Formation of the C.M.S Church

AD 1836


English East India Company established a factory at Anjengo in Travancore in 1685by obtaining land from the Attingal Rani.     In the 18th century. the fear of invasion from Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, forced the government of  Travancore to get military protection from the English East India Company. In November 1795, a treaty of perpetual friendship and alliance was signed between the Rajah of Travancore and the East India Company.  The treaty was again modified in 1805, which established British paramountcy over Travancore. The treaty made it possible for a permanent presence of a British Resident in the Court of Travancore. The first Resident was    Col. Colin Macaulay (1800-1810).  He was followed by Col. John Munro (1810-1819).

Col Monroe was a strong Anglican Christian and was interested in the CMS and its activity and also in the Malankara Church.  The first wave of Missionary thrust to India was by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1816.


 "From its beginnings in the crucible of the campaign to abolish slavery, a small group of pioneers became a worldwide network of people in mission/.The Society was founded in Aldersgate Street in the City of London on 12 April 1799. Most of the founders were members of the Clapham Sect, a group of activist evangelical Christians. The founders of CMS were committed to three great enterprises: abolition of the slave trade, social reform at home and world evangelisation.


The overseas mission work of CMS began in Sierra Leone in 1804 but spread rapidly to India, Canada, New Zealand and the area around the Mediterranean. Its main areas of work in Africa have been in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Sudan; in Asia, CMS's involvement has principally been in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China and Japan; and in the Middle East, it has worked in Palestine, Jordan, Iran and Egypt."

In 1808  Marthoma VI (Mar Dionysius I) made an attempt to raise funds from among the community and was able to collect , 840 poovarahans (star pagoda gold coins = Rs 2,940 of that time) from the Malankara Syrian Christian community.  To this amount the British resident in Travancore, Col. Macaulay added another 2,160 Poovarahans (Rs 7,560) a contribution from the government of Tranvancore from money collected as fines from Hindus by the Travancore government for their crimes against the Syrian Christians - a total of 3000 Poovarahan equivalent to Rs 10,500/-  a large amount at that time.   Marthoma VII deposited  this money at annual interest of 8% which was to be paid to the Church annually.  This investment was called Vattipanam (interest money). 

Poo Varahan - Star Pagoda Gold Coin of East India Company was the gold coin minted in Madras during 1740 -1807  and was the standard until 1816

Though many of the Jacobite theology was at variance with the Protestant theology there was lot of cooperation between the CMS and the Syrian Churches. Among the prominent missionaries were Thomas Norton, Benjamin Bailey, Joseph Fenn and Henry Baker, who are common names among the Christians even today. They started the CMS Press in Kottayam in 1821, and began to publish Malayalam Bible and Christian literature for the use of common people. 1825, they published the gospel of Matthew, and in 1828, the New Testament, and in 1841, the complete bible.  The availability of the bible in the hands of the people had made much difference in the growth of Christianity in Kerala.  Again Theological Education which was introduced by the CMS missionaries had also its impact in the later growth  and divisions of the churches among the Nasranis.


The Orthodox Church had no educational institution of its own for the training of candidates to priest hood. To remedy this in 1813 Pulikottil Joseph Ramban, a senior priest of the church from Kunnamkulam took the initiative and as the result of his work the Kottayam Seminary was started in 1815. The Bishops of Malankara Syrian Christian Church, Pulikkottu Mar Divannaciose (1817-18), Punnatra Mar Divannaciose (1818-27) and Cheppadu Mar Divannaciose (1827-52) and they all helped in the project.  In fact this institution was the center and the starting point of the reformation within the church.

Col. John Munro impressed by the plan encouraged Joseph Ramban (Professor Joseph)  by all possible means at his disposal. At that time Col. Munroe was both the Resident of the Crown of England and also the Divan (Prime Minister) of the then ruling Rani Laxmi Bhai, the Regent Ruler of Travancore.  Hence he was able to give to the church 16 acres of  land and the timber for construction of the buildings and also the cost of Rs.2000 for the construction of the Seminary. 


Soon the resident came to realize that according to the original stipulation the recipient of the interest - the Vatti Panam -  had to be the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church and that the Seminary needed competent teachers to undertake teaching work in it. It appears that there was some conflict of interest between the Marthoma and Monroe.  The only way to channel the money to the seminary was to make Joseph Ramban  a Bishop.  The only bishop available outside of Marthoma at that time who could lend co-operation to perform the consecration of was the  Metropolitan of Thozhiyur. Thozhiur was glad to extend this courtesy to the Resident when he was so requested.  Joseph Ramban, thus, was ordained as bishop with the name Mar Dionysius II in 1816 and later a Royal proclamation from both the states of Travancore and Cochin were issued to confirm Mar Divanyous  as the Metropolitan of the Orthodox church.  But those who insisted on Antiiochian authoriry within the Church and within the Seminary Staff began to question the validity of Dionysius Episcopal status  because he was ordained from Thozhiyoor Church and not from the Orthodox Church. This party was headed by the Konattu Malpan another Professor at the newly founded seminary. 


