A basilica is an important church which is designated by the Pope due to its spiritual, historical or architectural significance. India is home to 23 of them making it the only country in the entire Asia to hold so many of them. The Pope confers the title to these churches under certain conditions; for example, the architectural similarity to the ancient Roman style of architecture, home to the body of a saint or a relic of a saint or for even being a prominent pilgrim centre.
A church achieves the status of being in the highest position amongst the places of worship in the religion once it has achieved the status of a basilica. Have a look at some of the most well-known basilicas in the country and visit them.
1. St. Thomas Basilica, Chennai
PC: Joe Ravi
St. Thomas Basilica also known as San Thome Basilica is built in honour of St Thomas who was martyred here in the year 72 AD; the present structure is built over the tomb of the saint. The church was given the status of a cathedral in the year 1890 and was elevated as a basilica in the year 1956. The structure is well known for its typical Gothic style of architecture, along with its stained glass windows, which showcases the life of St Thomas.
The statue of Virgin Mary here is said to have been brought from Portugal which continues to be worshipped till date along with relics of St Thomas.
2. Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa
Located in Panaji, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a major crowd puller and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is was built in the year 1594 with gilded altars, beautifully crafted basalt embellishments and is a perfect example of the renaissance culture and is home to the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier. The columns of the church are wrapped in marble and infused with precious stones which further adds on to the beauty of the structure.
3. St. Lawrence Minor Basilica, Udupi
Built by the Portuguese sometime during the early 18th century in honour of St Lawrence, who is considered as the patron of the downtrodden, poor, orphans, ill and the destitute. The church is also known as Sao Lawrence. It was completely razed to the ground by Tipu Sultan, when the followers of Christianity returned to the place they installed the statue of St Lawrence, under a thatched roof, which eventually grew into a small church and then a popular shrine which paved its way to be declared as a minor basilica by the Pope in year 2016.
4. Basilica of the Holy Rosary, Bandel
The Basilica of the Holy Rosary is undoubtedly one of the oldest churches to be built by the Portuguese in the state of West Bengal. Located in Bandel, the shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and was built in the year 1660 after the Portuguese obtained permission from a Mughal emperor to build a town in Hooghly. The church has several altars and a shrine dedicated to Mother Mary, one would come across a ship's mast at the front of the church as an honour to the belief that Mother Mary had saved a sinking ship here.
5. Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Cochin
PC: Augustus Binu
Our Lady of Ransom is also known as Vallarpadathamma and is located in Vallarpadam close to the Bolgatty Island near Cochin. The magnificent basilica that we see today was built by Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, who was the prime minister to the Maharaja of Cochin after a flood washed away the shrine in the year 1676, which was original built by the Portuguese, in 1524. One would find a sanctuary lamp which was lit by Valiyachan after the renovation of the church which still is kept burning by his descendants till date.
The shrine built by the Portuguese was dedicated to the Holy Spirit along with a picture of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus, which was installed at the altar. The church is one of its kind in Asia which is dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
6. Basilica of our lady of the Mount, Bandra
Dedicated to Mother Mary, the basilica is located in Bandra and dates back to the 16th century when the the Jesuit priests from Portugal came to propagate the religion and constructed a chapel for the same. The structure is fine example of the quasi-Gothic style of architecture.
The shrine was attacked by Arab pirates in 1700 who disfigured the original statue by chopping of its right hand. In the year 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was restored for worship. The shrine was declared as a basilica in the year 1954 by Pope Pius XII.