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On the Fishery Coast of Tuticorin, the fisher folk converted to Catholicism with the advent of the Franciscan missionaries. They were baptized by Fr. Pedru Consalves. St. Francis Xavier came to Tuticorin in 1542 and stayed for a couple of years. Noticing the deep sentiment the people had for local female deities, Francis Xavier introduced them to Marion worship.
The statue was originally placed in the chapel of the Augustinian Sisters in Manila. St. Francis Xavier wanted to install it in Tuticorin. On hearing of his death, the statue was sent by ship to Tuticorin. The local fishermen or paravars referred to Our Lady of Snows as Yelu Kadalthurai, Yega Adikala Thai in Tamil which means the Mother of Refuge for the seven major coastal villages - Thoothukudi (In English it is called as Tuticorin), Virapandianpatinam, Thiruchendur,Vembar, Vaippar, Punnaikayal and Manapad. Traditionally, this region was famous for Pearl from the time of Pandyan dynasty. In the year 1535 AD, the local fishermen who had territorial issues with the Moslem intermediaries, had resolved the issues with the help of Portuguese. The persecution of the Catholics continued after several years - this time under the Madurai Nayak. The Christian converts sought refuge in the nearby island - Raja Theevu. Eventually, members of the Society of Jesus, brought back the statue of the Lady of Snows to Tuticorin in the year 1610 AD.
Built in the 16th century, the shrine of Our Lady of Snows at Tuticorin was raised to the status of a basilica by Venerable Pope John Paul II in 1982. It had then completed 400 years.
Statue of Our Lady of Snows
The statue of Our Lady of Snows was taken away for a few years and installed in a nearby island. It was returned to the church in 1610. Many miracles have been associated with this statue. It is due to some of these that the custom of drinking the water that washes the shrine of Our Lady and the oil from the lamp originated. When this beautiful wooden statue was miraculously found in Tuticorin, it was placed in the church of Mother of Mercy and over time it came to be called church of Our Lady of Snows.
Basilica at Tuticorin
The basilica at Tuticorin is built in accordance with Portuguese architecture facing east. The Gothic style of architecture is evident in the pointed arches, buttresses and ribbed vaults.
All Days: 5.30 am, 6.30 am, 5.30 pm
Saturdays: There is a Novena mass at 11.30 am and Novena and Benediction at 6.30 pm.
Sundays: 5 am, 6.30 am, 8 am, 9.30 am and 5.30 pm.
Our Lady of Snows
41, Beach road,
GPS Co-ordinates: 8.799498,78.156524
Festival of Paniya Matha
The annual festival of Paniya Matha is celebrated on August 5th. The festivities begin on July 26th with the feasts of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary. It is celebrated with pomp in Tuticorin and thousands participate. There are music performances, dance programs and stalls selling handicrafts, foodstuff and garments. The practice of a golden car procession began around 1720 when the statue of Our Lady of Snows was reinstalled in Tuticorin. A new golden car of 53 feet was built for the procession. The height is symbolic of the 53 beads of the rosary.
Prayer to Our Lady
Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God,
who was conceived without sin,
I choose thee, this day, for the lady and Mistress of this House;
I beseech thee through thy
Immaculate Conception, to preserve it from pestilence, fire and water;
from lightning and tempests, from robbers, from schisms and heresies,
from earthquakes and from sudden death. Bless and protect,
O holy Virgin, all its inmates, obtain for them grace to avoid sin,
and save them from every other misfortune and accident.
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