara.  

Portugese Printing Press in India.

In 1556, a Portuguese ship going to Goa for came with 14 Jesuits bound for Abyssinia (today's Ethiopia) and a printing press. One of them, Joao de Bustamente, a Spaniard, was a printer.  Before it got to Abyssinia, the clergy in Goa requested the Portugese Governor General to keep the press in India as it was more needed here.  Thus Bustamente and his printing press remained in Goa in the College of St.Paul in Old Goa.   Four books are known to have been printed by Bustamante:

·         Conclusões e outras coisas (Theses and other things) in 1556.

·         Confecionarios in 1557.

·         Doutrina Christa by St. Francis Xavier in 1557.

·         Tratado contra os erros scismaticos dos Abexins (A Tract against the Schismatic Errors of the Abyssinians) by Gonçalo Rodrigues in 1560.

In 1568, the first illustrated cover page (the illustration being done with the relief technique of woodblock) was printed in Goa for the book Constituciones Do ArcebispadoDe Goa. The earliest, surviving printed book in India is the Compendio Spiritual Da Vide Christaa (Spiritual Compendium of the Christian life) of Gaspar Jorge de Leão Pereira, the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa.

Joao Gonsalves, is credited with preparing the first printing types of an Indian script- Tamil. However, since they were not satisfactory, new casts were made in Quilon(Kollam) by Father Joao da Faria. On 20 October 1578, these types were used to print the first book in an Indian language in India (the first Tamil book was printed in Lisbon in 1554 in Romanized Tamil script.)- Henrique Henriques’s Doctrina Christam en Lingua Malauar Tamul – Tampiran Vanakam, a Tamil translation of St Francis Xavier’s Doutrina Christa. This 16 page book of prayers and catechetical instructions was printed in Quilon.

Father Thomas Stephens in 1622, published Doutrina Christam em lingoa Bramana Canarim, ordenada a maneira de dialogo, pera ensinar os mininos, por Thomas Estevao, Collegio de Rachol  (Christian Doctrines in the Canarese Brahmin Language, arranged in dialogue to teach children). This was the first book in Konkani in 1640.  Father Thomas Stephen produced the first Konkani Grammar also in 1640.    

From then on  printing in Latin, Portuguese, Tamil (which the Portugese called Malabar) and, Konkani, were distributed for the next hundred years. Then, as suddenly as it had started the printing stopped. Tamil printing stopped around 1612. but the books in Latin and Portuguese were continued to be printed in Goa till 1674.

Title page of Garcia da Orta's Colóquios. Goa, 1563.


The "Second Wave of Migration" to the South



Ali Adil Shah I's attack on Goa in 1571 precipitated the second wave of Goan Catholic migrations towards South Canara.

In 1570, the Sultan of Bijapur, Ali Adil Shah I  along with the Sultan of Ahmadnagar, Murtaza Nizam Shah and the Zamorin of Kozhikode for an   attack on the Portuguese territories of Goa, Chaul and Mangalore.  He attacked Goa in 1571 and ended Portuguese influence in the region.  Many Catholics from Goa migrated to South Canara and settled down in Barkur, Kallianpur, Kundapura and Basrur. This migration is referred as the "Second Wave of Migration".    This included Christian Goud Saraswat  of the Shenvi sub-section.


"Third Wave of Migration".

The attacks of the Maratha Empire on Goa, during the mid 16th century, was also a cause of migration. In 1664, Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire, attacked Kudal, a town north of Goa, and began his campaign for Goa. After Shivaji's death on April 3, 1680, his son Sambhaji ascended to the throne. The onslaught of Sambahji, along the northern territories of Goa drove nearly all the Christians from their homelands, and most of them migrated to South Canara. This migration is referred as the "Third Wave of Migration". 


The Maratha ruler Sambhaji's onslaught was responsible for the third great wave of migrations to South Canara.



The Mysore Catholic Mission and Persecution of Christians



  The Mysore Catholic mission was established in Srirangapatna in 1649 by Leonardo Cinnami, an Italian Jesuit from Goa.   Although a few years later Cinnami was expelled from Mysore on account of opposition in Kanthirava's court.  However he was allowed to return to consolidate his mission which now expanded all over Mysore area some of which now form part of Madras.

