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The holy heritage

Mangalore's churches remind us of the city's rich cultural and architectural past, writes RAVIPRASAD KAMILA



The Milagres Church in the heart of Mangalore has been renovated and rebuilt a number of times.

THINK MANGALORE, and images of beaches and seafood springs to mind. But apart from that, the city is also famous for its churches, some of which even date back to the years of the Portuguese conquests. The spread of Christianity along the Konkan coast resulted in the construction of churches belonging to various sects.

Famous churches

Some of the most famous and revered churches are the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Rosario Cathedral) at Bolar, Church of Our Lady of Miracles (known as Milagres Church) at Hampankatta, Chapel of St. Aloysius near St. Aloysius College, Church of St. Joseph at Jeppu.

One of the city's foremost experts on churches is Fr. Ronald Cutinha of the diocese of Mangalore. He is an authority on the history of churches and has published a directory of churches in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Districts.

"Rosario Cathedral at Bolar is one of the three most ancient churches in the diocese of Mangalore. The Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle who visited Mangalore in 1623 mentions it along with the Our Lady of Mercy at Ullal and St. Francis of Assisi at Farangipet," he says.

The Portuguese built the Rosario Cathedral when they landed in 1568. The Roys stone emblem of the Portuguese King marking their landing at Mangalore lies at the entrance of the Cathedral.

The Rosario Church was reportedly desecrated and destroyed by an Indian ruler's forces in 1784. The Catholics then set about reconstructing the church in 1813. In 1910 the structure of the old cathedral was demolished and the new cathedral erected in its place. "This is the only church in the diocese with a magnificent dome crowning the spacious sanctuary. The cross on the dome of the Cathedral was lit every night to serve as a beacon for seafarers," says Fr. Cutinha.

Any story on churches and chapels in Mangalore is incomplete without mentioning the St. Aloysius Chapel. Fr. Willy constructed it in 1890. Antony Moscheni, an Italian painter came to Mangalore in 1899 and began painting the chapel in the same year. The paintings were completed on August 22, 1901. "This chapel very closely resembles the world famous Sistine Chapel at Rome with 600 square metres of fresco painting and 400 square meters of oil canvas paintings on the ceiling," says Fr. Cutinha.

The two types of paintings in the chapel, fresco (painted on freshly applied wet lime plaster) on plaster and oil on canvas. The sloping portion of the ceiling has paintings of St. Peter and the Crowing of the Cock, Saints Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Philip, Mathew, Bartholomew, Simon and Jude. The central row of paintings on the ceiling depicts the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga to whom the chapel is dedicated. The paintings were restored in 1990 and even the postal department has released two stamps on the paintings.

The Milagres Church in the heart of Mangalore has been renovated and rebuilt a number of times. The present church is the fifth one. The Vicar Apostolic Thomas de Castro first built the church in 1680 on `inam' land gifted by Queen Chennamma and the Bednore King. Antony Pinto built a new church on the site of the present one in 1756 as the earlier church was too old. The present structure was built in 1911. The St. Joseph's Seminary Church at Jeppu was designed and built by Fr. Diamanti in 1891. It was Moscheini who painted the beautiful paintings of St. Joseph, Grotto and Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Ignatius Loyola in the church.

Parish church

A Duchess from Austria donated the paintings of Saints Augustine, Monica, Ann, Francis Assisi and Thomas. This church is treated as the parish church with the rector as the parish priest having the parochial jurisdiction.

The history and architecture of churches is fascinating and hold a visitor spellbound for hours.

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