At the time of Gee Varghese mar phelexinos (kidangan) of Thozhiyur (1811-1829) Malankara church was in series of troubles in its administration. Thozhiyur bishop consecrated three consecutive bishops for Malankara as Malankara Methran viz. Pulikkottil Mar Divannasios, Punnathra Mar Divannasios and Cheppat Mar Divannasios.  Even Gee varghese mar Phelexinos (kidangan) himself was in charge of Malankara Methran for a short period.  Thus the church leaders of Malankara Syrian Christian Church and C.M.S. worked together from 1816 to 1836. The Metropolitans Pulicottil Mar Dionysius II (Valiya Mar Dionysius 1815-16) and Punnathara Mar Dionysius III (1817-25) were highly pleased with the services rendered by the CMS. This is evident from the letter reproduced below from the Metropolitan.

The theological differences came to surface and in January 16, 1836 there was clear rift between the Missionaries and the Syrian Churches, and CMS and the Church separated. CMS then turned to evangelization among the Hindus.

The "Old Seminary" at Kottayam today

After the excommunication of Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Dionysius VI by Patriarch Abdulla II, division and strife arose in the church, leading to the creation of two rival Malankara Metropolitans. In 1913, the Secretary of State for India filed an interpleader suit in the District Court of Trivandrum seeking a declaration from the court as to which of the two rival sets of trustees were entitled to draw the interest on  deposit with the British treasury by Mar Thoma VII. This is known as the ‘Vattipanam Case’.  Bishops began to excommunicate each other on the basis.  A Royal proclamation was thereby issued to recognize Mar Dionysious who was ordained by Mar Philexenos of Thozhyoor Church as the legar head of the Malankara Church. Mar Thoma VIII consecrated a successor in Mar Thoma IX.  But Pulikkottil Mar Dionysious dethroned him and were validated by Royal proclamation.  The next two prelates were also confirmed by  Royal proclamations. 

Thus by 1816,  Mar Thoma Metropolitan became the highest authority of the Church, and was recognized by the native rulers through royal edicts in this favour. Mar Dionysius II was the first to receive such a royal edict.

Letter written by Punnathra MAR DIONYSIUS, Malankara Metropolitan from 1817 to 1825,

addressed to Lord Gambier, President of Church Missionary Society

and Bishop Henry, in the year 1821. This letter written in Syriac was translated by Professor Lee May and published in the 'Christian

Journal and Leterary Register' Volume VII, published in the year 1823.


This letter written in Syriac was translated by Professor Lee May and published in the 'Christian

Journal and Leterary Register' Volume VII, published in the year 1823.


In the name of the eternal and necessary existence the Almighty.

Mar Dionysius, metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrians in Malabar, subject to the authority of our father, Mar Ignatius, patriarch, who presides in the apostolic see of Antioch of Syria, beloved of the Messiah.

Love from Christ and from the people of all the churches to lord Gambier, the illustrious, honourable and renowned president; and to our brother, Mar Henry, the honoured bishop of the city of Gloucester; and to the priests and deacons, and true Christians, great and small, in the church of England, who are devoted to these things, and are mindful of them, who both assist and provide that we should teach and preach the precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ. Love from God, and grace from his only begotten Son, and protection from the Holy Ghost, be with you all evermore! Amen.


Beloved, kind, and honoured brethren in Christ, we would make known to you in a few words, what has happened to us from the depth of our poverty.


We who are called Syrian-Jacobites, and reside in the land of Malabar, even from the times of Mar Thomas the holy apostle until the wall of Cochin was taken in the reign of king Purgis, kept the true faith according to the manner of the Syrian Jacobites, of real glory, without division or confusion. But by the power of the Franks our Jacobite Syrian fathers and leaders were prohibited from coming from Antioch: and because we had no leader and head we were like sheep without a shepherd or like orphans and widows oppressed in Spirit without support or help. By the power and dominion of the Franks moreover and by the abundance of their wealth and the exertions of their leaders all our Syrian churches in Malabar were subdued and turned

to the faith of the pope of Rome.


In the year of our Lord 1653, came our spiritual father Mar Ignatius the Patriarch from Antioch to Malabar but when the Franks knew this they brought the holy man to the walls of Cochin imprisoned him in a cell and gave no small money to the king of Cochin. They then brought out the good man and drowned him in the sea and so put him to death. But when we knew this all the Jacobite Syrians in Malabar assembled in the church of Mathancherry which is in Cochin and we swore a great oath by the Father Son and Holy Ghost that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome we accordingly separated from them. A short time after this some of our people again joined them and received the faith of the pope.


