The Jewish Synagogue in Fort Kochi is the oldest existing synagogue of all the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is known by various other names such as Jewish Synagogue, Cochin Jewish Synagogue and the Mattancherry Synagogue. This imposing structure was built in 1568 when the Jews settled in Mattancherry after their expulsion from the Rahabi.
The Synagogue’s three-story clock tower was erected nearly two centuries later. Dating from 1761, it was built under the direction of Ezekial Rahabi, a leading businessman.
The clock tower has three existing dials which are are made of teak and painted blue. To the north, facing the Maharajah’s Palace, the dial has Malayalam characters. To the south, viewed from Jew Town, they are in Roman numerals. And to the west, from the synagogue side, Hebrew letters are used.
Santa Cruz Basilica is a big building with a Gothic facade and soaring twin spires. Inside it is vibrant and colourful. The church was first built by the Portuguese in 1505.The main altar was decorated by the famous Italian painter Bro. Antonio Moscheni. The columns are covered with frescoes and murals. There are pretty stained glass windows and arches. Beautiful paintings on the ceiling depict the life of Jesus Christ.
Chinese fishing nets are believed to have been brought by Portuguese from Macau, once a Portuguese colony. The huge nets are operated by teams of 6 to 8 people. They use the nets when the tide is coming in. At low tide, the nets are idle. Sometimes nets are lowered into the water at night with lights fixed on the top. But the activities stop at around 10 pm.
Saint Francis Church, a landmark of Fort Kochi, is one of the oldest European churches in India. It was built in the sixteenth century. The body of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, had been buried in the church in 1524. His son, Padre da Silva de Gama, took the mortal remains to Lisbon in 1538. The gravestone of Vasco da Gama can be seen in the church.
The cannon in Fort Kochi is pointed out to sea. It was meant to keep a check on incoming ships.
International Pepper Exchange is on Jew Street in Mattancherry. Its close proximity to Kochi harbour made Mattancherry a hub for spice trade. The Pepper Exchange is a tourist attraction, particularly for foreign visitors.
Fort Kochi can be reached in 20 minutes by ferry from Ernakulam main boat jetty. The route is scenic, passing Willingdon Island and Kochi Harbour along the way. Ernakulam to Fort Kochi by road is 16 km and takes about 32 minutes without traffic.
Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, landed in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. Portuguese Admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral visited Kochi in 1500. The Raja of Kochi gave him authorisation to trade there after signing a friendship treaty with Portugal. In 1503, Alphonso de Albuquerque was given clearance by the Raja to build a fort at the mouth of Periyar river. It was named Fort Manuel.