History Of Manapad

Manapad is a coastal village located in the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. This thinly populated village is deep rooted in the history of Tamil Nadu from time immemorial. It is about 58 kms. south of Tuticorin, which is one of the major sea ports of India.

History states that in 1540, a Portuguese trading vessel, while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope on its way to the East, encountered a violent storm splitting its sails and snapping the hind mast, leaving it at risk of foundering. The captain, who was devoted to the veneration of the Holy Cross, implored and entrusted the safety of the vessel and that of the crew to the crucified Christ. He also made a vow that he would construct a cross from a portion of the splintered mast and have it planted on the shore where they alighted in safety. By chance, the vessel, after having drifted for several days, sought safe haven near the shores of Manapad.

A miracle is said to have occurred when the cross was still in the form of a log cut off from the broken mast. When the mast was lying 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. That night the man had a vision in which it was revealed to him that the ailment was due to his defiling the log intended for a sacred purpose. He was asked to wipe the muck off the log, smear the log with oil, and then apply the same oil to his foot to cure it. Early next morning, the patient was carried to the log, and to the amazement of the crowd that had collected there, the man was cured immediately and able to walk back home unaided. This remarkable event made the planting of the Cross by the captain an occasion of great piety and festivity. The Holy Cross was planted on the hillock and a small chapel was later built in that spot in order to venerate the Holy Cross. From then onwards, the name and fame of the Holy Cross Church at Manapad spread throughout the Coromandel Coast and other parts of India.

Arrival Of St. Francis Xavier

Manapad was mostly inhabited by the Bharathar 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. The lonely hermitage with just the stars and the sea to keep company, chosen by Francis Xavier depicts his thirst for austerity and renunciation. 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.

Francis Xavier as he was the called performed many miracles that positively impacted the lives of the local community to such an extent that the people in and around Manapad started venerating Xavier as a saint long before he was canonized by the Church.

Church of the Holy Cross

After more miracles, the church of the Holy Cross was built in 1581, encasing the Captain's Cross. Contributions towards building of the church were spontaneously given by the inhabitants and Rev. Fr.John de Salanova, the parish priest of the only church in the village (then dedicated to the "Queen of Heaven"), was able to complete construction long before the scheduled time.

Relic of the True Cross

With the erection of the church, Rev. John de Salanova decided it should possess a relic of the True Cross. In 1583 he appealed to Rome through the General of the Jesuits Rev. Fr. Aquaviva for a fragment of the True Cross. Pope Gregory XIII obliged and the relic appears to have arrived at Cochin in the first week of August 1583. Rev. Mathew de Medina of the Order of Christ the prelate of Cochin, received the relic, after exposing it for three days for the veneration of the faithful, he inaugurated the grand tour of the relic all along the coastal belt with halts in places of Catholic predominance. The procession reached Manapad a few days before the festival of the Exaltation of the True Cross. Many Catholics followed in procession with the relic. In later years, Manapad came to be a traditional place of pilgrimage to those of the Malabar Coast.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church on 14 September, as one of thanksgiving for the recovery of the True Cross from the Persians by the great Emperor Heraclius. Fragments of the True Cross were in due course brought from Jerusalem 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 1 to 14 September, each year.

Though with the conferment of the fragment of the True Cross, the feast 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. The Confraternity was approved by His Holiness Pope Benedict XIII on 25 February 1725 and on May 28 of the same year was established 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.

The most solemnity and pageantry occurs during the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when mostly maritime pilgrims throng to Manapad from the Coromandel and Kerala Coasts. They can be seen in village or family groups performing the Way of the Cross as they cover the fourteen stations built on the hillock, reminiscent of Jesus Christ's last journey on Mount Calvary. Presumably, it is this resemblance that prompted His Holiness Pope Leo XIII to refer to Manapad as "A Little Jerusalem". Incidentally, there are many who decline quick transport to trudge many miles, as reparation for their sinful lives. For many, the hardship is eclipsed by joyful participation in a 300-year-old tradition, the procession of the relic of the True Cross when they join the thousands singing praises:
"Forth comes the standard of the kings!
All hail, thou mystery adored!
Hail, cross on which the life Himself died and by death our life restored!"

Attractions in Manapad:

1) Holy Cross Church
2) St. Francis Xaviers Grotto
3) Surfing "Manapad Point"
4) St. James church
5) Church of the Holy Ghost
6) Ocean View from atop the hillock
7) Palm leaf Society
8) Dolphin Watch
9) Tranquil beaches