Again in the year of our Lord 1753 came to us some holy Jacobite Syrian fathers from Antioch who turned us to our true ancient faith and set up a high priest for us.


We now have fifty five Jacobite Syrian churches in Malabar and as the Franks are more powerful and rich than we are they are hourly laying the trap of the pope for us and endeavouring to take us in it and from the power of a kingdom filled with idols the heathen have subdued us Jacobite Syrians just as Pharoah king of Egypt subdued the children of Israel, and had no pity. And, as the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, and delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage of Pharoah, king of Egypt; so the Lord beheld our sorrows and afflictions; and there have been sent to us an illustrious leader, named Macaulay, and Mar Buchanan, the illustrious priest: and when they came to us, and saw our subjugation, and sorrow, and poverty, they brought us forth from the house of bondage, and consoled us with kind words, and assisted us with money.


After this, another illustrious leader was sent to us, named Munró: and as Joshua, the son of Nun, brought Israel to the land of promise, and put them in possession of Canaan; so did this illustrious, discerning, and prudent leader, bring back and save us poor people from the hand of violence: and he built a school and one church for us, in the place called Cotym; which he did with great trouble, labour, and expense, in order that our eyes, made dim by the depth of our poverty, may be opened by the knowledge of the declarations of the holy and divine books. All the deacons, moreover, and children, who are taught in the school of our place, are cherished by the assistance of this illustrious leader.


Again the priest Benjamin* the priest Joseph, and the priest Henry, our spiritual and temporal friends, brothers, and assistants, whom you have sent to us, that they may root out the thorns and tares from among the children of God, are anxiously seeking all the requisites for the redemption of our souls, as well as constantly teaching all the deacons and children of our place the English language.


The books of the New Testament which ye sent us, we divided, and gave to the churches in Malabar; and, with great joy, does every man present his prayer unto God for you: and we trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is merciful to those who show mercy, that he will give you a good reward in the day of judgment, even thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold, for your work and labour for us, and that he will make us rejoice with you But we are unable to recompense you by any earthly riches: the more however shall we supplicate God daily that your dominion may be increased, and that he would subdue those that hate you under your feet: and daily may your preaching in Christ Jesus be increased; and may God raise up among you leaders who fear God, and who are kind to the poor, endued also with knowledge and prudence!


We have heard too that the people of your land are beseeching God for us, that he would supply and complete that which is defective and imperfect, both in our bodies and souls.


Respecting Samuel the priest, who is held in honour by us, we received the letter which he sent by the hand of Joseph the priest; and we read and understood what was written in it: and very much did we rejoice, with exceeding great joy on account of your friendship for us. And may the Lord, who both hears prayers and grants petitions, lengthen your lives, and increase your peace!


But we call to mind the adage, " A glance is enough for the intelligent," and avoid prolixity.


Besides, James, the honoured priest, will make known to you all that is going on among us. And I, the Metropolitan Mar Dionysius, your friend, very cordially salute you: also Abraham the priest, our obedient servant, and all the deacons, and children that are in the school. All the priests, moreover, and deacons, and the whole congregation of Christians who are in all the churches in Malabar, salute you. May grace be with you all: even so. Amen !


Our Father which art in heaven &c.

Remain firm in the power of Jesus!

In the year of our Lord 1821.

On the third of the month Ranun the first, Friday.

From the school of Cotym.

(Signed) MAR DIONYSÍUS,  Metropolitan of Malabar



The theological differences came to surface and in January 16, 1836 there was clear rift between the Missionaries and the Syrian Churches, and CMS and the Church separated. CMS then turned to evangelization among the Hindus.

After the excommunication of Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Dionysius VI by Patriarch Abdulla II, division and strife arose in the church, leading to the creation of two rival Malankara Metropolitans. In 1913, the Secretary of State for India filed an interpleader suit in the District Court of Trivandrum seeking a declaration from the court as to which of the two rivalsets of trustees were entitled to draw the interest on  deposit with the British treasury by Mar Thoma VII. This is known as the ‘Vattipanam Case’.  Bishops began to excommunicate each other on the basis.  A Royal proclamation was thereby issued to recognize Mar Dionysious who was ordained by Mar Philexenos of Thozhyoor Church as the legar head of the Malankara Church. Mar Thoma VIII consecrated a successor in Mar Thoma IX.  But Pulikkottil Mar Dionysious dethroned him and were validated by Royal proclamation.  The next two prelates were also confirmed by  Royal proclamations. 

