St. Michael’s church, Thathampally is one of the most prominent land mark in Alappuzha town, whose distinguished history is written in golden letters. The church is the result of the highly spiritual Christian community in the area as also a dream fulfilled by our own ancestors. It was a universally accepted truth then, and even now, that wherever the community members stayed together, they also built churches. Our forefathers also maintained that golden rule and the church is a living example of that rich heritage. The church has a history and ancestry of more than 600 years.
The late Shri. Mathu Tharakan was a very renowned industrialist in erstwhile State of Travancore. His Highness Karthika Thirunal, Captain Delanai and the State Governors brought to King’s attention Mathu Tharakan’s unstinted loyalty towards the king and the huge financial contribution made to the King’s treasury. Shri. Mathu Tharakan was given an audience by the King, honoured and titled him as “Tharakan”. An ardent believer and visionary, he contributed by money and reputation to build up the area and strengthened the church.
It is matter of great pride and honour for us to know that the church played a very important role, not only in the growth of the Catholic Church in India but also in the Independence Movement of our nation. The church and the surrounding area is known as the “Vatican of Alappuzha” and “Kerala Christian’s Ireland”. The present generation is no different in their deep faith and would prefer to be known as “Thathampallians”. The people’s intense spirituality was acknowledged by non other than Mar James Kalassey, the bishop of Changanassery Diocese during his visit to the Church. To quote him “.There are people who live of the Church and there are churches who live of the people. But Thathampally church live of the people”. History have proven, time and again, how prophetic his words were and still are!!.
In the Year of the Lord 2016, the church completes 611 years of its glorious existence. The Church was rebuilt during 1890s under the stewardship of the then Vicar Rev, Fr. Kappil. The people also took part with enthusiasm and keenness. The responsibility to oversee the work was given to Carmelite Congregation. They prepared the building plan and the sacrifices made by Rev.Fr. Kappil and the faithful found fruit. Rev. Fr. Kappil so taken up by the efforts and sincerity of the Carmelites, he later joined their Congregation and changed his name to Mathai Mariyam.
Another stalwart who contributed immensely towards the progress of the Church was Late. Rev. Fr. Sebastian Cherrussery, the Vicar for the period 1945 to 1951. A decision was taken in one of the public meetings that the Church should have “Wings”, alongside the altar .With great efforts the southern wing was built. Fr. reminded the people of the substantial efforts made by Ouseph Pappy, Unnechuparampil who supplied wood for the entire wing at concessional rate.
During his tenure as the parish priest, a number of structures came up like Grotto( by Malayil family), Altar (by Kaniyamparampu family), Primary School building , Punnamada Church, Aaradhana Maddom etc. And the North wing was built when Rev. Fr. Joseph Olassa was the Vicar.
It is recorded in the Church calendar, the Catholic Directory of Malabar(1934) and Catholic Directory of India(1972) that the Church was built in AD 1600. However, there are enough reasons and ample evidence indicating that the Church was built before AD 1600. Vadassery Church, the preceding entity to Mar Sleeba Forane, was built in 1400 AD. After the Thathampally people moved away from Vadassery, they had their own paryer house built in 1404. After four years,in 1408, Vadassery church was shifted to Pazhavangadi.
As part of his, evangelisation, St. Francis Xavier travelled from Goa to down South India. In one of his letters written to King John Third, the King of Portugal, St. Francis Xavier mentioned about seeing a Christian community at Thathampally.
In the Year of the Lord 1590, the St. Michael’s church at Kattoor was carved out of Thathampally as mentioned in the Catholic Directory of India and in the Diamond Jubilee issue of Alappuzha Diocese. Kattoor Church is also in the name of St. Michael and mentioned as Forane church. Though the exact year in which the church was built is lost, the very fact the Church was built after four years after Vadassery Church, it can be safely and correctly assumed it as 1408 AD.
It may also be worthwhile to mention here that in the olden days when property was partitioned among the family, a portion was also given to the Church. Most of the landed property belonging to the church has come up through the generosity of own ancestors. In addition the church used to collect coconuts and Pidiyari (fistful of rice kept separately for the church in every day).
There was a seminary for a long time run by the Carmelites. Later, due to limitations in space the Seminary was moved to bangalow and surrounding land behind the church in a building constructed by Tharakan. Subsequently, the Seminary was shifted to Pallipuram and the building and adjacent land sold to Kandathil family. When Shri. Varkey Ouseph of Malayil married from Kandathil, the property was passed on to Malayil family.
The ground in front of the Church is part of a couple of historical events. When Acharya Kripalani, the President of Indian National Congress post Independence time, the British Adminstration,had denied him permission to address the public in any of the known grounds, the church allowed the ground for the purpose. At Midnight of 14 August 1947, the people of Alappuzha congregated in the same ground to celebrate the birth of our Nation despite heavy rains.
Holy Family LP school commenced functioning in June 1964 and the land was donated by Ouseph Kochouseph of Kaniyamparampu. Rev. Fr. Joseph Olassa was the Vicar. On 26 April 1975, the Holy Family Chapel was blessed and Rev. Fr. Mathew Andamaly was the Vicar.