The reign of Kanthirava Narasaraja I, the Wodeyar ruler of Mysore from 1638 to 1659, saw a wave of persecutions directed against the Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam.


Dalwai of Mysore (de facto ruler)
Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan


 Hyder Naik was the dalwai  or commander-in-chief to Krishnaraja Wodeyar II.  Eventually he took over control as the Sultan and practically instituted Islamic rule. 


In February 1768, the British captured Mangalore and Canara from Hyder.  At the end of the same year, Hyder, along with his son Tipu Sultan, defeated the British and recaptured Mangalore. After the conquest, Hyder was informed that the Mangalorean Catholics had helped the British in their conquest of Mangalore. Hyder believed that this behaviour amounted to treachery against the sovereign.  Summoning a Portuguese officer and several Christian priests from Mangalore, he asked for suggestions as to how the Mangalorean Catholics should be punished. The Portuguese officer suggested the death penalty for those Catholics who had helped the British, as it was the standard punishment for betraying a sovereign.  However these suspicions against the clergy and the Christians were removed and during Hyder's regime, Roman Catholicism in Mangalore and the Mangalorean Catholic community continued to flourish. The Second Anglo-Mysore War began in 1780 and led to Hyder's death on 7 December 1782, at Arcot. Afterwards the British recaptured the fort at Mangalore.




Mangalore Fort soon after it was taken over by the British


His son Tipu Sultan succeeded his father at the age of 31 and was antichristian and fought against the British infiltration into India.  Tipu made a number of accusations against the Christians, including that they had invited the British to invade Canara in 1781–82.  The captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, began on 24 February 1784 and continued on till 4 May 1799. 


The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had traveled through this route on their way to Srirangapatanam

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labor to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."  Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu gained control of Canara.  He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,  and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.  However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Father Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rupees 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.

Tipu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all beautifully carved with statues depicting various saints. Among them included the Church of Nossa Senhora de Rosario Milagres at Mangalore, Fr Miranda's Seminary at Monte Mariano, Church of Jesu Marie Jose at Omzoor, Chapel at Bolar, Church of Merces at Ullal, Imaculata Conceiciao at Mulki, San Jose at Perar, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios at Kirem, Sao Lawrence at Karkal, Rosario at Barkur, Immaculata Conceciao at Baidnur.  All were razed to the ground, with the exception of The Church of Holy Cross at Hospet, owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 people,  nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured; only 7,000 escaped. Francis Buchanan gives the numbers as 70,000 captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000 of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there.  The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.  According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.   The British officer James Scurry, was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with the Mangalorean Catholics

A dungeon at Seringapatam. Those Christians who refused to embrace Islam were imprisoned in such dungeons.

Tipu Sultan's rule of the Malabar coast had an adverse impact on the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community. Many churches in the Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the centre of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tipu's soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever.  The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu's army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Syrian Malabar Nasrani were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Syrian Malabar farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tipu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.

Tipu's persecution of Christians even extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant number of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the 1780 Battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls.

Tipu also seized nearly 70,000 Hindus of Coorg along with the King of Coorg, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, and held them captive at Seringapatam. They were also forcibly converted to Islam and received the same treatment as the Mangalorean Catholics.  From 1786 until 1789, even the Nairs of Malabar were captured and deported to Seringapatam.

By 1787, half of the Christians had perished through disease and starvation. As the Christians settled down in Seringapatam, they slowly reorganised themselves as underground Christian groups with the elders forming  small secret groups named the "Council of Ten", to help keep their faith alive.  According to Balthazar of Belthangadi, in the "Council of Ten", all the groups met together from time to time to deliberate on issues concerning the community. In 1789, Tipu came to know of the group through one of his officers and thereafter banned any large gathering of the Christians. English Jesuit Thomas Stephens (1549––1619) wrote the  Krista Purana, - written in Konkani and Marathi languages - an epic poem on the life of Jesus Christ which became the center of the study of the underground group.  Though these books when found were burned by the Mulsims, the persecution only intensified the Christian activities underground.  Following the catacoumb traditions the underground Christians constructed subterranean refuges in which to perform their religious devotions, and study the life of Christ and other books, and strengthen their faith.