Thus by 1816,  Mar Thoma Metropolitan became the highest authority of the Church, and was recognized by the native rulers through royal edicts in this favour. Mar Dionysius II was the first to receive such a royal edict.

Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII) did not like the move of the reformers within the church nor the strength and presence of the CMS. So he convened a Synod at Mavelikkara in 1836,   A declaration was made in the synod as follows:

“We are Jacobite Syrians subject to the patriarch of Antioch, observing the church rites and rules established by the prelates sent by his command. We cannot, therefore deviate from them… as no one possesses authority to preach and teach the doctrines of one religion in the church of another without the sanction of its, Patriarch, we cannot permit the same.”

Thus closed collaboration with the CMS of the Orthodox after 20 years. Evidently the presence of two groups were clear.


The reformation was carried out after a prolonged study by a committee of 12 scholarly clergy, appointed at a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church by Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI) at Mavelikkara on December 3, 1818. No foreigner was involved in this committee or in its deliberations.

So the missionaries turned to the non-Christians and started working among them. According to a panchayat court verdict, the properties and schools which were common among the missionaries and the Malankara Syrian Church were divided following the declaration of the church commonly known as Mavelikkara Padiyola.



The resolution (Padiyola), unanimously accepted at the Mavelikara Synod

of AD.1836, held at the Mavelikara Puthiyakavu St.Mary's church.


In the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost the one true God, Padiyola (agreement) drawn up in the year of our Lord 1836 corresponding 5th Makarom 1011 at the church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of Lord at Mavelikara, between Mar Dionyosious Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrian Church of Malankarai subject to the supremacy of Mar Ignatius Patriarch, the Father of Fathers, and the Chief of Chiefs ruling the throne of St. Peter of Antioch, the mother of all Churches and his successor Mar Kurilos, and the vicars, priests and parishioners of Ankamali and other churches under the charge of the said Metropolitan.

That whereas an interview held at Kottayam between the Rt.Rev. Daniel, Lord Bishop of Calcutta and the Metropolitan, in Vrischikam last, it was proposed by the former that certain changes should be introduced in the Liturgies and ordinances of our Syrian Church and whereas it was stated in reply that a conference of all the churches would be held on the subject and its determination made known, we the Jacobite Syrians being subject to the supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch and observing as we do the Liturgies and ordinance instituted by the prelates sent under his command, cannot deviate from such Liturgies and ordinances and maintain a discipline contrary thereto, and a man of one persuasion being not authorized to preach and admonish in the church of another following a different persuasion without the permission of the respective Patriarachs, we cannot permit the same to be done against us, and our churches being built by the aid of the pre-lates sent under the order of the Patriarch and on the wishes of the people of each parish and ornamented by their money, and as the accounts of the annual income according to our churches under the head of voluntary contributions offerings etc, are as required by the rules furnished to our bishops, as is the custom in the churches of Antioch as well as in the churches of this and other countries following different persuasions we are without the power, and feel disinclined, to follow and cause to be followed a different procedure from the above.

That the Honourable Colonel Macaulay having taken a loan of 3000 star pagodas from (Valia) great Mar Dionysius who died in 983, gave him a bond for the same. The interest on the amount having fallen in arrears, Mar Dionysius Metropolitan who died in 992 made a representation to Col. Munro and received the interest with which he (Dionysius) built the Seminary at Kottayam. Having also collected at the Seminary the money brought by the prelates that had come here from Antioch and the property left by the late Bishops of the Pakalomattom family, Mar Dionysius laid out a portion of this together with the donation made by HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA on behalf of the Syrian Christian Youths, on Kanom and therewith met the expense of their education. The Reverend the missionaries who have come down to Kottayam, in their profuse benevolence taught the youth at the Seminary, English and other languages, protected our children like loving fathers, caused books to be printed for the benefit of all classes, rendered all necessary help in maintaining the prevailing discipline of the Syrian Church caused the annual interest due, to be drawn on the receipt of the Metropolitan, had superintendence over the affairs of the Seminary and caused ordination to be made agreeable to the request of the people and the power of the prelates. While affairs were being thus conducted the Missionaries took to managing the Seminary without consulting the Metropolitan, themselves expended the interest money drawn annually on the receipt of the Metropolitan, dispersed the deacons instructed in the Seminary, conducted affairs in opposition to the discipline of the church and created dissensions amongst us, all of which have occasioned much sorrow and vexation. For this reason we do (would) not follow any faith or teaching other than the Orthodox faith of the Jacobite Syrian Christians, to the end, that we may obtain salvation through the prayers of ever happy, holy, and ever-blessed Mother of God, the redresser of all complaints and through the prayers of all Saints. Witness, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


One group of believers and priests who believed in the reformation principles joined with the C.M.S and started the CMS church. Those who came from the Syrian Christian Church retained their identity even within the new church. Another group of believers under the leadership of Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan (1796-1845) decided to stay in Malankara Syrian Church and worked for reformation from within the church.



