Church of Our Lady of Light

Church of Our Lady of Light

Mylapore [Meliapor/São Tomé de Meliapor], Tamil Nadu, India

Religious Architecture

Founded by the Franciscans, the construction of the Church of Our Lady of Light in 1516 was due to the initiative of Friar Pedro da Atouguia, as can be seen on an inscribed plaque on the outside wall of the sacristy. Worthy of mention, the church has a stone Manueline portal of simple lines, but which is the only portal in this style on the whole of Coromandel Coast. Although it has later additions, the façade has a Mannerist composition of two floors separated by wide entablatures and divided vertically by Tuscan pilasters. The central frontispiece of the attic and the recently-added pinnacles are a contrast to the façade’s classical lines. The building has a barrel-vaulted roof in stone and mortar, which is unusual in small churches but which seems to be a constant on the Coromandel Coast. The lateral façades have thick vertical buttresses alternating with triangular ones, a result of the need to support the roof of the nave. The high choir in wood resting on two thick Tuscan columns and with a small lateral staircase reveals, in all its details, a tradition that is present in Portuguese churches of the time. An image of the Infant Jesus on the high altar bears an Armenian inscription with the name Petrus Uscan, a merchant who donated the image in the 18th century. On the right hand side of the square stands a traditional priest’s residence that, despite successive renovations, still represents the typical typology of a two-storey building with a veranda resting on a gallery of circular arches. With a plan that is very similar to that of the priest’s residence of the church at Punaiyakial, in the suburbs of Tuticurin, it is a testimony to the very common typology of the Malabar Coast that spread to the Pearl Fishery and Coromandel Coasts.

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