St. Mary Forane Church, also known as Champakulam Kalloorkadu St. Mary's basilica is one of the oldest Christian churches in India. It is the mother church of almost all Catholic Syrian churches located in Alleppey District. It is the first one under the church at Niranam which is believed to have been founded by St. Thomas, the Apostle himself.
According to legends, the 9th century St. Mary's Church was built on land donated by the Brahmin family of Ettanasseri. It a token of thanksgiving for a male heir born to the family on praying to Virgin Mary. The idol at the shrine, the statue of St. Sebastian is said to be brought by Portuguese sailor Leonard D'Cruz in 1687. The crucifix in this church is unique, as it shows St. Sebastian without any wound.
In 2016, the church was announced as a Basilica and became the first in the archdiocese of Changanasserry. So this is the 23rd basilica in India and 9th basilica in Kerala. Also, it is the 4th Syro-Malabar basilica in India.
St. Mary’s Forane Church is a pearly white building. It has played an important role in the history of Indian Christians, South Indian Christians to be more specific. The church architecture reeks of royal magnificence as it combines elements from the Portuguese and Syrian Christian cultures. The humble church was the reason of reconciliation between Catholic and Jacobian Syrians three centuries ago. The church is not only an architectural marvel but also a fine specimen of Christian heritage in India.
The annual feast celebrated in honor of St. Sebastian is a big event with fireworks and illuminations. Votive offerings of gold and silver arrows set this event apart from other festivals.