This Article was written by Late Mr.Benny Miranada



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Holy Cross Church Altar Photo taken by Late Mr.Louis Miranda

Photo taken by Fritz Miranda

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church on 14th September, as one of thanks giving for the recovery of the True Cross from the Persians by the great Emperor Heracuius. Fragments of the True Cross were in due course, brought from Jersusalem to many churches dedicated to the Holy Cross in the East and West. These churches sought to imitate the solemn ceremonies in use at Jerusalem in order to do homage to the Holy Cross. Possibly one of the earliest dedications to the Cross in India was the Church of the Holy Cross in Manapad. Throughout the year many pilgrims visit the church and thousands congregate during the festive season from first to fourteenth September.


Tradition has it that around 1540, a Portuguese trading vessel while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, on its way to the East encountered a violent storm and had its sails split and the hind mast snapped. The vessel ran the risk of being foundered. The Captain who was devoted to the veneration of the Holy Cross, implored and entrusted the safety of the vessel and that of the cre to the crucified Christ. He also made a vow that he would construct a Cross from a portion of the splintered mast and has it implanted on the shore where they alight in safety. Perchance, the vessel after having drifted for several days sought haven in then then well known port of Kulesakharapatnam-Manpad. In fulfillment of his vow, the Captain had the Cross planted on the top of the hillock forming the natural Southern arm of the harbor. The Captain erected over the cross a small hut as protection against possible ravages of weather.


The first miracle is said to have occurred when the cross was still in the nude form of a log cut off from the broken mast. It is said that when the log was laying on the shore an inhabitant of the village who had trampled on filth had cleansed his foot on this log. No sooner had he wiped his leg than he felt a pain and instantaneous swelling of the leg too. It was with the greatest difficulty that he was able to return home. That night the man had vision in which it was revealed to him that the ailment was due to his defiling the log of wood intended for a sacred purpose, He was asked to wipe the much off the log, smear the log with oil and then apply the same oil to the affected foot to get cured. Early next morning, the patient was carried to the spot where the log was and the to amazement of the crowd that had collected there, there was immediate cure and the man was able to walk back home unaided. This remarkable happening made the occasion of the planting of the Cross by the Captain an event of great piety and festivity. From then onwards, the name and fame of the Captain's cross spread throughout the Coromandel coast.


Manapad was mostly inhabited by the Paravars who had embraced Christianity in 1532; but, for want of missionaries, the neophytes remained nominal Christians, until the arrival and ministration of St.Francis Xavier, The saint who arrived in Manapad in October 1542 found two spots which impelled him to choose Manapad as his favorite haunt during his sojourn in the Pearl Fishery Coast. One was the presence of a grotto carved out of the rocky ledge, which he preferred to use as his abode. This cave was known in pre-Christian era as "Valli's cave", a counterpart of the one at Tiruchendur. It is now a signal grotto having at its outer entrance the stone tablet bearing the inscription: "This cave, the dwelling of a saivite sanyasi has been sanctified by the prayers and penance of St.Francis Xavier". The lonely hermitage with just the stars and the sea to keep company, chosen by Francis Xavier depicts his thirst for austerity and renunciation. Inspired by the Biblical exhortation, "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?" he cast to the winds the professorship attached to the University of Paris and joined the Society of Jesus in answer to the clarion call of the Founder of the Society, St.Ignatius of Loyola. No wonder then, that here joiced to take up abode in this cave. The other spot that induced him to choose Manapad with rapturous delight was the Captain's Cross with its raised platform and an overhead covering, almost providing a built-in chapel enabling him to offer daily the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. St.Francis Xavier toiled among the Paravars, instructing and ministering all along the Pearl Fishery Coast until November 1543 when he returned to Goa. He was again at Manapad in March, June, August and September 1544 and went to Travancore in November.

This is the Cave where St.Xavier Lived at Manapad, just 10 feet away from the sea

--Well inside the Cave which gives sweet water

Photos by Fritz Miranda


To the people of Mnapad, St.Francis Xavier was much more than a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. He was first and foremost a friend to all. His austere life, his tenderness coupled with stern standards in the observance of morals and above all his revered advice to all problems posed, made people to flock to him in large numbers. During his sojourn there, with the help of the pundits of Manapad he translated the rudiments of the common prayers and trained the first batch of catechists. And God, in appreciation of the self-abnegation of His dearly beloved son Francis Xavier provided him with an occasion to perform the first miracle of his life which had such an impact that the people in and around Manapad started venerating him as a saint long before he was canonized by the Church. The incident was this : While at Manapad, the saint had two youngsters trained as acolytes to aid him in his ministration. They were Augustine Paiva and Anthony Miranda. One day at dawn when Augustine was on his way to the Captain's Cross where the Saint offered the Eucharistic Service daily, a few yards away, right on the pathway itself, he saw his companion Anthony lying still frothing at the mouth. But what made Augustine terror-stricken was the sight of a deadly cobra crawling away. However, Augustine approached Anthony and tried to rouse him up, but finding that there was not even the feeble palpitation of the heart, he ran as fast as his legs could carry him to the Saint's niche and bursting into tears related what he saw. Unperturbed, the saint raised his head heavenwards, ejaculated some prayers and rushed to the venue and blessing the still-body of Anthony, he called upon Anthony to get up. To the amazement of all gathered there, Anthony Miranda not only got up, but also followed the Saint and assisted him at the Holy Mass as usual. No wonder that pilgrims visit Manapad with reverence and piety for it was a hamlet made holy by the foot-prints of a living-saint.


