The Milagres Church located in the city centre, in Hampankaata, Mangalore has a long history; the Portuguese called it: Igreja Nossa Senhora do Milagres, and now known as Church of Our Lady of Miracles is a historic Roman Catholic Church built many times over. The Church was first built in 1680 by Bishop Thomas de Castro. The original structure (1680-1784) was constructed at the site of the present day cemetery. It is one of the oldest churches in South Kanara.
Mangalore has a substantial Roman Catholic population and Mangalore occupied a prominent place in the church administration in the 17th century. However, the Goan Catholics who migrated to Canara and most of the migrant priests returned to Goa when the Portuguese withdrew from the region. In 1658, a Carmelite missionary, Fr Vincento Maria de Santa Catharina visited Canara and reported to Rome the miserable state of Christianity in the region. The Vatican came to the aid of the Canara Christians and appointed Bishop Thomas de Castro as the Vicar Apostolic of Canara and Malabar in 1674. He arrived in Mangalore in 1677, and received a piece of land from Keladi Queen Chennamma as gift. After the church was constructed in 1680, he took up residency in the quarters. Bishop de Castro died on 16 July 1684, and his remains were buried in the south eastern corner of the cemetery. The grave still exists with a bronze slab, next to the St Monica Chapel.
After the death of the Queen Chennamma, the land was taken back by her successor, King Basavappa. In 1715, a local priest Fr Pinto secured the land back again from Somashekara II. His nephew Fr Alfred Pinto who succeeded him, built a new church at the present site in 1756. In 1763, Canara came under the control of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in 1782. It is said, believing that the local Christians had conspired against him along with British during the second Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu captured around 60,000 Mangalorean Catholics on Ash Wednesday, on 24 February 1784 and herded them to his capital at Srirangapatanam and kept them prisoners. He also destroyed 27 churches including Milagres Church.
After Tipu Sultan was killed by the British during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War on 4 May 1799, the Mangalorean Catholics were freed from captivity and returned to Mangalore. Among the returnees was a baker, Lawrence Bello, who built a chapel to replace the demolished church on the same site at the cost of Rs 400. Fr Mendez, the Vicar Apostolic secured the necessary furniture, and together with Tipu’s former munshi Salvador Pinto, raised funds and obtained a grant of Rs 600 from the government to build the church. He laid the foundation stone for a new spacious church in 1811. In1911 the façade of the church collapsed following which the then incumbent Parish priest Fr Frank Periera erected the present church with Fr Dimanti SJ as the architect. A portico was added later to the structure. Today though old, Milagres church stands tall reminding all of the history and growth of the city of Mangalore. It is a prominent structure in Mangalore though many tall buildings have come up around, that reminds you of the struggle of the people to keep their faith live against various odds.
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