Religious Places

Luz Church In Chennai

Written by Sudhir Kumar

Luz Church or the Church of Our Lady of Light is the oldest church in Chennai built by Portuguese Franciscan monks in 1516, shortly after Vasco-da-gama discovered the sea-route from Europe to India in 1498 A.D.

About Luz Church :

Tucked away in a tiny corner of Mylapore is the church of ‘Our Lady of Light’ or more popularly the ‘Luz Church’. The church has lent its name to the area around it and to the road leading up to it as the Luz Church Road.

Also known as the ‘Kaatu kovil’ (Church located in a forest) locally, it lays claim to being the oldest church in Chennai, a claim that is not well documented though.  The now busy Luz area was in early days supposed to have been filled with mangroves, where St. Thomas is believed to have once rested.

The church was built by Franciscan missionaries from Portugal in honour of Mother Mary in 1516. The austere façade of the church belies the splendour of its baroque interiors with its gilded altars, the fine tracery railings of the pulpit and choir, the original polychrome santos and frescoed ceilings.  The Luz Church reflects the fashions and trends of typical European ecclesiastical architecture. The Gothic arches and flying buttresses, baroque ornamentation and elegant classical lines, have been heavily influenced by European style.  The Luz Church is a fine example of the Portuguese, impressive attempts to replicate their great churches in faraway lands.

Attractions Luz Church In Chennai :

Church of ‘Our Lady of Light’, popularly known as Luz Church, is located in a tiny corner of Mylapore, in Chennai. The church, built by Franciscan missionaries from Portugal in honor of Mother Mary in 1516, is commonly known as ‘Kaatu Kovil’ (Church located in a forest) amongst the local people.. It is the first church built in honor of ‘Our Lady of Light’ and is believed to be the oldest church in Chennai. The church, over the years had withstood the vagaries of time and human misadventures: it was damaged when Golconda forces occupied it in the 17th century; later Hyder Ali occupied it in the late 18th century. The East India Company also occupied Luz church for some time. The Luz Church is noteworthy for its old European ecclesiastical architecture. The arches in Gothic style and well-designed classical lines in European style, add to its beauty.

History Luz Church In Chennai :

Eight Franciscan Friars set sail for India from Lisbon with the fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral on the 9th of March 1500 AD. Five of them sailed down South, and their ship was beset by angry seas. The Friars, in their fright, prayed to our Mother Mary. Suddenly their eyes were drawn to a bright light which led them safely to land on the shores of Mylapore, on the same spot where the ruins of ‘Bethuma’, the old house of St Thomas, the Apostle, is located. As they moved towards the mysterious guiding light, it led them to a clearing in the forest. Here the light disappeared suddenly. Moved and inspired by this experience, Friar Pedro, of the Observance of St Francis, built this church on the very same spot.

The Church, even today, is referred to as ‘Kattu Koil’ or ‘Forest Church’ by the local people. The forest has long disappeared in the metropolis of Chennai. But the historical importance of the Church is apparent from the fact that the area is officially called ‘Luz’, the Portuguese word for ‘Light’. Luz Church was damaged during the occupation by Golconda forces between 1662 and 1673. During the occupation of Hyder Ali between 1780 and 1782, the East India Company Forces occupied the Luz Parish Residence for some years.The Church has survived these troubled times, and today stands proud – as a testimony of faith and hope for generations to come.The Church of Our Lady of Light was built in 1516 and is now renovated and restored to its original form.

Architecture Luz Church In Chennai :

The existing structure at Luz was built by the Portuguese as a symbol of gratitude to Mother Mary. The original name was christened by Portuguese as the church of ‘Nossa Senhora Luz’. The architecture of the building reveals patters of Gothic arches, Baroque ornamentation and classical European style. The gilded altars and fresco painted ceilings makes the church interiors stand out. 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.

Overview Luz Church :

Luz Church is popular by many names like Church of ‘Our Lady of Light’ and ‘Kaatu Kovil’. The latter term in Tamil dialect means church located in the forest. The nomenclature follows from the fact that the area where the church stands used to be occupied by rich mangrove forests. The residents of the area adjoining the area claim that the said church is the oldest one in the sub continent. However, no credible evidences have been put forth till date.

The place got the name, church of Our Lady of Light, following a popular legend. According to the legend Franciscan missionaries lost their way at Coromandel Coast and were guided to this place by a mysterious light. The missionaries believed the light to be from Mother Mary and soon built a church in gratitude. The church is popular for its Gothic architecture as well as a historical landmark.

Speciality Luz Church :

One of the special features of the church is the grand feast held on every 15th of August. The day is celebrated as the ‘Assumption of the Blessed Virgin’. The feast is marked with a grand procession.

Location Luz Church In Chennai :

Luz Church is situated in the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai. The famous metropolis houses a number of such attractions, encompassing the popular religious and monumental places. The church lies at a stones distance from the Luz Church Road towards the north east of Mylapore suburbs.

Connectivity of Luz Church In Chennai :

Cars, Buses, Auto-rickshaws, Metro trains

Mass Timings  Luz Church :

Sunday Mass – Timings/Language: 6.00 am,7.30 am, 10.00 am (Children)-T 6.00 pm – English

Address :

Church of Our Lady of Light. No.156, Luz Church Road, Luz, Mylapore, Chennai – 600 004. INDIA.

Telephone No :

+ 91 – (044) – 24992568.

About the author

Sudhir Kumar

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