Ezharappallikal or Seven and half Churches are found across the west coast of India which were established by the St Thomas the Apostle in the first century. As per records and Indian Christian traditions, St Thomas marked his arrival at Cranganore Port in 52 AD (the present day Kodungallur) and established a bunch of churches in the present-day Kerala and borders of Tamil Nadu.
The churches came to be built close to the Jewish settlements which were already existent in the state of Kerala. The churches were built at Maliankara in Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal, Kokkamangalam, Kottakavu, Palayoor and Thiruvithamkode which are located in the present-day Kanyakumari. An Interesting factor is that all the churches in this group belong to the different congregations of Christianity.
1. The Marthoma Pontifical Shrine – Kodungallur
The Church is considered to be the first one to be built by St Thomas after his arrival to Kodungallur in 52 AD. The church is a major pilgrimage centre which is located on the banks of the Periyar river. The church houses the right arm bone of St Thomas which was brought from Ortona in Italy.
The church is built in fusion of Indo-Persian styles of architecture on land measuring 3500 sq ft. The shrine also plays a 30 min documentary covering the life and times of the Apostle.
2. St Thomas Syro – Malabar Catholic Church – Palayoor
The church here was built in the year 52 AD, by Thomas the Apostle when he came to visit the Jewish merchants at Palayoor which was a stronghold of Brahmins and Jews. The Apostle came to visit the merchants at Judankunnu (hill of Jews) to spread the message of the Gospel.
As per historical evidences found here, an abandoned Hindu temple was converted into the present church and so are the ruins of Synagogue.
3. Kottakkavu Church – North Paravur
The Kottakkavu Church was established by St Thomas in North Paravur in the Ernakulam district. The Persian Cross which was preserved in the chapel is believed to have been engraved on a rock in the year 880 AD. A wooden cross, installed in the church by St Thomas, was seen until the 18th century but fell victim to the siege of Tipu Sultan.
4. St Thomas Church – Kokkamangalam
The church is located near Cherthala in the Alappuzha district. It is said that St Thomas, sailed to Kokkamangalam and converted 1600 people into Christians and installed a cross for the faithful. The cross was cut off by saboteurs and thrown into the Vembanad lake, through which it floated until coming to a stop at a place called Pallipuram where it is currently worshiped.
5. St Thomas Church – Nilakkal
Nilakkal is a forest area located at a very close proximity to renowned Hindu pilgrimage site of Sabarimala. The church is said to be established in 54 AD in the forest trade route between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. St Thomas conducted baptism for 1100 people here.
The church was hidden amidst the thick forests of the Western Ghats until it was discovered for the first time in the year 1902 until which it laid neglected for many years. The present structure was discovered in the year 1957 and since then has been well preserved.
PC: Abin jv
6. St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church – Niranam
Popularly known as the Niranam Valiya Pally, the church was established in the year 54 AD. The church was reconstructed quite a number of times since its inception. One of the reconstructions is said to have taken place in the year 1259 as per the stones found here. The present structure was reconstructed in the year 1912 which is said to the fourth reconstruction and was renovated in the year 2000.
7. Kollam Church
In ancient times, Kollam was a major harbor and trade centre, due to which St Thomas established a church near the port. The church was destroyed during the temporary transgression of the Arabian Sea; however, in the year 1986 Pope John Paul II laid the foundation stone for a church to be constructed at the spot which is the present Port Church or Our Lady of Purification Church.
8. St Mary's Church – Thiruvithamcode
The church is also as known as Arapally which was constructed in the year 63 AD. The church was named as Amalagiri by the Chera King Uthiyan Cheralathan. It is believed to be one of the world's oldest church which still offers prayers and has not been reconstructed even once till date.