Miraculous wooden statue of St Peter the Apostle


Few of our elderly Barkurians may be aware of the practice to venerate a small but very attractive statue of St Peter the Apostle, our patron, on 29th June every year, in our Church at Barkur. In 60’s till early 80’s this practice was on, which I witnessed and the decorated image was placed in the sanctuary,in front of the Main Altar, most of the time near the St. Joseph’s……..Almost Nine days Novena prayer used to be there and many devotees from far and near, used to put in their petitions, prayers, candles and donations in the box…..!


This beautiful statue has a long history of its own.  In short, this statue was carved out of wood with sharp features, holding Holy Bible in his left hand and in the right  the keys of heaven….!
 

 
Pethri had a church and sizable Catholic population in the16th Century itself….It was destroyed by the soldiers of Tippu Sultan on Ash Wednesday in the year 1784. A Portuguese visitor Paulina’s recorded in his travelogue that he has seen the ruins of foundation and broken walls of this Church….. On that dark fateful day, once the army arrived near the Church, anticipating the calamity the Gurkar, one Mr. Lawrence D’Almeida and Sacristan, carefully dislocated the main statue of Patron and hid it anabandoned dry well.  Almost all parishioners of Pethri were taken into captivity and brought near Brahmmavar and camped there….Once all from nearby locations were seized, they were taken in batches of around 2000 people to Sri Ranagpattanam via Barkur – Halady -Shankar Narayana Ghats and NagoriGhats…..The plight, trials and tribulations of these innocent flock, women and children… was recorded by a Barkurian learned man which is known in History as ‘Barkur Document’. They were in Srirangapattanam till the death of Tippu Sultan in 1799, in the 4th Battle of Mysore in the hands of British. Lord Corvallis was the Military General of the time. 
 
Apostle St Peter’s Statue - Chronology of location, dislocation and relocation – over the years…
 
1727 – There was sea trade between Goa and Alupa Kings. Some merchants from Barkur – Udupi impress upon Konkani speaking Catholics and Saraswat Hindus to come down to Canara and settle down here, by promising and providing huge virgin forest land and abandoned islands (kudru) on lease, as the former were keen to develop agriculture and the latter interested in trade and business.
 
1727 – 1761 – A sizable immigrant Catholics from Goa, with their families settle down at and around Pethri – Cherkadi area. They level the land; develop agriculture and start growing some cash crops and their hard work started yielding good returns.
 
1740 – It is inferred from records that, a temporary prayer house, a church was in place around this time, with a wooden carved statue of Apostle St Peter as their Patron, brought from Goa, and was installed over here. A well knitted community of thirty odd large families, residing peacefully over here.
 
1761 – Around this time, a lateral brick walled small chapel / Church was built with a platform – (Referthe monumental plaque for location) with a belfry and provision for cemetery. There was no regular resident priest but arrangements were in place to seek help from Milagres Church Kallianpur (Estd in 1678) and for special occasions from Goa.
 
1784 – On Ash Wednesday, 24th February, with Order from the Sultan of Mysore, Tippu, all Christians in Canara were arrested and most of the Churches destroyed, including St. Peter Church, Pethri & the one in Barkur. (Historians give multiple reasons for this merciless strike, and the main cause probably that the miss conception he had that,Christians were supporting British, contrary to Tippu’s quest and ambition for control of Coastal Karnataka and Kerala)
 
1784 – About two to three weeks, Christians of the northern side of Canara, almost Mulki to Kundapur, were camped at various stations.It was narrated that Tippu’s soldiers like wolves, had swooped down upon these innocent farmers and their families to be captured and taken away to Mysore to be imprisoned there for an indefinite period. (Figures range from 20000 to 60,000 in total. It’s estimated from Brahmavar, Kallianpur, Barkur, Petri and around, the number was 3800 people)
 

 

 
The Bell used in Pethri church was first brought to Barkur, and no temple authorities were ready to accept ithere and then handed over to the temple at Shankar Narayana (Refer the photograph, even today its lying there unused). Hearsay stories claim that, in the event of using / chiming, some unforeseen accidents, events took place and may it be a cry of innocent lives….its decided tohang or preserve it with a notice on it – ‘Prakhytipatta Ghante, iddannu Bharisakudadu….!
 
Anticipating the calamity that followed, the Gurkar Lawrence D’Almeida and Sacristan of the Church dis-locate the Patrons statue, in a hurry from the High Altar and hide it in a dry well, on that fateful night.
 
1794 – A visiting traveller Fr. Paulina’s records in his travelogue that he has seen from his eyes the ruins of this Church in Pethri and that of in Barkur, probably later utilized as mosque.
 
1799 – Tippu Sultan dies in the Fourth Battle of Mysore and British free the Christians in prison, as the majority of their contemporaries either die on their painful walkway to Mysore and thereafter due to malnutrition, decease and merciless massacre for non-obedience to embrace Islam.
 
1800 – It is a rough estimate that after the long suffering of 15 to 16 years of captivity only 15 to 20% survivors return to Canara, mostly consisting of male members. It was very unfortunate to note, just a handful of Pethri Catholics were alive and the pain of losing the near and dear ones, and everything once they had, discourage them even to return to their original village of Pethri….!
 
 

 
1801 – One such survivor was the Lawrence D’Almeida, who prefers to settle in Barkur in Halekody region. For this man’s integrity and honesty, local Brahmin landlords lease out huge low lying land on the Banks of River Sita and its tributaries on lease.(His descendants still residing here at Halekody, in large number.)
 
1802 – As he and his very few companions trying to settle down, legend says they completely forgotten St Peter Statue they left behind, in a well at Pethri….and he gets a vision / in dreams,St Peter askinghim ‘Lawrie, have you forgotten me…?’
 
