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A Brief Civil History of Quilon (KOLLAM)


‘Quilon or Kollam, an old seaport town on the Arabian coast, stands on the Ashtamudi lake. Kollam, the erstwhile Desinganadu, had a sustained commercial reputation from the days of the Phoenicians and the Romans. Fed by the Chinese trade, it was regarded by Ibn Batuta, as one of the five ports, which he had seen in the course of his travels during a period of twenty-four years, in the 14th century.’

‘The rulers of Kollam (Desinganadu) and China , exchange embassies and there was flourishing Chinese settlement at Kollam. Merchant Sulaiman of Siraf in Persia (9th Century) found Kollam to be the only port in India , touched by the huge Chinese junks , on his way from Carton of Persian Gulf. Marco Polo, the great Venician traveller, who was in Chinese service under Kublahan in 1275, visited Kollam and other towns on the west coast, in his capacity as a Chinese mandarin.’

‘The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a trading center at Kollam in 1502. Then came the Dutch followed by the British in 1795. A British garrison was stationed at Kollam in pursuance of a treaty between Travancore and the British.’‘Quilon, Calicut and Cochin took their place up in the Old world as being among the fairest cities of the Orient. Of these, Quilon was considered the most important for centuries. So much so, that Indian history is dated in terms of the Kollam (Quilon) era. This period is believed to have been in vogue around 825 AD and thereafter. Quilon thus formed a principal seaport of the Malabar and the Old World. Over the centuries, Quilon has been known by different names: Coelon, Colon, Coulang, Coulam, Kaulam. And of course more recently, Kollam.’

(Courtesy & Link: www. / Glimpses of Tangasseri)

Quilon – An ancient city blessed by St. Thomas the Apostle
‘During the second half of the first century, St. Thomas the apostle of Jesus Christ is believed to have organized seven churches in India. This was a full three centuries before the Christianity became the established religion in Rome or attained official recognition in Europe. The port Kollam church is one among the seven Churches. This evidently took place sometime between 52 AD and 78 A.D (the year of his martyrdom). In those days, a church did not connote an architectural marvel. Rather it was a gathering of devotees under a shelter of tree or a room of a house for prayer. It meant to be a community of believers as it is read about the early Christians in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.’

‘According to historical records, Kollam was a thriving port city at that time, having trade and foreign relations with Roman Empire; spices were the main commodities of export. Kollam was therefore known in those parts and there was nothing surprising in Saint Thomas choosing Kollam as a destination point of his landing for the evangelical activities. This historical background of the diocese really encouraged and supported the Holy See to declare Quilon as the first diocese in India in 1329 and appointed and consecrated Jordanus Catalani as the first Bishop. There was a church in Kollam then, known as Kollam church. Later when several other churches were constructed in the vicinity of the church by the Portuguese, the church came to be called the Port Kollam church. Due to the onslaught of the sea, the church had to be reconstructed further inland three times. Given the importance of the church, the late bishop of Quilon Most Rev. Jerome M. Fernandez on a visit to the Vatican in 1958 brought back a holy relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. A certificate issued by the then Pope’s Secretary on the confirmation of the handing over of the sacred relic to the diocese is still preserved intact along with the relic. It vouches for the authenticity of the relic. This relic has recently been exposed on July 3rd in the present Port Kollam Church. There are also commemorative statues of St. Thomas and St. Francis Xavier who preached the gospel of Jesus in Port Kollam in the early centuries. They were installed by Late Most Rev. Bishop Jerome M. Fernandez.’

Courtesy: Glimpses of Tangasseri; The Hindu, 28th June 2005)
© 2005 ++ Quilon Diocese++. All rights reserved

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