Here is how the early CMS mission understood the history of Syrian Christians till their arrival.









2, ivy lane, paternoster Row.


By the Rev.. R. H. maddox.

the Syrian Christian Chnrch of Malabar has an interest all its own in the annals of Church History. In the darkest ages and in the most distant and obscure regions God has always had His own people, His appointed witnesses for His truth.


Side by side with this ancient Christian Church in Malabar, there exists a considerable colony of Jews who, it is supposed, made their way to India as early as the year a.d. 70, shortly after the destruction of the second Temple, and the final des­truction of Jerusalem. The presence of these two large and influential communities in the country, linked by no common tie, yet witnesses together through strange vicissitudes for eighteen centuries to the truth of God's revelation in the midst of heathenism, is a startling as well as deeply interesting pheno­menon in the history of the Church of God.


It is difficult to account with certainty for the origin of the Syrian Church in Malabar. The Christians themselves claim the Apostle St. Thomas as the founder of their Church. This early and distinguished origin has been called in question by many: it seems, however, to be pretty generally conceded by recent writers on the subject, that to accept the truth is perhaps after all the most rational, as it is the simplest way, of accounting for the tradition. That the tradition which ascribes the origin of the Syrian Church in Malabar to the preaching of the Apostle St. Thomas is a very ancient one, and that it was very early diffused, is clear from the fact, that our own King Alfred in the ninth century sent an embassy, under Singhelm, Bishop of Shireburn, to visit the shrine of St. Thomas in India.


We have authentic records to show that as early as the second century there were Christians in India. History records how that certain Egyptian sailors, who had been to India, brought back word to Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria, that the people who lived on those coasts desired further instruction and Christian guidance. Accordingly we find the learned and elo­quent Pantaenus was sent by the Bishop, to visit and instruct them. From the account which the historian gives of the place and customs of the people there seems to be no room to doubt that the country referred to is our own India, although it must be allowed that the word India is used by early writers in a lax and uncertain way. The next reminder we have of the existence of this Church is at the Council of Nicaa (a.d. 325) by the pre­sence of John, styled Metropolitan of Persia and of great India, establishing the fact that there was then a Church in India, over which the Metropolitan of Persia claimed authority.


In the sixth century Cosmas, an Alexandrian merchant, called from his travels Indicopleustes, visited India. He has given as an account of the Church he found there and speaks of a bishop who had come from Persia where he had been conse­crated.


Towards the close of the eighth century, the Church in Mala­bar was greatly strengthened by the arrival of a large party, led by a wealthy merchant named Thomas Cana from Armenia. These settled down in the country, and by their diligence and success brought themselves under the favourable notice of the then reigning prince Cheruman Perumal. This enlightened prince, though claimed as a convert by the Muhammadans, show­ed the Christians much favour. Through the influence of Thomas Cana many privileges were conferred upon the whole commu­nity, and thus was secured for the Syrian Christians the independent social status which they continue to enjoy to this day. Two important documents, embodying grants made at this time, consisting of copper plates engraved in the old Malayalam character, and supposed to be fully a thousand years old, are still in possession of the Syrian Christians. It may be interest­ing to note in passing that the Jews of Cochin are also in possession of similar documents, descriptive of privileges and grants conferred on them by the same Cheruman Perumal at the same time. The Syrian Chnrch in Malabar appears to have reached its zenith of prosperity during the reign of this prince and under the leadership of Thomas Cana. But little is known of their subsequent history until the arrival of the Portuguese on the Malabar coast, at the close of the fifteenth century.


It may be well, before proceeding to this period of the history,to say a few words on the government? and distinctive views and tenets of the Syrian Church.


The Syrian Chnrch of Malabar is an Episcopal Chnrch. Its first bishop or bishops were consecrated, according to tradi­tion, by the Apostle who founded the church.


We have seen that at the time of the Nicene Council (325), and in the days of Cosmas in the sixth century, the Church of Malabar was subject in matters ecclesiastical to the Metropo­litan of Persia. The Persian Church, we know, was with other Eastern Churches subject to the Patriarchate of Antioch. About $n hundred years after the Council of Nic»a that terrible dispute arose between Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, and Nestorins, Patriarch of Byzantium, on the Divine and human natures of Christ, which rent the Church, and resulted in sects and divisions, persecutions and troubles, for many generations.


