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There is no concrete evidence as to when the original church was built. But it was believed to be the first church in Asia dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Later the Portuguese missioners who settled in Kochi, rebuilt the old church which was almost in ruins and installed an image of the Blessed Mother and Infant Jesus (39 inch high and 26 inch wide) at the top of the altar of the Shrine. But this church was completely destroyed by a heavy flood in the late 17th century and it is believed that Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, the Diwan of the Maharaja of Cochin recovered the image from the flood waters. He handed over the image to the then parish vicar and it was installed in a temporary made up shed which was known as 'Panampu Pally'. A wooden flag staff (160 ft) was also installed at the place where he exchanged the holy picture, which was replaced much later in 2002, by a steel flag staff (102 ft). A beautiful church was then built in the land donated by the Diwan in 1676. Subsequent renovations were made to the church in 1888,1931 and 1947. The church alter is adorned with the miraculous image of the Holy Mary and Infant Jesus, and the 'Kedavilikkku' (sanctuary lamp) which he donated on the day the new church opened, burns at the altar even today. Paliath Valiachan also promised to supply the oil for burning the lamp from his palace and this practice continued till 1947. In 1994, the Paliyath family, visited the shrine and rekindled the sanctuary lamp.
There are many legends associated with this church, the most famous was
in 1752, a Nair lady Meenakshiamma hailing from a noble Nair family
of Palliveetil who along with her infant son, were believed to have been
rescued miraculously from the bottom of the backwaters near the church
after they went missing for three days. The then parish priest, Fr. Miguel
Correa had a dream where the Lady of Ransom appeared and gave him instructions
to rescue the drowning mother and son. After this miracle, Vallarpadam
became a famous pilgrim center. In gratitude, all the members of the Palliveetil
family vowed to remain loyal servants of Our Lady forever and Meenakshiamma
and her son spend the rest of their lives in and around the church.
Our lady here is hailed to be the protector of people who travel, especially through water. Local fishermen usually come to this church to get their new boats and nets blessed, before they are taken out to sea for the first time. A 100m wide canal has been constructed from the backwaters to the church for their access. Our Lady is also known to bless childless couples with kids. Besides the popular ritual of 'Adima' another prayer practice done by the devotees at Vallarpadam, is to sweep the church compound to convey their gratitude. Novena is conducted every Saturday at the church.
Now there is a new Rosary park in front of the church with a walkway which has sculptures and paintings featuring the four Mysteries of Faith celebrated by Catholics all over the world.
Every year the Feast of Our Lady of Vallarpadam is celebrated from September 16 to 24, and thousands of people irrespective of cast and creed from different parts of the country visit this Holy Place of Worship. Along with the Blessed Mary's feast, the festival of the Holy spirit / Pentecostal festival is also celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Reference : 'Vallarpadathamma' by Father Shyju Thoppil