Kanjoor is one of the most popular pilgrim centers in Kerala. People of all faiths and religions come to this pilgrim centre to pray to Kanjoor Punnyavan. The Kanjoor church is situated on the banks of the River Periyar. This beautiful village is endowed with green pastures and lush paddy fields and it has been attracting tourist from time immemorial. Every nook and cranny of the church breathes history and heritage.
St. Mary’s Forane church, Kanjoor is one of the most outstanding and ancient Catholic Churches in Kerala. Built in the year AD 1001, this church is portrayed as the symbol of strong Christian faith and spiritual renaissance of Kanjoor. It belongs to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam–Angamaly and is about 3 kms south of Kalady in the Aluva – Kalady route. This church has a fascinating Kerala Temple style, wonderful fresco painted walls and tall towers. The magnificent structure of the church is a gorgeous blend of Indian Architecture, Persian design, and Portuguese artistry. The fabulous collection of ancient sculptures and paintings which adorn the sanctum of the church, are made from a combination of fruit pulp, rare plant leaves and gold dust. The unique paintings on the main altar exhibit the Blessed Virgin Mother, the Annunciation, the visitation, the Nativity and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The side wall contains the paintings on the offering of the Lord Abraham, Noah, Melchisedech, and the Ten Commandments to Moses.
The church has a rare antique and valuable collection of manuscripts, books and paintings which are eye-catching. The granite cross made out of single stone, the majestic and grandiose main door, the baptismal font made out of a single stone sculptured in the shape of lotus, the epitaph in ancient round script (vattezhuthu), the ancient and invaluable documents written on the palm leaves (thaliyola) and many other antique properties chart the greatness of the church and highlight the cultural heritage and the noble Christian traditions that belong to Kanjoor over the years.
The presence of St. Sebastian, with his divine powers, makes Kanjoor a famous and important pilgrim centers. He is known as the Saint of Kanjoor (Kanjoor Punniyavan). There are a lot of incidents which illustrate the powerful and divine nature of the saint. One such incident happened when the ruler of the local kingdom Sakthan Thampuran visited the PuthiyedamKovilakam during the annual feast of the saint was celebrated. Irritated by the uninterrupted firing of the saluting mortar (kathina vedi), he ordered that the mortars to be thrown into the river. At the time of the procession, all the mortars immersed in the water started firing. Startled by what happened, the Thampuran realized his mistake and came down to the church and paid obeisance to the saint. He donated the Elephant Lamp (Aana Vilakku) which is made of Pancha Loha (analloy of five metals).
There was another incident when the Thampuran ordered that the padippura (gate house) of the church to be demolished. The very moment that the demolition of the gate house started, the elephant at the Kovilakam started destroying its padippura. On inquiring about this astonishing occurrence, he was informed that the Kanjoor Punniyavan had been offended by his action. As a sign of his repentance the Thampuran presented the perpetual lamp (kedavilakku) to the church. It is believed that to meet the expense of oil for the lamps, the Thampuran permitted the church to possess the paddy fields of one hundred para, and made the land on which it was constructed tax free.
In 18th century Tippu Sulthan during his invasion reached Kanjoor to destroy the church. The Sultan ridiculed their faith in the saint and shouted at the statue of the saint, “if this clay statue has divine powers, let it speak to me”. The people prostrated before the saint crying out to protect them. Suddenly a voice came from the sacred statue, “Won’t you allow me to rest?” Seeing this miracle Tippu retreated without damaging the church. It is depicted on the walls in front of the church to commemorate this event.