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St. Philomena's Church, Mysore

   St. Philomena's Church is a famous landmark of Mysore located on the Mysore-Bangalore Road. Its beautiful two 165 feet tall spires draw the attention of tourists and devotees from miles away.
The towers resemble one of the cathedrals at Cologne in Germany and the St. Patrick's Church in New York (USA). Built in Gothic style, it is the largest Cathedral in South Asia, bringing to mind the grandeur of medieval architecture. It houses the relic of 3rd century saint, Philomena, in the beautifully arranged catacomb, below the main altar. It also has an idol of Jesus Christ, lying with his sacred wounds.
Christ was crucified on the Cross and a soldier pierced his side with a spear as seen in the idol. The floor plan of the Roman Catholic cathedral is that of a cross. The long part of the cross is the 'nave' which is the congregation hall. The two arms of the cross are the 'transepts'. The fourth part containing the altar and the choir is the 'crossing'. Daly, a Frenchman, drew the church's design. The Holy Mass is performed daily in Kannada, Tamil and English at the table in the sanctum sanctorum. Behind this is a beautiful marble altar on which the statue of the saint has been kept. Above the sanctum are beautiful stained glass windows from France with paintings showing the birth of Jesus Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
St. Philomena's story goes back to 3rd Century A.D. She was the daughter of the ruler of a small state in Greece. Her parents had no children. They prayed to God that if He granted them a child they would become Christians. Philomena was born the next year and from early childhood she showed signs of piety. When she was 13 years' old, she was taken to Rome for obtaining the favour of Emperor Diocletion. Captivated by her beauty, the Emperor desired to marry her, but Philomena refused his offer as she had vowed to give herself to Christ. For her refusal, she was tortured and beheaded in Rome. However, people's devotion spread all over and she was given sainthood. There are churches dedicated to her all over the world.
Historical background:
St. Philomena's Church in Mysore, which is one of the oldest churches in India, has a history of over 2 1/2 centuries. Over 250 years ago, there was a small shrine at this place. When Mysore State's capital was shifted from Srirangapatna to Mysore in 1799, many British officers, soldiers and men came to Mysore and settled down in the city. Realising the need for a Christian shrine for these men, then Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III gave a piece of land on the Mysore-Bangalore Road and a small church came up on the site. With the city's expansion and increase in Christian population, there arose the need for a bigger shrine and plans were drawn up for the church, which stands now.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV laid the foundation stone for the new church on October 28, 1933, and recalled that his grand-father had built the small shrine in 1843. "Though it is sad that this old church is disappearing, it is heartening to note that a bigger and grandeur church is coming up on the same site", the Maharaja observed. Bishop Rene Fuga completed its construction in 1941. Having heard about the greatness of St. Philomena, Thamboo Chetty, Huzur Secretary to the Maharaja, obtained the relic of the saint from Peter Pisani, Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies, in 1926. It was handed over to Fr. Cochet. The next year, a new statue of the saint was brought from France. The church today stands as a monument to the catholic outlook of the Mysore rulers. It is not only a religious centre, but also a tourist attraction. There is an orphanage at the premises administered by the church.
Location: About 3 kms from the city bus stand and 2 kms from the Palace. Visiting Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Holy Mass: In the morning and evening. Special masses on Sundays and festivals.
Annual Feast: August 11, every year.

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