Many of the captive christians escaped to neighboring countries.  In 1792, the King of Coorg, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, managed to escape from captivity at Seringapatnam, and, with the aid of the British armies under Lord Cornwallis, was able to regain Coorg for himself through the treaty of 1792 between the English, their allies and Tipu.  Anxious to repopulate a kingdom depopulated by Tipu, Dodda welcomed the fugitive Konkani Christians. As an inducement to remain permanently in his territory, he granted them several privileges, obtained a priest from Goa, and built a chapel for them.  After the relaxation of policies from 1792 onwards, the Christians began to resettle in Canara. Many Mangalorean Catholic students, who had studied for the priesthood in Goa returned to Mangalore.

In the Battle of Seringapatam on 4 May 1799, the British army under officers George Harris, David Baird, and Arthur Wellesley stormed the fortress, breached the town of Seringapatam, and killed Tipu.  After Tipu's death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the Mangalorean Catholics were freed from captivity.  Of the 60,000–80,000 Christians taken captive, only 15,000–20,000 made it out as Christians.  British general Arthur Wellesley helped 10,000 of them return to Canara.  Of the remaining Christians freed, about a thousand went to Malabar, and some hundreds settled in Coorg.  Churches destroyed by Tipu were rebuilt by the Christians.  Eventually the Catholic Community became very prosperous in Canara.

File:Sir Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington.jpg
Arthur Wellesley

The Portuguese shifted their base to Cochin and Quilon, where they ruled (or influenced the rule) and had their major presence for nearly 160 years, changing the course of history in regard to politics, religion and trade in Malabar.

The Dutch finally defeated the Portuguese in Malabar in 1660 and pushed the Portuguese towards Goa and the Daman, Diu colonies where they remained until the Independence of India. After India's independence from the British in 1947, Portugal refused to accede to India's request to relinquish control of its Indian possessions.  Eventually, in December 1961, India militarily invaded Goa, Daman and Diu and the Governor of Portuguese India General Vassalo da Silva signed the Instrument of Surrender  on 19 December 1961, ending 450 years of Portuguese rule in India. On 30 May 1987 Goa became the 25th state of the Indian Union. Daman and Diu was separated from Goa and continues to be administered as a Union territory.      


Diu fortress in Portuguese India.

Map of the main Portuguese settlements (1600s.) by Marco Ramerini

File:Portugal Império total.png
Wiki map of Portuguese Empire


The 1494 Tordesilhas Treaty meridian dividing the world between Portugal and Castille (modern-day Spain) and the Moluccas antimeridian (green), set at the Treaty of Zaragoza, 1529

In order to understand the events connected with various Christian groups in various regions of India we need to remember the series of Colonial occupation timings. 
Here is the time line for the Colonial India

Portuguese India                      1510–1961
Casa da Índia                                      1434–1833
Portuguese East India Company        1628–1633

Dutch India                         1605–1825
Danish India

French India                       1759–1954

British India                                  1613–1947
East India Company                        
Company rule in India                      1757–1857
British Raj                                          1858–1947

Along with this came the religious domination of Roman Catholic Church over the independent churches of Malabar. Portuguese being of Roman Catholic persuasion wanted to bring the Malabar Christians under the pontificate of Rome.

According to the Roman concept the Pope of Rome is the heir to the throne of Peter and is the Vicar of the Church Universal all over the world wherever it may be. The Roman Catholicism claimed that Pope of Rome was the supreme head of all the churches of the world and Indian Churches should also submit to this supremacy if they are to remain true as Catholic Church. The first such claim came with Friar John, whom Pope John XXII ordained as Bishop of Quilon in AD 1330 when he was sent him with a letter. Friar John is reported to have come to Quilon and founded a church in Latin rite. However historically there is no evidence that he ever came to Quilon. He is said to have been martyred at Kalyan in Bombay. There were similar visits from other legations from Rome. Though these were received with Christian courtesy it did not lead to acknowledgement of Papal supremacy as expected.

