On the history of Luz Church and Our Lady of Guidance Church

How many in the city are aware of ‘Kattu Koil' or Forest Church which is situated in the heart of the metropolis? It is none other than the Luz Church (156, Luz Church Road, Mylapore), located at the west of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas in Santhome and a mile away from it. In the south wall there is an ancient stone with a Portuguese inscription which reads ‘Friar Pedro of the Observance of St. Francis built this church of Our Lady of Light in 1516.'

A peep into when and why this church was built:

Eight Franciscan Friars set sail for India from Lisbon on March 9, 1500. Five of them sailed down South. As they were cruising along the Coromandal Coast, the sea turned rough and tossed the ship about. Suddenly their eyes were drawn to a bright light which led them to land safely on the shores of Mylapore, on the same spot where the ruins of ‘Bethuma,' the old house of St. Thomas, the Apostle, was located. As they moved towards the mysterious guiding light, it took them to a clearing in the forest where the light suddenly disappeared. Inspired by this experience, Friar Pedro of the Observance of St. Francis built a church on the spot. The original structure must have been a small Oratory.

Since then, it has always been referred to as ‘Kattu Koil' by the locals. The historical importance of the church is apparent from the fact that the area is officially called ‘Luz', the Portuguese word for light. Luz Church has survived troubled times. It was damaged during the occupation by Golconda forces between 1662 and 1673. During the occupation of Hyder Ali (1780 - 82), the East India Company forces occupied the Luz Parish residence for some years.

The Church of Lady of Light, which was built in 1516, has now been renovated and restored to its original form. Today, it stands proud as a testimony of faith and hope for generations to come.

Our Lady of Guidance Church

The Parish is one of the oldest in the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. According to history, the Parish has had two names and two churches. Originally known as the parish of Mae-de-Deus or Madre-de-Deus it has been known from 31-5-1957 as the parish of 'Our Lady of Guidance' (22, Lazarus Church Road, R.A.Puram).

Its parochial church was originally that of Mae-de-Deus but from this date the parish church is the one dedicated to Our Lady of Guidance. It is said to be one of the oldest in the Archdiocese as it was 400 years old on Sep 8, 1976.

This church dedicated to Lazarus was built in 1582 by Fr. Ribeiro. It was extended and renovated by an European, Manuel Madra, in 1928. Fr. A.M. Texeira, the vicar General, laid the foundation for the new church.

The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda issued a decree on Feb 26, 1954 that the Church of Lazarus would hence forth be known as the Church of Our Lady of Guidance.

The Parish was first known as 'Madre-de-Deus' (Mother of God), but since this place was entrusted to the Jesuit Fathers for the Retreat House, Lazarus Church was made the Parish church. It is believed that this Portuguese name Madre-de-Deus in due course gave the name ‘Madras' to the city.

On June 1 1957, the church was erected as a Parish. On that day the statue of Our Lady of Guidance was transferred and installed in Lazarus church from Madre-de-Deus church in the Dhyana Ashram premises.

(Excerpts from the books: Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore Directory 2009 and An Outline of The History of The Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore)

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Culture & HeritageMay 14, 2012