In 1952,the chapel came up opposite the School building due to the efforts of Holy Mary’s Catholic Association (HMCA) an endeavor by the youth in the locality. The land for this purpose was given by Smt. Mary Kutty, daughter of Kaniyamparampu K.J. Kurien. In 1990 the chapel was renovated to its present form by a committee constituted by Rev. Fr. Thomas Karukakalam as President, Jojichen C Pooniyil (Vice President), Thomas Gregory (Secretary) and P.T . Kurien Pooniyil as Treasurer. The chapel was blessed by His Excellency Mar. Joseph Powathil, Arch Bishop of Changanacherry Arch Diocese on 28 Sep 1991. Fr. Thomas Kanjirathumoottil was the Vicar.
The most important chapel under Thathampally church is located on Alappuzha Thanneermukkom road. The chapel was blessed on 20 March 1960 br Rev. Fr. Joseph Olassa. The House of God is the result of the combined effort of the people and the faithful living in that area.
It was during the tenure of Rev. Fr. Sebastian Cherrussery, it was decided and approved by the public to have an Aaradhana Maddom. The Church gave the building and the land. This came into existence on 12th May 1946. The first lot of sisters were given a grand and rousing welcome.
The Fransican Handmaids of Good Shephard reached Sahrudaya Hospital ob 3rd March 1993, as part of their Mission work. This was made possible through the combined effort of Monsignor Jacob Thekkeveettil, Fr. George Kammittil, VC, Sister Kochuthressia Kallarachulli FRGS and Dr. Abraham Thayyil. In addition to the Hospital duties, these sisters are very much involved in the parish activities.
The first school in Alappuzha having started in 1858 in a thatch roofed dormitory, where the CYMA building now located. Initially the School imparted education upto third standard. When the School expanded to the fourth standard, the requirement of more space arose and a new building was made at the present site. Later it became a VM school and now a high school. Under the patronage of Rev. Fr. Thomas Naduvileparampil, a Kindergarten school, run by Tamil teachers, the School has completed its Diamond Jubilee and achieved high laurels in the fields of academics and sports.
Earlier the Cemetery was located on the southern side of the Church Canopy (Mondalam). The land for the present cemetery was donated by Puthenveettil Family. The cemetery has been beautified as a suitable resting place after the renovation work under the guidance of Rev. Fr. Joseph Choolapparampil.
The stone cross erected in the east side of the main church attract a large number of people every day, specially on Fridays. The multitudes who throng at this place belong to people of whole religion. It was common practice, prior to the arrival of Portuguese, to erect stone crosses in the open for worship. Wooden crosses were placed inside the church no icons were allowed. Panthavu means a thoroughfare, and Kuriusu means cross. This stone cross erected for prayer for those who passed on the road. Eventually it became “Panthan Kurishu”. Praying here assured one of hope, peace and comfort.
Due to sudden spurt in number of business houses for transshipment of spices to European countries and subsequently Alappuzha becoming a town of coir factories, people from far and wide came and settle down here. Sri. Mathu Tharakan brought in artisans from Tamil Nadu and settled them near the church. They were good masons, wood workers, stone cutters, goldsmiths etc. Because they followed certain Hindu customs they were allowed to have their own chapel and cemetery. All their spiritual needs were taken care of by Thathampally Church.
While constructing the present church sands were dug up from the front side of the church resulting the dug up part becoming a pond. Under the aegis of Re, Fr. Anthony Manalla the pond was filled to accommodate the foundation for the Auditorium. Apart from meeting the total requirement of the parishioners, the auditorium is also being used by people belonging to other communities.
Both Thathampally church and the later separated Kattoor church have St. Michael the Arch Angel as their patron saint. There is an interesting anecdote about the present icon of St. Michael’s kept in the church. Two statues, one for each church were brought from France in a ship by the Portuguese. However when the statues arrived, the attractive and finely finished statue was taken by the Kattoor church. A big Tug of war began between the two churches for the better looking one. Finally it was decided to draw lots and the present statue, according to the wishes and prayers of the people of Thathampally, was handed over to the Church.
Two more minor structures known as Kayal Kurishadui and Unni Mishiha(Infant Jesus) complete the institutions under the church.
On 30th Aug1838 Thathampally Church had founded a conferterlity, (Kombari) for praise of the Archangel. The Feast in honour of the Archangel can only be celebrated from among the members.
Apart from the above, there are four very important churches in Alappuzha which were originally belonging to St. Michael’s Church and carved out of it because of the expansion of Christian community. All the three churches, name given below in their own, have earned name and fame:
From a very humble beginning St. Michael’s Church, Thathampally has progressed by leaps and bounds . A beautiful and spacious church, a modern presbytery (living accommodation for priests and guests),the miraculous storne cross, a high school which excel in studies and extra-curricular activities, two convents, Sahrudaya Hospital, Post office, Auditorium and a vast ground which reminds you of its association with our Independence struggle. These were all made possible by a highly cultured and well polished people, their camaraderie, love and affection for each other, unity, a common faith, a ready to sacrifice anything for the church attitude, co-existence and large hearted contributions whenever required.
Let us move forward with the same commitment and dedication. May the Good Lord show us the way and bless us.