The Archbishop of Selencia, whether in connection with Antioch or not is a vexed question, became the recognized head of the Nestorian Churches. The See of Seleucia was afterwards removed to Bagdad, and subsequently to Mosul, the bishop taking the title of Patriarch of Babylon, or Babylonia, the name of the district comprising the See.


When the Metropolitan of Persia acknowledged the authority of these Nestorian Patriarchs, the Christians of India, being subject to his authority, were, as a matter of course, reckoned among the Nestorian Churches, acknowledging the Bishop of Babylon as their Patriarch. Continuing to receive their bishops from Babylon or Persia they became in time imbued with Nestorian teaching. Cosmas, in his account of them, ex­pressly asserts that they were Nestorians and held the doctrine of the two Persons. At present, and for a long time past, they hold and have held, doctrines more akin to Monophysism, and are always ready to disclaim the errors of Nestorius. The fol­lowing summary of the condition of the Syrian Church in the sixteenth century, at the time when first European (Portuguese) influence was brought to bear upon its fortunes, by Xiobley (Maitland Prize Essay, 1870) may not be out of place here.


" It preserved much primitive simplicity both of doctrine and ritual, but was heterodox upon the subject of our Lord's Incar­nation, and moreover had derived from the heathen and unbe­lievers around some other corruptions of doctrine. A remnant there was in it, no doubt, of earnest, pure, God-loving and God­fearing men; but there were many abuses and much spiritual sloth......Their public services being conducted in the unknown tongue of Syria, and by priests who were, for the most part, exam­ples of coldness and inactivity, were unable to inspire the people with that fervour of religious feeling, which is the mark of a living Church. A stirring and quickening of the dry bones was greatly needed. Perhaps the troubles which shortly came upon them were permitted for a discipline."


The remainder of this sketch is compiled almost exclusively, very frequently in the actual words of the writer, from a paper prepared on this subject by the Rev. David Fenn, shortly before his death, for the Indian Christian Intelligencer, December 1877.


When the Portuguese first reached India in 1498, under the leadership of Vasco de Gama, they came in contact with these Syrian Christians, who welcomed them joyfully as fellow-reli­gionists, and expressed their desire to put themselves under the protection of the King of Portugal as a Christian Sovereign. They told Vasco de Gama that they numbered about 30,000 persons. This number was in all probability far below the mark. In the year 1500 two Syrian Christians, brothers, ac­companied the Portuguese to Europe. One died at Lisbon, the other after visiting Rome and Venice, in which latter place he published an account of himself and his travels under the title of The Travels of Joseph the Indian, returned to Travancore.


It was just one hundred years later that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, acting under directions from the Pope, and calling in the aid of the Portuguese military power, succeeded in forcibly subjugating the Syrian Church to the domination of Rome, Cardinal Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, was the great mover in this aggression. He was a man of marvellous energy and deter­mination. For fifty years previous to his arrival, the Jesuits and other Romanists had been labouring to effect the voluntary submission of the Syrian Christians to the Pope, but without success. Menezes at first in like manner tried persuasive mea­sures, but he found them too wedded to their connection with the Eastern Church to yield to the wishes of one so powerful .even as they knew him to be. Having obtained the help of the Hindu Rajah of Cochin, in whose territory most of the Syrians resided, he summoned a council or synod at Udiamparur. This synod assembled on June 20, 1599. By force and fraud Menezes carried all before him. .His decrees involving transubstantiation, Mariolatry, seven sacraments, and celibacy of the clergy — articles till then foreign to the Syrian Church — were declared binding. The Inquisition was established, and a wholesale burn­ing of Syrian MSS. of the Holy Scriptures and service books took place. These proceedings were followed up by other violent measures. His policy seemed, successful. For sixty years the ascendancy of Rome was maintained, although the Syrian Chris­tians never ceased to make attempts to restore their connection with the Eastern Church. One Bishop was sent to them at their earnest entreaty from Antioch, but he was taken prisoner by the Portuguese, carried to Goa, handed over to the Inquisition and burnt alive as a heretic in 1654.


'In 1661 the Dutch took Quilon and in 1663 Cochin also. Al­though they showed no particular interest in the Syrians, yet they rendered them the greatest service by ordering all Romish ecclesiastics to quit the country.


