VALLARPADATHAMMA - Vallarpadam Church - National Pilgrim Centre

St. Mary's Church, Vallarpadam, Kochi(cochin), Kerala, India

Monday, September 11, 2006

Vallarpadam church

The Church of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam is a famous pilgrim centre. People from all parts of Kerala and outside, irrespective of caste or creed come to the church to seek the Blessings of Mary, the mother of Jesus, popularly known as 'VALLARPADATHAMMA'.

The church was established in 1676 and the famous picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected by Portuguese who brought it from their native land. The picture is believed to have miraculous powers.The Portuguese built the first church on the site of the present church in 1524. It was destroyed in a flood in the late 17th century and a new church was built on the same spot in 1676. It was declared a special church by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and in 1951 the Union Government declared it a major pilgrim centre.

'Vallarpadath Amma' is believed to have miraculously saved her devotees several time from violent storms. The feast of Vallarpadath Amma is held every year on September 24 with much fanfare.The celebrations which last for more than a week is accompanied by an unusually big fair.

The Catholic Church has raised the historic Marian pilgrim destination on the Vallarpadam Island to the status of a National Pilgrim Centre. The documents related to the raising of the status of the Our Lady of Ransom Church on the island was handed over recently to the Archbishop of Varappuzha Daniel Acharuparampil by the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Telesphore P. Topo.

Vallarpadam is situated next to the Bolghatty Island on the west, and linked to the Ernakulam mainland via the new Goshree bridges. It is about 3.5 kilometers in length in the north-south direction and hosts a population of 10,000 people. Vallarpadam is about one kilometer away from the Ernakulam mainland.

A Short historyThe magnificent and miraculous picture of Mary and Infant Jesus, installed at the top of the main altar of the Vallarpadam Church, was brought by Portugues merchants under the leadership of Vasco Da Gama in 1524. In 1676 the old Church, which was known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, founded by the Portugues missioneries, was destroyed by the heavy flood and the picture of Our Lady was floating in the backwaters. Nobody except Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, the Prime Minister of Maharaja of Cochin, could recover it. The beautiful church at Vallarpadam which you see now is built on the land which was donated by Paliyath Raman Valiyachan. We greatfully remember his deep faith in Vallarpadathamma and his generocity towards us by lighting the Sancturay Lamp, which he himself donated and which has been burning day and night from 1676 onwards.

In May 1752, there occured a great miracle which made Vallarpadam a famous Pilgrim Centre. In Vallarpadam there was a young Nair Lady named Meenakshiyamma, who was a member of a noble family called Palliyilveedu. Together with her son, she was going to Mattancherry in a non-mechanised boat. There arose a storm and the boat capsized. Meenakshiyamma and her son went deep down into the backwater. While they were in danger Meenakshiyamma promised Vallarpadathamma that if they were rescued by her they would be her ADIMAS (servents) till their death. On the third day, as per instructions in a dream, the parish priest asked the fishermen to cast net in the river, and Meenakshiyamma and her son were rescued. This historical incident is depicted in the picture mentioned above. From that day onwards, people, especially those who travel by boats and ships, come to Vallarpadam and pray for their safe journey. Meenakshiyamma and her son received baptism and became christians and were named Mary and Jesudas respectively. They were living in the Churchyard itself adoring the Lord and thanking Our Lady and proclaiming the "good news" to all those who came here. Her family is still living, which is quite near to the church. Due to its spritual importance, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII elevated its main altar to the status of "ALTARE PRIVILEGIATUM in PERPETUUM CONCESSUM" in 1888.

The Feast of Vallarpadathamma is celeberated from 16th to 24th September every year. Pilgrims, thousand in number, come to Vallarpadam to participate in the Feast, especially on 24th September.

With a warm and hearty welcome to the shirne of Blessings and Graces.