The history of Christianity in Kerala dates back to around 52 CE when St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus arrived here. He then put in a lot of effort to spread the message of Christ and spread Christianity in this state. Today his followers are known as Syrian Christians or Saint Thomas Christians. Later between 16th to 19th centuries the Portuguese played a major role in spreading Christianity in Kerala. Today Christians are the third most populous group in this state with about 20% of its population being Christians. Kerala has one of the largest Christian populations in India. They being one of the most spiritual groups of people, church going is an integral part of their life. There are numerous churches in this state, some of which are centuries years old. These churches serve as an important pilgrimage site not only for the people of this state but people from different parts of the country also come here to pay homage to Christ other different saints. They have also contributed to the growth and development of this state in many fields, specially the social sector by building schools, hospitals and other social organizations.
The first church in Kerala was established by St. Thomas. He set up a total of seven churches all over the state to spread Christianity in India. Most of the churches out here follow the tradition of Syrian Christian also known as the Malankara Christian Orthodox Church. Besides having some of the oldest churches in India, the churches of Kerala are also known for its beautiful architecture and art. The art and architecture of these churches reflect the pre European history with a blend of the indigenous forms and techniques of art and architecture. Later we also find the influences of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English who ruled this state at different points of history and further strengthened the roots of Christianity. Some of the important and common features seen in all the churches of Kerala are altars, statues, crosses, bells, belfries of churches etc. some of the most popular of this state are as follows –
St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church – this is one of the most prominent churches of Kerala built by St. Thomas himself. Every year thousands of pilgrims visit this church and is declared as an International Shrine by the Vatican itself. This church is located in the Ernakulum district of Kerala.
St Francis Church Cochin – this church was built I 1503 and is considered to be the first proper church built in India. It became an important inspiration to all the other churches in India. Originally it was dedicated to St Anthony but later the British rededicated this to St Francis.
Our Lady of Dolours Basilica – this is the 3rd largest church of Asia spread over an area of 25000 sq. feet and is built in the Indo-Gothic style of architecture. It is located in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
Other important churches are Malankara Church, Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, St. Francis Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Andrew’s church and many more.