On reminding and recollecting what happened about 16 years back, very next day he goes to Pethri with some helpers and discovers the priceless treasure intact and with high reverence brings it to his home at Halekody and kept on home Altar.(The Church at Barkur too was destroyed in 1784 and the land was gifted to others…)
 
Regular prayers, recitation of rosary etc. were taking place and many miracles, healing of deceases, takes place and the news reaches to the only surviving nearby Church, Milagres Kallianpur.
 
In a procession of Boats from Halekody to Kallianpur the statue was taken and handed over to the Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Joachim Jose De Britto, of Milagres Church and erected on the side Altar.
 
1834 – 35 There was a Church dedicated to our Lady of Rosary till 1835, under the Goan priests, as there was a conflict over the jurisdiction, Pedro ado Goa and Vicar Verapoly of Propaganda Mission, there were no residing Priests for a long time and no religious services or Sacrament/ Mass held and eventually this went into decay…..and Barkurians during this interim period, were dependent on Milagres Church for their religious needs.
 
1853 – By this time there were a sizeable number of Christian families in Barkur, Sastan, Kota, Brahmavar and their religious needs were catered through distant Milagres Church, Kallianpur. A requisition for a Chapel / Church was honored and an initial amount of RS 551/- was sanctioned to build Chapel 60 feet in length and 20 feet in width.
 
1854 – The miraculous statue of St. Peter erected in Kallianpur Church was brought back to the Chapel at Barkur and established on the High Altar and  St Peter the Apostle was declared as its Patron Saint, by Rev. Fr. Joao Francisco Benato, the then Vicar vara of Milagres Church.
 
1861 – 29th April, this Chapel in Barkur was promoted as an independent parish with a Goan resident Priest Rev. Fr. Cosmos Damian Rebello.
 
1923 – Mons. Denis Jerome D’Souza built the present magnificent Church and got consecrated in the blessed hands of Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Perini, then Bishop of Mangalore, on 28th May, 1923. The present Apostle St Peter our patrons wooden cum marble High Altar with all its majesty, dignity and beauty were donated by Joseph Mingel D’Souza.
 
 
 
The miraculous statue of St Peter from Pethri, till then on the high altar of our Barkur Church, now was kept in the side wings,there on and it becamean annual ritual to decorate the same and honor him during the Nine days of Novena in preparation of Titular feast on 29th June and the Annual Parish feast in the third week of December every year.
 
1934 – Birth of Holy Family Church in Brahmavar on 1st April, 1934, Fr. Shabhas Fernandes as its first Vicar, the Chapel at Pethri was served from here. 
 
1956 - On 15th April 1956 this parish was handed over to the Capuchins, and native of Barkur, Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche, being its first Capuchin Parish Priest.
 
1968 – The Chapel served by Holy Family Church Brahmavar in Pethri, with its 200 years old roots was developed in the hands of Capuchin Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche, known to serve the last, least and the lost…..and under his initiative and guidance another devout Capuchin Priest Rev. Fr. Apolinaris Pinto, constructed a small Church and the same was elevated to be an independent parish with St. Peter as Patron, on 25th May 1968, by the then Bishop Basil S. D’Souza, detaching its attachment to Brahmavar Church and Capuchins.

 

 
 Since then there was apersistent request / demand from Pethri people to return the miraculous statue of St. Peter in Barkur, to its original location, however elderly Barkurians having emotional attachments, passion and faith on the benevolence of St. Peter, reluctant to do so.
 
1985 – Rev. Fr. J.N. Lobo then Vicar of Barkur, convince the parishioners and organize to hand over the same to Pethri Parish and the Pethri Community took it back in a procession with devotion and now kept in the Church,  inside a glass box, right side once you enter the Church. Many witness lot of prayers heard, through the intercession of Apostle Peter and the bunch of burned candles lying there substantiate the same.
 
1999 – Information  gathered that, around this time Rev. Fr. Benjamin D’Souza was Vicar of Barkur and knowingly well about the unsuccessful attempts earlier, by his predecessors, he approaches once again, the Temple authorities to get back the Bell, even by offering to pay the present cost……The elders in Shankarnarayana, well aware that this  miraculous bell which was used very rarely, (though not of late,) when incidents, calamities or epidemics hit them beyond human control and prayed throughSt Peter…. and instances of peace, good health restored thereafter…..this itself is an endorsement that they may want to retain it in their custody for safety and well-being of the town at large…..!
 

Conclusion:
 
To the best of our little understanding we feel that, no saint’s statue in the history of Catholics in Canara, for that matter probably in India, has changed hands so many times in the last 250 years. Moreover, though carved out of wood, neitherspoiled, wrecked nor deteriorated its sharp features, being left abandoned in a well for more than 16 long years, miraculously withstood torrential rains in the region, extreme weather, open heat in summer and chilled winter alike. It’s a relic and legacy of our forefathers…..reminds the unfortunate ordeals of suffering of our ancestors, in their struggle to keep the faith in Almighty Lord in testing times.As mentioned above, en-mass destruction, misery and elimination of all members in many families, left no one to explain their suffering……. 
 
The above write up was prepared with the help of available records, oral testimonies from elders, with no intention of hurting anyone’s sentiments. It’s also not an effort to promote or glorify idol worship. We at barkuronline.com, welcome reader’s opinions and feedback. In this small process, we gathered and collected many incidents of cure, miracles, and mentioning of these narratives will exceed the length of the article.
 
On behalf of Barkuronline Team,
 
P. Archibald Furtado, 16th November, 2018. archibarkur@gmail.com. 0091-9845 74 2750.
 


 

 

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