AD 1599 Synod of Diampore

The Portuguese became powerful in certain areas of India especially in Goa and Bombay. In Jan. 1599, Alexiyodi Menessis, the Archbishop of Goa came to Cochin. Geevarghese Archdeacon was in charge of the churches in Kerala at that time. Menessis Archbishop with the colonial power behind him used the power to get Geevarghese Archdeacon arrested and put in prison under the orders of the King of Cochin. Then he traveled extensively and influenced the leaders and people. In July 5, 1599, he called the famous Udayam Perror Council (Sunnahadose). There were 153 leaders and 660 laymen were represented in that council. Under the yoke of the Portuguese Colonial force they, accepted the supremacy of the Pope of Rome. However the sailing was not smooth for Roman church. This domination continued for over five decades. Through political influence the Synod of Diamper (Portuguese name for Udayamperoor) was held in 1599 and most of the St: Thomas Christians were brought under the Pope.

The Inquisition

Emblem of the Inquisition.

The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis (inquiry on heretical perversity), was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy.  Inquisitors were allowed to use torture by Gregory IX who allowed “free faculty of the sword against enemies of the faith”.  This was an effort to stop any attempt to question the doctrine and authority of the Roman Church.  As a result reformation was always associated with political support from countries where it arose to oppose any attempt of Roman Churches to stop these reformation.

Historians distinguish four different manifestations of the Inquisition:

  1. the Medieval Inquisition (1231–16th century)
  2. the Spanish Inquisition (1478–1834)
  3. the Portuguese Inquisition (1536–1821)
  4. the Roman Inquisition (1542 – c. 1860)


Representation of an auto-da-fé, (around 1495).
Many artistic representations depict torture and burning at the stake
 as occurring during the auto-da-fé.

An auto-da-fé (also auto da fé and auto de fe) was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition or the Portuguese Inquisition had decided their punishment, followed by the execution by the civil authorities of the sentences imposed. Both auto de fe in medieval Spanish and auto da fé in Portuguese actually  mean "act of faith".

St. Francis Xavier who requested the Inquisition in 1545   and Copper engraving entitled "Die Inquisition in Portugall", by Jean David Zunner  

The Portuguese Inquisition was formally established in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III.  When the Portuguese came into India, the inquisition also followed.. We know of the Inquisition trials there against the physician Jeronimo Diaz, burned at the stake in 1560, and against the great scientist Gracia da Orta, condemned by the Inquisition after his death, his remains exhumed, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river (1580).

Goan Inquisition record shows the following statistics

Number of autos da fe with known sentences

Executions in persona

Executions in effigie








Both the Spanish and the Portuguese inquisitions followed the procedures used by medieval inquisitors. Both national inquisitions also became involved in the censorship of books during their struggle to suppress Protestantism.

It essentially confused Culture with Religion as is evident from the following prohibitions instituted by Goa Inquisition.

Prohibitions Regarding Marriages

-The instruments for Hindu songs shall not be played.
-While giving dowry the relatives of the bride and groom must not be invited.
-At the time of marriage, betel leaf packages (pan) must not be distributed either publicly or in private to the persons present.
-Flowers, or fried puris, betel nuts and leaves must not be sent to the heads of the houses of the bride or groom.
-Gotraj ceremony of family God must not be performed.
-On the day prior to a wedding, rice must not be husked, spices must not be pounded, grains must not be ground and other recipes for marriage feast must not be cooked.
-Pandals and festoons must not be used.
-Pithi should not be applied.
-The bride must not be accorded ceremonial welcome. The bride and groom must not -be made to sit under pandal to convey blessings and best wishes to them.

Prohibitions Regarding Fasts, Post-death Rituals

-The poor must not be fed or ceremonial meals must not be served for the peace of the souls of the dead.
-There should be no fasting on ekadashi day.
-Fasting can be done according to the Christian principles.
-No rituals should be performed on the twelfth day after death, on moonless and full moon dates.
-No fasting should be done during lunar eclipse.



-Hindu men should not wear dhoti either in public or in their houses. Women should not wear cholis .
-They should not plant Tulsi in their houses, compounds, gardens or any other place. 

