KOCHI: Churches in Kerala are not just religious spaces, some are great architectural marvels, filled with art and artefacts. One such church in Ernakulam is the St Mary’s Jacobite Soonoro Cathedral at Angamaly. It is the second church built in Angamaly, says writer Varghese Angamaly.
“The church was built by Giwargis of Christ in 1564,” he adds.“Even now, there are various stones with scripts written in old Malayalam here. The church was the first residence of Archdeacon Thomas Parambil. He eventually got consecrated as bishop Mar Thoma I and remained here,” he says.
What makes the church more interesting is the murals that adorn the walls here. As the church hasn’t gone through many significant renovations, the walls here adorn an artistic treasure. Around 13 murals are part of the church art here. One wall has a grand mural of heaven and the opposite one of hell. According to Barnett Varghese, an art historian, the murals could date back to at least two centuries.
“It seems these murals were created in the early 19th or late 18th century. Heaven has God as a common central figure, followed by Christ and his followers,” he says. Below Christ, appears angels of heaven.
However, Varghese says, the murals are much older. “Many have said that murals here could be the oldest in Kerala. Historian M G Sasibhooshan has also spoken about it,” adds Varghese. Varghese points to the mural of hell. “The entire mural appears as though it’s inside a snake’s mouth. The central figure is the devil. The mural also depicts the various punishments meted out in hell. This, in my opinion, is a mural for educating the masses. The 10 commandments and the punishments if you disobey them are written on the mural in old Malayalam letters — the same ones used in Udayamperoor Synod. That is why many say, these murals were created when the church was built,” he adds.
Apart from these grand murals, David and Goliath, St George, moments from the life of Christ, and Eden garden all are part of the mural collection here. Traditions say St Thomas arrived in Kerala in AD 52. A mural of local people receiving him is also depicted as a mural here. However, Varghese points out that, the archaeology department so far hasn’t tried to preserve the works here.