The Syrian Church was once more free, and in 1665 a Bishop named Mar Gregorius, who had been consecrated by the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, safely arrived in the country. Mr. White-house remarks on this : " to have an Oriental Bishop among them, as really opposed to Rome as any of themselves, was a cause of great joy ; and Gregory was everywhere hailed by the anti-Romish party as a liberator from spiritual tyranny.'   During the 200 years that have since elapsed, the Syrian Church has maintained its connection with the Jacobite Pa­triarch, who resides at Mardin in Armenia.( The term Jacobite is derived from Jacob Albardi, who adopted the tenets of the Eutychians in the sixth century)


The English succeeded the Dutch in 1 795. During the 130 years that the Dutch occupied the country little or no interest seems to have been shown by them in the well-being of the Syrian Church. It was not long after their occupation of the country that the English instituted an enquiry into the condition of the Christian population of Malabar. For this purpose Dr. Claudius Bucha­nan, a Chaplain in Bengal, was commissioned by Lord Wellesley to visit the Syrian Christians in 1806. In this work he obtained the cordial assistance of Colonel Macaulay, the first British Resident of Travancore.


The Christian Researches, published soon after this visit, excited the liveliest interest among Christians in England. One practical result that followed was that the Church Missionary Society, at the invitation of Colonel Munro, who had succeeded Colonel Macaulay as Resident of Travancore, undertook a Mission to the Syrian Church in the years 1816-17.


Messrs. Bailey, Baker, Fenn and Norton were the first missionaries. The object alike of the Resident, the Society, and the missionaries, was to aid the Syrian Church to reform itself, without in any way interfering with its liberty. The means used to carry out this end were

(1) translation of the Bible into Malayalam ;

(2) the educa­tion of young men for the ministry of the Church;

(3) the establishment and maintenance of schools in connection with the different Syrian Churches, scattered over the country.


 For twenty years this connection with the Syrian Church was main­tained happily and successfully. In course of time there arose other bishops less favourable to the plans originated by their predecessors. After various ineffectual efforts to bring the minds of the opposing Metrans (or Bishops) over to their views, in which Bishop Wilson of Calcutta took a prominent part, the Church Missionary Society was compelled to sever its connection with the Syrian Church. They acted in the spirit of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia: they had laboured for twenty years for the reformation of these professing people of God, but at length, seeing they put from them the words of eternal life, they turned to the heathen.


This rupture did not alienate the minds of the people gene­rally from the Missionaries and their work. The indirect in­fluence, which the Mission has since exerted on the Syrian Church, is perhaps far greater and more marked than it could ever have been, had the closer relation remained undisturbed. The pre­sence of a large and well organised Episcopal Church in their midst has had the effect of stirring up the Syrian Church, and creating in the minds of the more thoughtful and earnest among them, a desire for that higher knowledge and increased privileges, in the enjoyment of which they see others around them.


The present condition of the Syrian Church is, so far as num­bers are concerned, prosperous. From a recent census it appears that out of 600,000 Christians, a little over a fifth part of the entire population, the Syrians in Travancore and Cochin number about 335,000. The religious condition of the Syrian Christians is not so hopeful now as it was a few years ago. Under the late Metran, Mar Athanasius, a native of Malabar and educated in the Church Missionary Institution at Madras, who proceeded thence to Antioch for consecration, the Syrian Church made very considerable advances towards reform. Every encouragement was given to the reading of the Scriptnres translated by the Missionaries; prayers in the Chnrch were conducted in many instances in the vernacular; invocation of saints and worship of relics, with other superstitious practices introduced into the Syrian worship by the Roman Catholics, were excluded; Sunday Schools, Bible readings, preaching and other active efforts to spread the truth were fostered and encouraged.


This reform party was strongly opposed by a considerable portion of the Syrian Church, specially by those upon whom the influence of the Chnrch Missionary Society's operations had not been so directly brought to bear. Since the death of Mar Athanasius, the leader of the reform party, the opposition has apparently been gaining some ground. Their Metran, Mar Dionysius, who was consecrated at Antioch, and sent during the lifetime of Mar Athariasins to depose him and assume his func­tions is a very active man ; while the Metran, consecrated in the country by the late Mar Athanasius as his successor has not as yet taken any very decided steps. Mar Dionysius, having failed to establish his claim over Mar Athanasius, invited the Patriarch of Antioch to visit the country and settle by his personal presence the irregularities of which be complained. The Patriarch accordingly arrived at Travancore early in 1875, and for two years exerted all his influence to depose Mar Athanasius from his recognized position as Metropolitan. His whole conduct was so violent, and his greed of gain so insati­able,* that even Mar Athanasius' rival, Mar Dionysius, who had invited him into the country, was at length unable to work with him, and a rupture took place between them.


One of the last acts of the Patriarch before leaving Travancore was to consecrate six additional Metrans among whom he par­celled out the whole Church into Dioceses, leaving each to fight or win his way into possession as best he could. The latest phase of matters is that these six Metrans have united with Mar Dionysius in an attempt to depose Mar Thomas Athanasius, the nephew and successor of the late Metropolitan Mar Athanasius, from his position, and obtain through the Civil Courts the property which he now holds on behalf of the Syrian Church, viz.t the moiety of land and money forming the original endowment of the Syrian College, which came to them by the distribution of property on the withdrawal of the Church Missionary Society, in 1837.


