Thursday, August 24, 2006

St. Bartholomew's India Connection - Bombay-Mangalore

Legends of St. Bartholomew (August 24) Connecting Bombay and Mangalore in India

By Jesuvera

If the legends on St. Bartholomew about India are to be believed, then we have received the Good News not from one but two of our Lord's Apostles.

According to one tradition, the Apostle Bartholomew (Barthemew) came to India in AD 55 and preached the Gospel in the area near Kalyan (now covered by Bombay Archdiocese) and was martyred in AD 62.

No mention of St. Bartholomew occurs in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who mentions that Pantaenus, the master of Origen, while evangelizing India, was told that the Apostle had preached there before him and had given to his converts the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured by the Church. "India" was a name covering a very wide area, including even Arabia Felix. Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea and the manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain as accounts vary between beheading, flaying alive and crucifixion head downward by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. His relics are thought by some to be preserved in the church of St. Bartholomew-in-the-Island, at Rome.

A second reference of Jerome says: "Pantaenus, on account of the rumor of his excellent learning, was sent by Demetrius into India, that he might preach Christ among the Brahmins and philosophers of that nation". The mention of Brahmins certainly settles the place as India. The area of his work is thought to be in Konkan in Maharastra.

Kalyanpur-Barkur Claims

Kalyanpur (Indian English or 'Calianpur' in British India English) is a village situated in the Tulunad region, presently a part of the state of Karnataka coming under Mangalore Diocese. Measuring along the present roads, the town of Barkur is less than 10kms away, with both Barkur and Kalyanpur falling within a radius of 5kms from Brahmavar, another Town which either of these places may be twinned with.

Research Historian Mascarenhas (M.A.,Ph.D.,D.D., Goa) in 'Konkanachem Christaunponn'-1929 - [Apostolic Christianity in Konkan] seems to say that Barkur owes its name to the Apostle:

"In Tulunadu, in South Kanara, there is Kallianpur. Here Bartholomew, then popularly known as Bhethal, preached the Gospel... There are many names and places, words and usages in the coastal Konkan region going up to Bombay and beyond which have originated from his name Bhethal and his preaching and that Barkur which is close to Kallianpur sprung after his name Bartholomew i.e. Bar+Thulami+Ooru and so BARKURU"

Wikipedia connects the Bartholomew legends associated with Kalyan in Maharashtra and Kalyanpur in Mangalore another ancient Indian Christian tradition that says that "the Apostle Bartholomeo (or Nathaniel) was reportedly murdered by Hindus in a port city called Kalyan or Kalyanpur in South Asia, just as the Apostle Thomas was murdered by Hindus near Mylapore, near modern Madras or Chennai."

In other words, "Both, the city of Kalyan (British India English "Calian") and the village of Kalyanpur, were at one time port cities, and both vie for the honor of being St. Bartholomeo's place of martyrdom."

Barkur, allegedly derived from the Apostle's name, is a politically famous historic port-town, located 3 kms from Brahmavar and had one (Rosario Church) of the 27 (29) original churches of Tulunadu, which was razed to the ground by Tipu Sultan in the 1780s when he set out to eradicate Christianity. The town also had one of Tipu's palaces.

In their work, "The land called South Kanara" (2000, Image flex Publishers), William Pais and Vincent Mendonca add more background to the Kalyanpur-Barkur claims:

"Christianity has been long established in South Kanara and its adherents are more numerous here, than any other district of India. It is certain that, foreign Christian merchants were visiting the coastal town of Kanara and during that period of commerce some priests also might have accompanied them for evangelical work. According to tradition Kanara had its first missionary the Apostle St. Barthelomew, who landed on the shores of river Swarna at Colombianor Colombo village an ancient maritime port adjacent to Kallianpur, stayed there to preach. He was popularly called Bethel and so the origin of the place Barkur..."

The 1981 Milagrian Charles E.G.Lewis has this to say:

"It can be said that it was the knowledge of that early Christianity in Kallianpur that prompted and urged the Portuguese Hierarchy to establish again the Church in Kallianpur when it did in 1678, or they must have found clues or traces of it when they arrived here. The Church at Kallianpur which was rebuilt in 1806, by the Goan priests and which later was demolished in 1940, had icons of St. Thomas the Apostle and that of St. Bartholomew on its fa├žade on either side of the main entrance evidently because of the tradition of St. Bartholomew in the place's. Msgr. Denis Jeromme D'Souza who built the present Church saw to it that the tradition was carried forward. In the main body of the Church where the twelve Apostles of Christ are honoured with their statues all round the walls that of St. Bartholomew is prominently placed at the head of the apostles, nearest to the sanctuary. Opposite to him is St. Paul the apostle of Gentiles and by his side is placed St.Thomas the Apostle of India. These realities speak volumes of un-written tradition"

To help the Barkur claimes, it may be noted that the same Msg. Denis Jeromme D'Souza built the present gothic style Church of Barkur, dedicated to St. Peter where the statue of St. Bartholomew occupies a prominent place among the statues of twelve Apostles placed in the main altar.

None of these claims are well founded and hence be disputed although many of India's historical legends too share a similar fate. The future work of scholars may throw more light on the matter but even without it, the Apostle whose eyes have seen God's Son, whose ears have heard the Eternal Word speak and whose hands have touched the Bread of Life merits our devotion, and his message our credence.

St. Bartholomew, Pray for us!

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