Church of Our Lady of Light, Chennai
|Church of Our Lady of Light|
Church of Our Lady of Light (Tamil: பிரகாச மாதா ஆலயம்) is a Roman Catholic shrine in Chennai, India. It is commonly called as Luz Church by the locals, which derives from the Portuguese name Nossa Senhora da Luz. Built in 1516 by the Portuguese, it is one of the oldest Churches in the city and its foundation stone marks as one of the oldest European monuments in India. The history of the church dates back to the 16th-century legend of safe arrival to land by missionaries. The church is located very near to the Santhome Basilica, where Apostle Thomas is believed to be buried.
Although at the time the church was built, the locality was a thick forest, now it is part of a bustling metropolitan area. This 16th-century European-architecture building consists of patterns of Gothic arches and Baroque ornamentation. The feast of Our Lady of Light is celebrated on 15 August every year. On 15 August 2010, Church of Our Lady of Light was declared Shrine of Our Lady of Light by A. M. Chinnappa, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore.
The historical background of this church is intertwined with the traditional history of Christianity in India. Arrival of Christianity to India is of two phases, where by traditional accounts, St. Thomas brought the religion in the first century and attained martyrdom in Chennai in 53 AD. The second phase is after the arrival of Portuguese in the 15th century. The legends of the Church of Our Lady of Light connects both.
The history of the Church is compounded with the history of the arrival of the Portuguese to India. Soon after Vasco da Gama discovered the sea-route to India, the legend states, that eight Franciscan priests left for India from Lisbon with the fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral on 9 March 1500 A.D. They landed in Calicut, where three of the Friars were slain on 16 November 1500. The others reached Cochin, and settled down of preach the good news. A few years later, they sailed down South to spread their message further. It is said, that the Friars were lost in the rough sea and started praying to Mother Mary for their safety. The legend states that they were miraculously guided by a mysterious bright light which guided them safe to land. The Friars that in honour of their safe arrival to the land, built the Church of Our Lady of Light (Portuguese: Nossa Senhora da Luz). The church would later suffer damages inflicted from the forces of Golconda between 1662 and 1673. During the times of Haider Ali's invasion of the city forts between 1780 and 1782, the British East India Company Forces occupied the Luz Parish Residence for some years. Currently this church also governs the Stella Maris College, Chennai.
The church is located in Mylapore local of Chennai and at the time it was built, this part of Mylapore is believed to have been a thick forest. Thus the church gets its local name in Tamil as "Kaatu Kovil" (Tamil: காட்டுக் கோவில்) (Jungle Temple). It is located about 1.5 km from the Santhome Basilica where Apostle of Jesus Saint Thomas is buried. Although now a bustling locale, it is believed that this area could have been covered with mangroves in the early days. The road leading to the church is now named as Luz Church road after the church itself.
The existing structure at Luz was built by the Portuguese in 1516. The architecture of the building consists of patterns of Gothic arches, Baroque ornamentation compounded with classical European style. The altars are gilded with silver and gold leaves and the ceilings with powder blue fresco paintings. The building plan resembles the Portuguese style in more than one way. Luz church represents one of the many attempts made by these people to leave their identity in far-off places. The foundation stone of this church is considered to be one of the oldest European monuments in India.
The feast of Our Lady of Light is celebrated on 15 August every year  which is also the day of Indian independence and hence a national holiday. The day is also as the feast of Assumption of Mary. The feast is celebrated with a grand mass and car procession.
The Novena prayer to Our Lady of Light is as follows
|“||Oh Lady of light who dispels all darkness consoler of the afflicted Queen of heaven and earth with confidence in your power of intercession we fly to your patronage and implore your help in our need.
Oh star of the sea! whose beacon saves those tossed by the storms of life.
We come to you in the midst of our trails and temptations.
Wipe away our tears and give us your comfort and consolation.
Oh most gracious Mother Fill our hearts and homes with your light. Heal the broken hearted Enlighten our minds Dispel our doubts and grant us clarity of thought May we progress in our daily work.
Grant us health of body and mind Fulfill all our spiritual and temporal needs.
Oh Mother of Light
Despise not our petition but in your mercy hear and answer our prayer through your Son Jesus Christ
Our Lord and Saviour - Amen.
- Info on the Church on Archdioceses website
- History of Luz Church Archived 2008-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
- South India Handbook
- Chennai Travel book
- Madras Tercentenary Celebrations Committee Commemoration
- Luz Church on Madras info
- Luz Church in Clickindia.com Archived 2008-09-06 at the Wayback Machine
- Prayer on the church's website Archived 2008-09-19 at the Wayback Machine