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St Anthony’s Church

The history of this church at Kochchikade, as handed down by tradition and according to documents preserved in the Archdiocesan Archives in Colombo is as follows;

Catholicism had been a proscribed religion in Sri Lanka in the 18th Century and could not be practised in public by priests. However, Fr. Antonio, disguised as a merchant, had taken up abode in a house on Maliban Street, Colombo, close to St. Philip Neris Church.

 

When his hiding place had been discovered by the Dutch, Fr. Antonio had managed to flee towards Mutwal, where he had met some fishermen who knew him and his reputation for sanctity. They had volunteered to protect him from the Dutch, provided he obtained from God the favour they wanted: The stoppage of sea erosion.

 

When the pursuers arrived, the fishermen had refused to hand over Fr. Antonio until he had granted them the favour. Fr. Antonio had then returned to his home and come back to the shore clad in his priestly garments, with a large wooden Cross in his hand.

 

He had planted the Cross at the spot most threatened by the advancing sea and he prayed to God to manifest His Glory, by working this miracle. On the third day the waves had receded and an extensive sand bank had been exposed.

The Dutch Government had appreciated this favour and offered a reward to the people’s benefactor. The priest had only asked for permission to live and die near the Cross he had planted. This was granted and the priest had built a Chapel with mud in honour of his patron, St. Anthony of Padua. When he died after many years, he was buried there.

 

The little chapel had been enlarged in 1806 and in 1822 one of the members of the congregation had gone to Goa and brought a statue of St. Anthony back to the Kochchikade Church, which had been placed on the altar of the small Church.

 

It is this statue that is venerated as a miraculous statue today and rests on the side altar, which was the altar of the ancient Church. It stands on the very spot sanctified by the miraculous event.

 

Soon after the arrival of the statue of St. Anthony, the work of building a large Church had commenced and the Church had been completed in 1828. The blessing of the new Church had taken place on Sunday, June 1, 1834, presided over by the Vicar General Very Rev. Fr. Caetano Antonio.


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