It is in this political social and political context we should be understanding the Synod of Diampoore

 Alexiyodi Menessis, the Archbishop of Goa  and Udayam Perror Church

Synod of Diamper, held at Udayaperur ((Diamper)), is a diocesan synod (council) that formally united the ancient Christian Church of the Malabar Coast (modern Kerala state), India, with the Roman Catholic church. It was convened on June 20, 1599, under the leadership of Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa. Archdeacon George (of the Cross) was forced to comply with the wishes of Archbishop of Goa. This separated the Thomas Christians from the Chaldean Patriarch and subjected them directly to the Latin Archbishopric of Goa. The Archbishopric of Angamale was downgraded to a Bishopric under Goa in 1600 AD. Portuguese Padroado rule was thus imposed and the Bishops for Saint Thomas Christians were appointed by Portuguese Padroado.

From each church four representatives of the laity and the parish priest were directed to attend the synod. From 168 churches 671 persons attended. Eighty parish priests, 47 newly ordained priests, 20 deacons and the missionaries from seminaries together were 153 in number. Sub-deacons worked as volunteers

The aim of the Synod was declared as follows:


1.  To the Glory and Praise of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost and All extant in one – Trinity;

2. To perpetuate christian belief and living in the diocese;

3. To ensure the growth and spread of catholic belief and reckoning;

4. To declare allegiance and obedience to the Roman Pontiff;

5. To eradicate heresies and pagan practices;

6. To abrogate heretic verses from religious books and liturgy.

7. To destroy books containing perverse and pernicious errors.

8. To abjure the faith and allegiance to the patriarch of Babylon.

9. To perpetuate correct observance of the Holy Sacraments and

10. To set up an orderly functioning of pastoral guidance and control (Zacharia p.110)

In 1597, Mar Abraham, the last metropolitan archbishop appointed by the Chaldean Patriarch, died.  His Archdeacon, George (of the Cross) according to the custom and by virtue of appointment of Mar Abraham, took up the administration of the Archdiocese of Angamale. In opposition Bishop Menezes nominate Fr. Francis Ros SJ as Administrator to the Thomas Churches of Malabar.  However because of the heavy opposition to this appointment, the bishop had to repeal this appointment.   Archdeacon called an assembly of the Saint Thomas Christians at Angamali, and all those who came in unanimously supported the Archdeacon.  

Bishop Menzes came down to Malabar  in February 1599,  and by coercion and threat obtained the support of the church leaders.  Menezes threatened to depose Archdeacon, George (of the Cross) and appoint in his place Thomas Kurian, another nephew of former Archdeacon whose claims had been ignored in 1593. In order to prevent a division, Archdeacon, George (of the Cross) yielded to the demands of Menezes.

 Soon after  Dom Alexis Menezes, Archbishop of Goa,  summoned all the priests, other clerics and four lay men elected from each church, even from the churches he had not visited under the pain of excommunication. About 130 ecclesiastics and 660 laymen ( elected and specially invited) met at Diamper in the  Kingdom of Cochin

In  Rev. Dr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan of the Syro-Malabar Church which still part of the communion of the Roman Catholic Church says:

"The Synod of Udayamperoor (June 20 - 26 -1599)

The St. Thomas Christians were very keen to keep communion with the Chaldeans. They were against any move to break this communion. But this does not mean they were not in communion with Rome. Communion with Rome and with the East Syrian Church could go together.

Mar Abraham had solicited the Jesuits to appoint the Archdeacon as his successor. They did not oblige..21 22 They wanted to appoint a Latin bishop over the St. Thomas Christians and bring them under the Padroado jurisdiction.

Archbishop Menezes of Goa had obtained from Pope Clement VIII authorization to appoint a vicar apostolic for Angamali after the death of Mar Abraham. Archbishop Menezes who rushed to Angamaly had to confirm the Archdeacon George of thew cross as the administrator. Menezes ordained priests to muster support and convoked a Synod at Diamper. Studies have revealed that the Synod was totally manipulated by the Archbishop. Menezes composed in anticipation the Acts of the Synod in Portuguese and got it translated into Malayalam. However this Portuguese text was very much different from the Malayalam text used for collecting the signature. The Portuguese manuscript is almost twice as long as the Malayalam one.

