Orthodox Seminary to open its treasure trove to public

Indian Orthodox Church

The nearly two century old Orthodox Theological Seminary, the first of its kind in Asia, is all set to open its treasure trove to the public.

The colonial building with sturdy columns, long verandas, high roofs and wide central court on the banks of river Meenachil is the oldest centre of English Education in the country. ‘Cotyam College’ as it was then called was started by Ramban Ittoop who later became Pulikkottil Joseph Dionynisious I, with ample support from the then resident of Travancore Col John Munro in 1815, a clear, decade and a half before the Scottish Church College of Kolkata, acclaimed to be the oldest continuously running church liberal arts and science college in the country, was founded.

The work on the building had started in 1813 on a piece of 16 acres of land granted by the then queen of Travancore Gowri Parvathy Bai, tax free. Col James Welsh, in his ‘Military Reminiscence’, extracts from a journal of nearly 40 years of active service in the East Indies’ gives a clear picture of the ‘Cotyam College’ and the life there during his visit in 1825.

Calling it as one of the most interesting institutions in the East, Col. Welh says “ This college erected on a fertile spot on the southern bank of a beautiful rivulet (Meenachil River) – is an extensive square building of some antiquity., with little in the exterior appearance to recommend it. Like many eastern caravansera, it has a large court in the middle and rises on all sides to two stories of excellent but rude masonry’.

Students of different languages, classes and degrees were assemble for education on the ground floor, he says and ads that “On the second story is the library containing 2250 elegantly bound volumes on theology, astronomy, mathematics and history, in short every other science English, French, Latin, Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, Malayalam, Persian, Arabic and German languages as well as a repository of scientific instruments – all of which are of best quality”.

However, the bonhomie between the missionaries and local Christians soon soured and the missionaries left the institution to launch their fresh initiatives which resulted in the founding CMS College. The Institution later changed its name to Orthodox Theological Seminary and became the nerve centre of academics in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

The Seminary authorities have now decided turn the historical building into a museum showcasing historic documents and artifacts held scared by the church. Copy of the first bible printed in Malayalam, the various royal edicts concerning the Syrian community in Kerala, the artefacts connected with the early Syrian Christian, prelates, paintings of early churchleaders including the one of Bishop Pulikkottil Joseph Dionysious II painted by Raja Ravi Varma, documents in ‘thaliyola’ and various early translations of bible by local theologians, all would be on display, said Fr Mathew john, curator of the museum. The museum would be opened on Saturday.