ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH, KOLHAPUR
Kolhapur was the capital of a State of that name in the southern Decean bordering on the Ghauts, and ruled by a descendant of Shivaji who represented the survival of the Maratha power. At some early date (1811) it was occupied by European troops for the protection of the Rajah, who was in alliance with the British; and they were after 1830 probably visited from Belgaum. When Father D’Souza was appointed chaplain in about 1849, Fr. Oliviera, his predecessor, had already been there for about two years. There was no chapel, but only a small room for the priest assigned by Government. In 1852, the place was visited by Dr. Hartmann.
In 1857 a local rising of the native troops in connection with the Mutiny brought the European forces to Kolhapur. A plan was made for a chapel by Father Wagner. When the chapel was finished in 1869 Father D’Souza came down from Satara to bless it. Some repairs and additions were made in 1891. The chapel of St. Francis Xavier, Kolhapur, is mentioned for the first time in the Madras Directory for 1889 with a Catholic population of 60.
The 22nd March 1975 will long be remembered by the three hundred odd catholic of Kolhapur. On that day Bishop William Gomes blessed their inspiring new Church. Planned by Architect Shirish Beri, the Church seeks to give architectural expression to man’s perennial pursuit of God. The first appearance of the Church is a heart-warming gesture with widespread arms and huge portals. As the pilgrim enters the Church, the converging walls focus his vision on the altar and the cross behind it. This focus is further accentuated and mystified by the light of the sky falling on the textured curved wall behind the sanctuary. The altar itself, shaped like a half cut chalice has its own Eucharistic symbolism. The seven windows on each side signify the seven sacraments and the entire Church has the appearance of a boat -the barque of Peter. The salvific mission of Christ is well expressed in brick, wood, glass and steel.
The Church embodies the sacrifices of many poor Catholics, the zeal of a large number of volunteers, and the generosity of so many a non-catholic, both Hindu and Muslim. In his speech, Bishop William Gomes rightly extolled the spirit of cooperation that animated the people of Kolhapur and proclaimed that the Church was a standing monument to their faith in communal integration.
St. Xavier’s High
Kolhapur 416 003
Tel Res (0231) 2654835,