Evidently, the utilization of the built-in chapel with the Captain's cross by St.Francis Xavier gave the spot an added sacredness. And, as years rolled by, the requisition for favors at the spot being miraculously granted, there arose the expedience and a pious desire to build an edifice. As such the church of the Holy Cross was built in the year 1581, on the same spot encasing the Captain's Cross. It is said that contributions towards building of the church were spontaneously given by the inhabitants and Rev.Fr.John de Salanova, the Parish priest of the then only church the village dedicated to the "Queen of Heaven", was able to complete construction long before the scheduled time.


With the erection of this, Rev.John de Salanova deemed that the church was worthy to possess the relic of the True Cross. As such, in 1583 he appealed to Rome through the General of the Jesuits very Rev. Fr. Aquaviva for a fragment of the True Cross. Pope Gregory XIII, the then reigning Pontiff graciously obliged. The relic is said to have arrived at Cochin in the first week of August 1583, since Cochin was then the mother of all the Latin Dioceses in South India and Ceylon. The most Rev.Mathew de Medina of the Order of Christ, the prelate of Cochin is said to have received the relic and having had it exposed for three days for the veneration of the faithful he inaugurated the grand tour of the relic all along the coastal belt with halt in places of Catholic predominance. The procession is said to have reached Manapad a few days before the festival of the Exaltation of the True Cross. Many Catholics were said to have followed in procession with the relic. Thus it is that Manapad came to be a traditional place of pilgrimage to those of the Malabar Coast.


Though with the conferment of the precious gift of the fragment of the True Cross, the festival attained a certain dignity. It was only after the inauguration of the Confraternity of the Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord that the festival won recognition as a major festival in the village. The Confraternity was approved by His Holiness Pope Benedict XIII on 25th February 1725 and on May 28th of the same year was constituted in the Church of Holy Cross in Manapad. Thereafter the Confraternity of the Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord has been instrumental in the celebration of the festival with pomp and piety. Even so, the people of Manapad, when they leave homes either on business pursuits or on employment, retain a particularly strong attachment to the place of their birth and of all this nostalgia none is so compelling as that for their church of the Holy Cross and its festival.


There has been much speculation and varied assumption put forward as to when and where from had come the beautiful, compassionate and reverse-awakening crucifix that adorns the high altar in this church. The most popular belief is that this crucifix had come together with the well know statue of "Our Lady of Snows" enshrined in the church dedicated to that name in Tuticorin. This assumption is not tenable, because there was no church no priest in Manapad until sometime in the fifteen seventies. However, this crucifix just like the statue of "Our Lady of Snows" of Tuticorin is of the same origin and had come from Manila, but at the later date than the statue of Our Lady and that in this way : Captain Ferdinard Magellan, a Spanish explorer after circumnavigating the earth arrived in Cebu Island, Philippines in March 1521. Magellan was a man of sincere piety. Probably, with an aim to promote instruction in the Faith by means of visual objects, he brought with him a crucifix, a statue of Our Lady and a statue of Child Jesus all of them being masterpieces as envisioned by the Catholic mind of the Renaissance. The first converts by Magellan were a chief named Hamubon and his queen. The latter on being baptized was given the name of Juana. And it was to Juana that Magellan mad a gift on the statue of Child Jesus, which in time came to be known as "Sancto Nino of Cebu" and it stands to this day above the high altar of the Augustinian Church of Cebu. This statue for many millions of catholic Filipinos is a precious national heritage. The statue of Our Lady brought by Magellan turned out to be the replica of the statue enshrined in the church of St.Mary of the snows, Rome. And it was this statue that was gifted to Tuticorin by the Prioress of the convent in Manila in 1555. No doubt then , it was the cognizance of the existence of a crucifix of consummate art in the convent at Manila that impelled Fr.John de Salanova to work heart and soul to obtain the same for his newly constructed church of the Holy Cross, Manapad. Of course, the Prioress of the convent, Manila in turn was promoted to part with such a precious crucifix, because she had been told of the papal recognition by the rare conferment in those days of the relic of the True Cross to this church. The exact date of the receipt of the crucifix is not known.


But by far the most solemn occasion combined with the colourful pageantry associated with festivities in the East is during the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when mostly maritime pilgrims throng to Manapad from the Coromandel and Kerala Coasts. They could be seen, village-wise, or in family-groups performing with piety and the devotion of the 'Way of the Cross' as they move from station to station, covering the fourteen stations, built on the hillock reminiscent of the last journey of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary. Presumably, it is this similarity of bearings that prompted His Holiness Pope Leo XIII to refer to Manapad as "A LITTLE JERUSALEM". Incidentally, there are many who in spite of the availability of quick means of transport trudge the length of many miles as a reparation for their culpable life. The hardship experienced is nothing to them for they are sure of consolation and happiness by talking part in the festival which their forefathers had graced continuously for over three centuries or even more and which has the special feature of the procession of the relic of the true cross when they too, join the thousands singing praises: