Kallooppara: The St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest churches in Kerala, will feature in a research thesis at the University of Oxford. Architect Julia Vidal Alvelette, a Spain national visited the Kallooppara church as part of her research in the topic ‘Christian Churches and its Architecture’. She particularly focuses on the churches whose architecture bears resemblance to the traditional temple architecture and style. Hailing from the Galizia province in Spain, Julia completed her masters in architecture from a polytechnic college in Madrid. She has been working as an architect from 2006 onwards. In 2017, she enrolled for the research program at the University of Oxford.
Julia had arrived in Kerala in April last year and had visited the Kallooppara church for the first time. She spoke to the vicar Fr. Koshy Philip about the great cultural heritage of the church and even collected some significant historical documents. Julia says that the unique design and the architectural brilliance of the Kallooppara church was truly awe inspiring. She also contacted PN Suresh, former vice chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam to collect more historical evidences and documents. Clara, a friend of hers from Spain, had been to Amrithapuri in Kerala as part of her research work in social work. It was she who gave Julia hints about the great architectural legacy of Kerala.
In May last year, Julia submitted a synopsis about the Kallooppara church at Oxford and it was approved by the university. She hopes to complete her research in architecture in 2022. Besides, Kallooppara, Julia studies about the Thiruvithankode Arapally in Tamil Nadu as well. Julia promises to return to Kerala and Tamil Nadu to study more about these grand old churches. The St. Mary’s Orthodox Church popularly known as the Kallooppara Valiapally is situated on the shores of the Manimalayar River. It is estimated to be built in the 14th century.
The various parts of the church have been built over the centuries. The Archaeological Survey of India has earlier found out that the façade in the Northern side of the church has similarities to the Mughal architecture. Ancient inscriptions on rock pillars could be seen here. It was the king of Edappally who allowed a church to be built here for the Christians from the high ranges to perform their religious rites and to bury their dead. The Kallooppara church was in fact the only Christian religious centre between Kanjirappally and Niranam in the olden days. This ancient church is now regarded as the mother church of more than 30 churches that come under the Episcopal Church.