At 450 years historic Kundapur Church needs a historical correction

Till I came into the picture with my research in early 1980's, everyone believed and officially recorded that Kundapur Church was built by Fr. Joseph Vaz from Goa in 1681.

At 450 years historic Kundapur Church needs a historical correction

By Fr. Dr. Pratap Naik SJ

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them,” says James Baldwin. These words may well describe the Kundapur Catholic Church and its parishioners who need to know about the trap they are in. Though this parish church in the diocese of Udupi, Karnataka, is 450 years old, many think it was built a century later.

Till I came into the picture with my research in early 1980's, everyone believed and officially recorded that Kundapur Church was built by Fr. Joseph Vaz from Goa who became a famous missionary in Ceylon and was canonized by Pope Francis on 14 January 2015 in Colombo. Many thought the church was built by this missionary saint in 1681 while he worked in Mangalore.

I submitted my basic research paper to Mangalore Bishop Basil D'Souza and parish priest of Kundapur and as result the directory of Mangalore diocese corrected the year of Kundapur Church as 1570 that brings the age of the church to 450 years in 2020. This is the historical correction. Kundapur was conquered from Tolar king by the Portuguese in 1570 and a chapel was erected and dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary which makes the jubilee year very relevant and contextual in the month of October devoted to the rosary.

Three Jesuits who accompanied the Portuguese army, one of them was Fr Juão Francisco Estaphanio who was always marching ahead with a crucifix aloft encouraging the soldiers to fight reminiscent of the victory through rosary in Lepanto. Jesuits were appointed as parish priest and assistant, while one died during the battle. Kundapur church, therefore, has a martyr to remember while it goes back to its historical roots. The Jesuits dedicated then the chapel in the Fort, to Our Lady of Rosary and began their missionary activity as per their Provincial's order from Goa. A hospital was also started. The location of this chapel was near Halle Kotte in Kundapur.

In 1572, twelve Augustinian priests came to Kundapur from Goa and founded their monastery. From Kundapur two young men joined the Augustinians. I have a brief information of them. In 1574, many Catholic families from Goa settled down in Kundapur. Those days it was called Lower Barcelor. Later, I submitted whatever information I had with documents to my second cousin Mr Roque Carvalho, who resides now at Tallur. He studied the documents and did further study and wrote a detailed article in English. It is an excellent article with a lot of historical information.

For reasons unknown to me, Kundapur Church authorities did not publish it but I hope and pray that now in 2020 as the Church celebrates 450 years of its presence, they will take the initiative to publish his article as a scientific and correct historical document for posterity. Carvalho family members must write or approach the present Parish Priest Fr Stany Tauro and request him to publish it in English and if need be the Konknni translation too.

Those who are interested to know the history of Kundapur Church can approach Roque Carvalho. I am the first Jesuit from Kundapur.  I am glad and proud that I was born in Kundapur and baptised in Kundapur Church which has very clear Jesuit origin. Moreover, I am happy that from the parish, which Jesuits started, I am the first Jesuit vocation. It gives me immense joy that our Carvalho household served Kundapur Church for five generations as sacristans and choir members. May Our Lady of Rosary at Kundapur bless us all and inspire the people concerned to make the necessary historical correction.

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