Bassel Mission’s Iconic Cathedral

Jaiprakash Raghaviah | Sep 01, 2016 | Vol. 08 Issue 04
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The church by the Basel Evangelical Mission takes pride in being the place of worship for the early Christians of Kozhikode and its suburbs. While the church was built in the 1850s, the bell tower was built in 1908.

Situated in the heart of Kozhikode, CSI Cathedral has been an icon for a century and half. The church is relatively large and can hold a congregation of 800- 900 worshipers. The architectural design of this church is not elaborate. At the entrance is a bell fry which is about 60 feet in height. The interior of this church is Spartan and very functional. There are large doors and windows allowing for free flow of light and air. There are no statues or paintings that usually adorn cathedrals. The construction is sturdy of broad sized laterite stones. The edifice has stood the test of time. There are no cracks or other structural defaults. While the church was built in the 1850s, the bell tower was built in 1908. There are multiple bells that chime polyphonically.

The church was built by the Christian missionary organisation called the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society (Basel Mission) which started operating in the erstwhile Malabar and South Canara Districts of the Malabar Presidency from 1834. Basel Mission was not just a prosylatising mission.  It was an agent of social change. Basel Mission converted persons from the lower sections of society and started schools through which members of lower sections of society could gain education and uplift.

The first modern tile and weaving factories in Malabar were established by the Basel Mission and  some of these units continue to function even to date though under different management. Basel mission had started its industrial activity in Malabar from 1850. These industries were started to give employment to converts who had lost their traditional occupations. In the heart of Kozhikode, there were two industrial units- a tile factory and a weaving factory- established by the Basel Mission. There were a sizeable number of converts who were employed in these factories. Basel Mission Church (the present CSI Cathedral) was established to cater the spiritual needs of this population. This church is now part of the North Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India.

Interior of the church has been refurbished with granite flooring, replacing the earlier terracotta tile flooring. CSI cathedral can take pride in having the only pipe organ in Kerala. The pipe organ was installed in 2008 and was donated a church at Chinchester, U K. it was dismantled, shipped and reinstalled at the Cathedral, with the support of senior gentlemen who were members of the church and since settled abroad. This organ was made in Bristol by W G Vowles in 1888, for St James Church in Tytherington, South Gloucestershire, England. It was dismantled and taken to Kerala by George Hunt and Theodore Gabriel, former members of CSI, North Kerala Diocese.

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