In Europe much publicity was given to the story of the Synod of Diamper. The literature published in this connection together with what was said to be the Acts of the Synod spread the false idea that for more than thousand years St. Thomas Christians had been living out of the Roman communion, and that they have been “reduced ” ((brought back)to the obedience of Rome by the efforts of the zealous Archbishop Menezes. Even today many do not know that St. Thomas Christians have always remained faithful and loyal to Rome for twenty centuries In place of “Reducing the St. Thomas Christians to the obedience of Rome ” Menezes should have written the truth,, namely, he removed the St. Thomas Christians from under the jurisdiction of the East Syrian prelates and brought them under the Latin jurisdiction and the Portuguese Padroado. The false propaganda has done permanent damage to the St. Thomas Christians. These manipulations have gone to creating animosity between the two communities.

Two Jesuit Fathers, Ros S.J who became bishop, and Campori S.J., who were present in the Synod, wrote to the Jesuit General that the Synod was not “in forma ”.According to their letters the St. Thomas Christians were not consulted in the Synod; they understood nothing of what was decided upon there. Precomposed regulations were read out which according to Archbishop Menezes, was done to avoid any hindrance to show the way of salvation to the assembled. Menezes made additions to the acts of the Synod after the Synod was over. Menezes obtained from Ros S.J. the signatures of the assembled detached from the original and attached them to the copy he prepared to be sent to Rome for approval.

Though Archbishop Menezes succeeded in establishing Latin hegemony and the Portuguese Padroado over the St. Thomas Christians, the Latin prelates and Latinization were never accepted by the Thomas Christians."

The Syond  began on the third Sunday after Pentecost, 20 June, 1599. It was held in the church of Diamper ( Udayamperoor) from June 20 to 26, 1599.   Archbishop Menezes presided the Syond. The censorship of books was essentially meant  to suppress Protestantism and any further reformation.

·         It is decreed that the Latin Vulgate is the Bible to be followed in contrast to the Syrian Bible.

·         In addition to eliminating the Syrian Bible, it demanded that all Syrian books were to be delivered up, altered, or destroyed.  All documents of the Church were burned and any attempt to avoid were subjected to the Inquisition at Goa.   All the writings of the St. Thomas Christians inclding Manuals of church activities were torn to pieces .  Apparently Thomas Christians were exposed to almost all early church fathers including the apocryphal and extensive theological works.   Only 4 manuscripts of the period prior to 1599 AD are known to exist today in India. One of that is a Kashkul copied in 1585 AD at Kothamangalam copied by an Indian priest. It is preserved in the Metropolitan’s Palace, Trichur.

Some of the other books which are said to be burnt at the synod of Diamper are, 1.The book of the infancy of the savior (history of our Lord)
2. Book of John Braldon
3. The Pearl of Faith
4. The Book of the Fathers
5. The Life of the Abbot Isaias
6. The Book of Sunday
7. Maclamatas
8. Uguarda or the Rose
9. Comiz
10. The Epistle of Mernaceal
11. Menra
12. Of orders
13. Homilies (in which the Eucharist is said to be the image of Christ)
14. Exposition of Gospels.
15. The Book of Rubban Hormisda
16. The Flowers of the Saints
17. The Book of Lots
18. The Parsimon or Persian Medicines

·         It decreed  the acknowledgment of the seven Roman sacraments, whereas the Syrians had recognized only three;

·         The liturgy used by the Thomas Christians were that of Addai and Mari.  The Synod declared certain passages of the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari as impious, sacrilegious and outcome of Nestorian heresy.

·         It decreed that there indeed is a  transubstantiation in the Eucharistic elements whereas the syrians believed it as an image of Jesus and his sacrifice.

·          Then followed the decrees to bring the Syrian Church into line with the papal doctrines of penance, auricular confession, extreme unction, adoration of images, reverence for relics, purgatory, eternal punishment, the worship of saints, the doctrine of indulgence, papal supremacy, and above all, the worship of the Virgin Mary. All these were unknown to Kerala Christians.

