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|St. Anthony's Forane Church|
Front side of St. Antony's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church
|Location||Ollur, Thrissur District, Kerala|
|Affiliation||Syro-Malabar Catholic Church|
|Leadership||Metropolitan Archbishop of Thrissur|
|Website||Anthony's Forane Church|
|Architectural style||Neo-Gothic Revival|
|Direction of façade||West|
|Materials||Sand, gravel, cement, mortar, steel|
The St. Antony's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church is located at Ollur, Thrissur city in Kerala, India. The church belongs to Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Thrissur. According to rough figures there are around 4,000 Christian families in the parish. Because of the huge presence of Christian people in Ollur, with its religious, educational, medical, social-service, and secular organisations and institution, Ollur has been called as Chinna Roma (Small Rome). The church is constructed on a hill-top which is the highest location in the area. The church is surrounded by a huge protective compound wall called Elephant Wall (Aana Mathil). When Thrissur Vicariate Apostolic was erected in 1887, Ollur was the richest, most populous, and influential parish, so much that the Vicar of the Ollur parish were included in Adolph Medlycott's four-member diocesan apex council. St. Anthony's Forane Church has 18 churches under its jurisdiction.
Previously, the Ollur Christian population went to Mass in Puzuvial church. One day one of the women of the Chiramel family missed Mass in Puzuvial church. Disappointed, she told this to her son and asked him to construct a church in Ollur. After this, land donated by Malaekal Karthakal was used for building a new church in Ollur. According to church records, in 1718 a temporary church was constructed and the first Mass was conducted.
The church was blessed on June 13, 1722, by the Mar Antony Pimentel, Metropolitan and Gate of All India or known as Kodungallur Bishop with Johann Ernst Hanxleden famously known as Arnos Paathiri. In 1790, Tipu Sultan set fire to church but only the facade was burnt. In 1972, Mar Joseph Kundukulam, the first Archbishop of Thrissur, banned the Thullal (popularly known as devil dancing). Beatified people Euphrasia Eluvathingal, Maria Theresa Chiramel and Kuriakose Elias Chavara have visited and stayed in the church.India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the church on November 24, 1951. Vicar Monsignor Paul Kakkassery welcomed Nehru by handing over a large candle lighted.
Feast of Saint Raphael, Ollur, the Archangel, is the most important festival of Ollur church falling on October 23 and 24 of each year. The festival was started in 1837. Another festival is in honor of Saint Sebastian in the month of January and is the second major festival in the parish. Also, Ollur parish celebrates around 73 feasts and festivals in the calendar year.
If there is any church in Kerala which can be compared with Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, that is St. Anthony’s Forane Church in Ollur. Every inch of space in the church is decorated, under both western and indigenous influences, with the highest achievements of the painter, the sculptor, the ceramics worker, the carpenter, the goldsmith, the bronze artisan, or the architect - using every media known or imaginable like gold, silver, iron, bronze, wood, ivory, stone - including laterite, granite, and precious stones.
A unique feature of the church is the number and variety of the angel images in the church. There are more than five thousand images of angels in the church, in fresco, mural, wood, plaster, stone, metal and ivory. The paintings of the church cover an area of thousands of square feet and are considered one of the most beautiful ones in entire Kerala.
The seven storey Belfry or Bell tower (125 feet) of the church is said to be the tallest structure in South India when it was constructed. The huge three bells in the bell tower were imported from Marseilles in France (1883–1892) in 19th century and is one of biggest bells in Kerala. The bells are inscribed with the pictures of Jesus, Saint Joseph, Mary (mother of Jesus), Saint Anthony, Raphael (archangel) and Tobias. Owned by Ollur church is written in the bells in Syriac language and Malayalam.
In 1959 Catholics took to the streets of Kerala to protest against the first Communist Government in the state headed by E. M. S. Namboodiripad. This was known as Vimochana Samaram or Liberation Struggle. The confrontation was sparked by a state law that would have effectively taken over Catholic education facilities. In the same year, on July 23, Kerala Police fired at the St. Anthony's Forane Church on the part of Liberation Struggle. A memorial had been erected at the church courtyard then. The memorial says, Communist Government fired bullets to the Church here. The struggle of 1959 had led to the dismissal of the first democratically elect Communist Government in the world.
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