Friday, April 27, 2007

Churches on demolition line.

(INTACH Post Card)

Beautiful, isn’t it?

These are the historic twin churches at Ramapuram, one of the cradles of Christianity in Kerala, India. The smaller of these, in the name of St. Augustine, was built around 1450, and the other in 1864. These monuments may be razed to the ground soon. What no invader, no government, no other community, have dared to try, is being done with abandon by the Church itself.

Aisanet TV reported last evening that a referendum is being conducted among the parishioners of Ramapuram on Sunday, April 29, 2007 about demolishing these famous shrines. The Church officials have taken a strong stand in favor of the destruction. Therefore the outcome of the vote is a foregone conclusion. The priests do not seem to be worried whether such actions and procedures conform to the laws of the country.

The move to demolish the twin churches and build a ‘modern’ one in their place has been on for some time. The Hindu carried a report about this on February 18, 2005. The reason given for this proposal by the Vicar was that more space is required to accommodate the increased number of pilgrims! Apparently he was not alert to the fact that the newer of the two churches was also built for the same reason, but people who were responsible then had ensured that the old one was preserved.

The vicar went on to give a piece of wisdom to the world: “God created the whole world for man. Archaeology is for the benefit of man and not vice-versa''. Shades of Benito Mussolini! Il Duce was reported to have said when his car knocked down and killed a boy, “What is the life of a child in the matters of state?”

The Syro-Malabar Church of Kerala, under which Ramapuram comes, is the second largest (after Roman /Latin) Rite in the Catholic Diaspora. It is headed by a Major Archbishop who is a Cardinal. Can the authorities of the Syro-Malabar wash off the responsibility for the demolition mania? There is something called acts of omission and commission.

What about the Pope?

In the recent Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Sacramentum Caritatis’, the Pontiff states, "A solid knowledge of the history of sacred art can be advantageous for those responsible for commissioning artists and architects to create works of art for the liturgy. Consequently, it is essential that the education of Seminarians and priests include the study of art history, with special reference to sacred buildings..."

[The response of some priests in Kerala to this might be, ‘Oh, it’s about some paintings in Europe’, like Stalin who once asked during WW II, ‘How many Divisions does the Pope have?’ In Kerala itself, invaluable frescos were lost by recent demolition of Thycattussarry Church. See my post ‘Historic church is no more’ by clicking on the title]

Indiscriminate destruction of heritage structures should be a matter of concern not only for Christians, but also for others. If you agree, please email this to as many people as you can. The procedure is very simple. Just click on the ‘envelope’ icon below and give the email IDs.

Let us preserve our heritage.



Jacob Matthan said...

This is devastating news. Will you contact John Dayal about this or should I?

George said...

The twin churches are BEAUTIFUL!!!!

It's sad that they are about to be demolished.

Is it a space issue? Does the church have land around the older churches to build a modern bigger structure? How about the costs of maintaining 3 structures? Since its a historic building, how about proceeding in the direction of making it a heritage site/tourist destination, so that it cannot be demolished?

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Jacob, for the prompt response. I've already emailed Dr. John Dayal, Chairman of All India Catholic Union, as suggested by you. It will strengthen our case if you write to him as well. His email ID that I have is:
Abraham Tharakan.

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

I appreciate your comment, George. There is plenty of space in the Ramapuram church complex for building a new church.
Many old temples face the problem of increasing number of devotees. But has there been a single case of demolishing a temple to build a larger 'modern' one?
I am exploring the 'heritage site' angle suggested by you.
Abraham Tharakan.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that you will be able to mobilize the support of adequate numbers of like minded persons to save this beautiful,historic Church.
You could approach the following three Organisations for intervention.
1. The Archaeological Survey of India, which has the authority under the AMASR Act, to bring ancient monuments under its protection.
2. The Kerala State Department of Archaeology which can declare ancient monuments as protected monuments under the as The Kerala Ancient Monuments and Archaeological sites and Remains Act of 1968.
3. INTACH which files PIL ‘when actions of the local or national administration are a threat to the heritage of the country.’ They have 5 Chapters in Kerala.
You can get more information from their websites.
From: Bipul Bhattacharya

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

Mr. Bhattacharya, your comment is very pertinent and helpful. I have already contacted INTACH. Also trying the other avenues suggested by you.
Abraham Tharakan.

Teresa Davis said...

This is dreadful, all over Kerala one sees this destruction of beautiful and historic churches being razed to make place for ugly new and very expensive churches built.Can one start a signed petition? collecting signatures against the proposal? what can be done?

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Teresa Davis. Your observation is absolutely correct. In Kerala today we have churches that look like ships, cinema theaters, all kinds of monstrosities with utter disregard to cost and aesthetics. I'm trying to work up something and shall keep you posted.
Abraham Tharakan.

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance that the Cardinal in Cochin will be able to help prevent the demolition?

Who is funding these activities? Can these funds be used for more appropriate purposes like teaching priests the value of cultural heritage?

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

I plan to answer the points 'anonymous' raised through a separate post, hopefully tomorrow.
Abraham Tharakan.

Christian but not religious said...

I just speculate that there might be some dogma which says that three churches should not be at one place. I further speculate that this dogma might be related the the concept 'trinity'. Otherwise why ALL the priests are apparently in favor of demolition; they might have there own reason from a theological point of view, which they naturally believe that ordinary 'faithfuls' are unable to comprhend.

Articles by Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you, 'Christian but not religious'. That is an interesting theory. However, while it might hold for the twin churches, what about demolition of individual churches?
I think th reasons are more earthly than theological.
Abraham Tharakan.