·         There was the decree demanding the celibacy of the clergy.  Until then all thomas clergy were married. All the Syrian priests were immediately to put away their wives and all support to the clergy family (wife and children) from the church were stopped 

·         Forty-one decrees were passed with reference to fasts and festivals, organization, and order in church affairs.  In the social context all inter-religious communal festivals were forbidden including the celebration of Onam.  These decrees essentially confused culture and religion based on European culture. 

 In all there were nine sessions lasting a week and promulgating two hundred sixty-seven decrees.

The Syrian Church believed "that the Holy Ghost proceedeth only from the Father; that they celebrate Divine Service as solemnly on the Sabbath, as on the Lord's Day; that they keep that day festival, eating therein flesh, and fast no Saturday in the year but Easter Eve,...that they acknowledge not purgatory."

The whole synodic decrees make more sense when we consider that this occured not much later than the Protestant Reformation Movements and the subsequenct Council of Trent. 

Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) says:

"The only case in which an ancient Eastern rite has been wilfully romanized is that of the Uniat Malabar Christians, where it was not Roman authority but the misguided zeal of Alexius de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, and his Portuguese advisers at the Synod of Diamper (1599) which spoiled the old Malabar Rite.


Piramadam, Gethsemane Dayro

In the picture above: Colophon of Piramadam MS Syr 27, containing the text of the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy (Qurbono) copied in 1689 by the hand of Mor Yovannis Hidaytullah, Antiochian Patriarchal Delegate in India.

The text reads: "The writing of the order of the liturgy (Qurbo) and of the Anaphora of Mor Jacob the Messenger, brother of our Lord, was finished by the hand of the wretched and feeble bishop Yovannis in the year 2000 of the Greeks (=AD 1689), in the church of Karamattam (today: Kadamattam). Therefore I am asking every priest who will recite from this [book] to remember his fathers and the brethren and the departed, so that they may find mercy through their [that is, the priests’] prayers; I was copying it for priest Jacob of Muldurthy (today: Mulanthuruthy). Lord, remember him and his fathers in thy mercy. Amen."

The following lists will summarize the Roman Catholic history as given in the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

 (1) The old foundations of the Portuguese Padroado: — Goa, 1534; Chochin, 1557; Cranganore, 1600; San Thomé (Mylapur), 1606.

(2) Vicariates founded before 1800: — Great Mogul, 1637; Malabar, 1659; Bombay and Tibet, 1720: Ava and Pegu (Burma), 1722.

 (3) Vicariates founded from 1800 to 1886: — Tibet, 1826; Bengal, Madras, and Ceylon, 1834; Madura and Coromandel, 1836; Agra and Patna, 1845; Jaffna, 1847; East and West Bengal, Vizagapatam, Pondicherry, Coimbatore and Mysore, 1850; Hyderabad (Deccan), 1851; Mangalore, Quilon, and Verapoly, 1853; Poona, 1854; Central Bengal, North and South Burma, 1870; Punjab and Kashmir, 1880; Kandy, 1883; East Burma, 1886.

(4) The hierarchy as established in 1886 consisted of eight archbishops bearing the titles of Agra, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Goa, Pondicherry, Verapoly, and Ceylon, each having his subject dioceses, vicariates and prefectures Apostolic.

(5) The following new subdivisions were made after 1886: — Kashmir, Nagpur, Trichur, and Kottayam, 1887; Assam, 1889; Ernakulam, and Changanacherry, 1890; Rajputana, 1891; Bettiah, 1892; Galle and Trincomalee, 1893; Kumbakonam, 1899. To these must be added the three vicariates Apostolic of Burma.




(37)  Duncan Greenlees, The Gospel of the Prophet Mani, Adyar, Madras, India the Theosophical Publishing House, 1956

(38)  For Manichean Scrolls see:


(40) Travancore State Manual Vol. II, 139-142.
(41) From the Palm-leaf manuscript entitled Keralathil Margam Vazhiyute Avastha


(42)  Moraes, G. M. A History of Christianity in India. Vol. 1. Bombay:  Manaktalas, 1964


(43)  White House, The lingering Light

(44)   Ittup, History of the Malabar Syrian Christian Church

(45)  Indian Express, Friday April 24, 1998 


(46)  Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala World Syriac Conference 2002 -SEERI – KOTTAYAM  Paper presented by Prof. George MENACHERY

(47)  Keralolpathi printed by Gundert in AD 1890

(48)  How was the Caste System introduced in Kerala?

