The depiction of Christ and Biblical characters in the mural paintings at St. George Orthodox Church, Cheppad near Harippad in the district attract a good number of devotees and tourists, especially on the occasion of Easter.
The murals point to a combination of Christian style of paintings in Central Asia and mural paintings in Kerala. The paintings, said to be 800-years-old, attract a lot of foreign and domestic visitors to the church, which according the believers was built in 12th century.
As one looks at the Madhbaha (sanctum sanctorum), a series of paintings in natural colours, extracted from fruit juices, herbs and leaves adorn it. According to believers, Lapis lazuli stone was brought from Damascus by priests for using blue colour.
The depiction of Christ from his birth , crucifixion and resurrection; Noah’s Ark; Adam and Eve and their temptation by Satan are among the 47 paintings displayed at the Madhbaha.
“A lot of foreign tourists come here to see the paintings after hearing about it,” says Skaria Ponvanibhom, vicar of the church. The church also is the resting place of Cheppad Mar Dionysius, Malankara Metroploitan of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church from 1825 to 1855. Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I had visited the church during the death centenary of Mar Dionysius on October 31, 1956. “The Emperor’s relation with the church dates back to 1952 when the then priest of the church I. Daniel Cor-Episcopa sent a book to Emperor with a note that the money from the sale of the book would be used in the renovation works. The Emperor sent Rs. 5000 in January 1952,” Fr.Skaria said.
The Emperor had gifted the Church a cross and the Bible in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia in a golden covering, which are now part of a museum set up at the Church. Mar Dionysius’ personal collections including his walking stick and cot are displayed at the museum in the church compound. The Church has also found a place in the tourism calendar of the Tourism Department.