The policy of the Church Missionary Society in the country for a considerable period has been to discourage secession from the Syrian Church, and rather, by friendly counsel and support, to aid honest effort on the part of its rulers .and people towards enlightenment and reform. It has become a serious considera­tion of late whether the truest interests of the Syrian Chnrch would not be better served by receiving those who seek admit­tance into our Chnrch.


In the meantime the Church Missionary Society is persever­ing in its original purpose, and it is fervently hoped that, as the Church of England in the country becomes stronger and more thoroughly developed, its influence may be owned and blessed by God to the revival and enlightenment of our Sister Church in the country. Our chief prayer for the Syrian Christians at this time should be, that they may see the great danger they are in by their unhappy divisions ; and so may rise to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, without which neither they nor any other Christian Church can hope to retain their candle­stick in its place, or be visited by the blessing and favour of the Lord, which alone maketh rich.



After leaving the Syrian Christian Collaboration, the CMS mission turned themselves to Missions to the heathen of Travancore. The Missionaries involved were  Benjamin Bailey (1816-50), Henry Baker, son (1917-66) and Joseph Fenn (1817-26),   Joseph Peet (1833-65), John Hawksworth (1840-63), and Henry Baker, jun. (1843-78), all of whom died  at their posts.  Peet founded the station at Mavelikara, Hawksworth that at Tiruwella, and H, Baker, jun, the interesting Mission to the Hill Arrians.  


 CMS Logo
CMS missionaries of Travancore
Standing Row
Rev.F.Bower of Tiruwella; S.Baker,Superintendent of the cottayam Press;
Rev. C.E.R.Romilly (behind); Mrs. Neve; Mrs.Painter;
Rev.C.A.Neve,Principal of Cottayam College, 
Rev.J Thompson; Mrs.Thompson
Sitting on Chair
Mrs. Bower; Mrs. H Baker; Mrs. Caley, Arch Deacon Caley; 
Rev. A.F.Painter of Hill Arrian Mission,
Front Row
Rev. W.J.Richards, .
Mrs T Baker (widow of late Rev. H.Baker founder of the Hill Arrian Mission)

As a result of these missions which was also joined by a considerable number of Syrian Christians of the reform group the CMS Church was formed which included many of the converted Hindus.  The Syrians who had the background of the Biblical church generally formed the pastorate initially. The first CMS church was in Mallappally with the Syrian Christian Membership who built their own church under the mission. " People secured with great difficulty a piece of land from the petty Rajah of Edappalli, and the Missionaries obtained the sanction of the British Resident, and in 1836 the foundation of the present church was laid by the Rev, Messrs. Bailey, Baker, Peet, and Woodcock. Thus Mallapalli became the first out-station of the Church Missionary Society in Travancore."

The church was rebuilt and opened for divine worship on the 27th of September 1842 under Rev. J. Peet.  An active mission among the Pulayas and the Pariahs (the untouchables) brought in several churches within the CMS.  According to the Gleaner report of the  1885 there were two congregations of converted slaves, amounting to eighty-two souls.

Early Priests of the C.M.S Church

Mother's Meetting and Young Mens Christian Association, Tranvancore



Teleugu Mission1881

At the top:  Rev. John and Mrs Cain of Dummagudem.
 In the center is a group of CMS and CEZMS missionaries.  Six standing behing from left are Mrvs. M.N.S Atkinson, J.B. Panes, H.J.Tanner, C. W.A. Clarke, E.T. Pegg and J.Stone. 

Second row from left Rev. F.N. Alexander, Mrs. J.Stone and Mrs.Swan Hurrell.

 In front Mrs Atkinson, Mrs. J.P.Brandon and Miss Bassoe of Zenana Mission

Left: Rev I.V.Razu of Dummagudem  Right: Rev. G. Krishnayya (ordained 1871)

Bottom: Rev. & Mrs. Vores, from Madras
(from The Church Missionary Gleaner)


The Krishna Nagar Church Council 1888

Ellore Mission
Rev. Alexander and Evangelists Mrs. Alexander and women of the Bible 1888

(from The Church Missionary Gleaner)


Lahore Divinity College Cathedral

CMS Mission Quetta

(from The Church Missionary Gleaner)



Rev. Kaipuraidam Mathai Mathai the first priest of CMS Church in Alleppey
was the uncle of of my father's sister's husband. Kaipuraidam family was one of the first CMS members in Mallapally from the Syrian Christians who joined them.  His wife was the daughter of Archdeacon Oommen Mammen