(49) Malankara Nasranikal :

(50)  Dr. Berchmans Kodackal, The Early Christians of India, January 1998


(52)  Otto of Freising: Medieval Sourcebook: The Legend of Prester John



 (55)   M. Bar-Ilan, 'Prester John: Fiction and History', History of European Ideas, 20/1-3 (1995), pp. 291-298.

(56) B.S. Rao New Facts on the Arrival of Islam  PTI, India,

(57)  Moraes, G. M. A History of Christianity in India. Vol. 1. Bombay:  Manaktalas, 1964

(58)  M.M.Ninan, Hinduism –What Really Happened in India, Global Publishers, 2003 (59)   Dr. M. Deivanayagam, Dr. D. Devakala,  The Revival Movement of Dravidian Religion,

 (59) Syrian Christian Traditions, P.E.Esow


(60) Mr. P.V. Mathew:   Sugantha Bandu Nasrani History


Arrival of the Roman Catholics


Italian Franciscan missionary John of Montecorvino, arrives in the Madras region or "Country of St. Thomas", where he preached for thirteen months and baptized about one hundred persons.


John of Montecorvino or Giovanni da Montecorvino in Italian (1246–1328) was an Italian Franciscan missionary, traveler and statesman, founder of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in India and China, and archbishop of Peking, and Latin Patriarch of the Orient.


Venetian traveller Marco Polo arrives in India on the Coromandel Coast, visiting the tomb of St. Thomas (at Mylapore).

Marco Polo, Il Milione, Chapter CXXIII and CXXIV.jpg 
A page of The Travels of Marco Polo. and the 
Handwritten notes by Christopher Columbus on the Latin edition of Marco Polo's Le livre des merveilles


French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani de Severac arrives in Kollam (Quilon).

Two letters from Jordanus are found in a MS. in the national library at Paris (in 1839,—Bibliothèque du Roi—MS. No. 5,006, p. 182), entitled Liber de ætatibus, etc. The first of these is dated from Caga, 12th October, 1321. In his second letter, dated in January, 1324, Jordanus relates how he had started from Tabriz to go to Cathay, but embarked first for Columbum with four Franciscan missionaries, and how they were driven by a storm to Tana, in India, where they were received by the Nestorians. From these letters we learn that he travelled , to the extreme south of the Indian peninsula, especially to Columbum, Quilon (Kollam)  in Travancore.  Jordanus' words may imply that he had already started a mission there before October 1321.


The erection of the first Roman Catholic Diocese in India, in the state of Kerala, being the Diocese of Quilon (or Kollam); re-erected on September 1, 1886. Pope John XXII (in captivity in Avignon) made Quilon as the first Diocese in the whole of Indies, as suffragan to the Archdiocese of Sultany in Persia, through the decree Romanus Pontifix.   French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani de Severac is appointed as the first Bishop of Quilon.


East Syrian mission to India: two Chaldean bishops, John and Thomas, in Kerala.  Between 1490 and 1503 the Church of the East responded to the request of a mission to Mesopotamia from the East Syrian Christians of the Malabar Coast of India for bishops to be sent out to them. In 1490 two Christians from Malabar arrived in Gazarta to petition the patriarch Shemʿon IV (Basidi) to consecrate a bishop for their church. Two monks of the monastery of Mar Awgin were consecrated bishops and were sent to India. Shemʿon IV died in 1497, to be followed by the short-reigned Shemʿon V, who died in 1502. His successor Eliya V (1502-03) consecrated three more bishops for India in April 1503. These bishops sent a report to the patriarch from India in 1504, describing the condition of the East Syrian church in India and reporting the recent arrival of the Portuguese. Eliya had already died by the time this letter arrived in Mesopotamia, and it was received by his successor, Shemʿon VI (1504–38). (MSS Vat Syr 204a and Paris BN Syr 25)

1494 June 7, Treaty of Tordesillas: division of the world and mission lands between Spain and Portugal.