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. When the Jews settled in Mattancherry after their expulsion from Iberia, they built this imposing structure in 1568. They added the Synagogue’s three-story clock tower two centuries later. Ezekial Rahabi, a leading businessman, directed the construction in 1761.
The clock tower has three existing dials of blue-painted teak. 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, the dial has Hebrew letters.
Basilica of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Basilica is a big building with a Gothic facade and soaring twin spires. Inside it is vibrant and colourful. The Portuguese first built built the church in 1505. Italian painter Bro. Antonio Moscheni decorated the main altar. Frescoes and murals cover the columns. There are pretty windows of stained glass and arches. Beautiful paintings on the ceiling depict the life of Jesus Christ.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Portuguese brought the fishing nets from Macau, once a Portuguese colony. Teams of 6 to 8 people operate the huge nets. They use the nets when the tide is coming in. At low tide, the nets are idle. Sometimes they lower the nets into the water at night with lights fixed on the top. But the activities stop at around 10 pm.
Oldest European Church in India
Saint Francis Church, a landmark of Fort Kochi, is one of the oldest European churches in India. The church dates back to 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. You can see the gravestone of Vasco da Gama in the church.
The cannon in Fort Kochi looks 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.
Ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi
You can reach Fort Kochi 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. 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, the Raja gave clearance to Alphonso de Albuquerque to build a fort at the mouth of Periyar river. The Portuguese named it Fort Manuel.
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