About the Project Manuscript Archives and Collections The Saint Thomas Christians in India About Kerala

Ernakulam, The House of the Major Archbishop

In the picture above: Ms Ernakulam MAP Palmleaf 1, f. 57r, the first page of a newly found text of the Malayalam Acts of Thomas. The manuscript contains eighteen Christian apocryphal texts edited and arranged according to latinising tendencies by a late seventeenth-century Roman Catholic redactor. On the left side the title: Mar Thoma Shliha, that is, "Saint Thomas the Apostle."

The text begins with the following words: "On Mar Thoma the Apostle. On the 21st of the month of Dhanu (December) the commemoration (Dukhrana) of Saint Mar Thoma the Apostle is celebrated. In our Malankara Church diocesis the 21st of the month of Dhanu is his death date. On 3 Karkadakam (July) his disciples took his holy dead body to his country. The people from the city of the Romans understood that Saint Mar Thoma the Apostle lived before Mar Addai and here is written regarding Mar Thoma the Apostle’s acts and miracles."
  • 1 On the collection
  • 2 Notes
  • 1 On the collection

    This collection is situated in the House of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. This palace was built in 1896, some nine years after the Syro-Malabar Church gained independence from the Latin Archbishopric of Verapoly (Varapuzha), which was under the immediate jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. This development was the result of many years of striving for autonomy, also connected to the struggle to maintain a Chaldean jurisdiction. Finally, the autonomy was granted, while the Chaldean jurisdiction was denied. All this is well reflected in the constitution of the collection, kept in exemplary order by its present archivist, Fr. Ignatius Payyappilly (in the picture above). On our previous visit in 2002 the collection contained 38 Syriac manuscripts. In the meantime the archivist, Fr. Ignatius Payyappilly, succeeded in obtaining 8 additional Syriac manuscripts, so that the number of the Syriac manuscripts amounts to 46. Among these one finds a copy of the East Syriac Nomocanon by Abdisho of Soba, copied in 1563 explicitly for Mar Abraham, the last Chaldean Metropolitan of the Malabar Church, the personal Pentateuch - written in East Syriac characters - of the great Syrian Orthodox prelate, Mar Thoma VI (Mor Dionysius I, the Great: 1765-1809) and many Chaldean books, including ones copied in Iraq in the time of Patriarch Mar Joseph Audo VI, showing the strong Chaldean tendencies of the Catholic Saint Thomas Christians before and shortly after the Foundation of the Syro-Malabar Church. The collection also contains several manuscripts written by the hand of Mar Louis Pazhaparampil, the first bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. It also contains a copper plate document in Vattezhuttu ("Round script") script, the one used between the twelfth and the early nineteenth century for inscriptions and legal documents. This one registers an eighteenth-century land donation to a church. There are a number of palm leaves written in Malayalam, documenting legal and economic issues connected to the churches, palm-leaf manuscripts in Sanskrit and a Christian Tamil paper manuscript, perhaps from the eighteenth century. Perhaps the most interesting document of the entire collection is a palm-leaf manuscript containing eighteen Christian apocrypha written in Malayalam, among others the Acts of Thomas. The manuscript was written in the nineteenth century, while it contains a compilation of texts made in the seventeenth century, the age of the texts themselves being unclear.

    The existence of the collection was known, but there has been no previous checklist. Between August 2005 and March 2006 our team has digitised the 46 Syriac manuscripts, the Tamil manuscript and the palm-leaf MS with the Christian apocrypha. [1]

    2 Notes

    [1] Earlier literature: E.R. Hambye, S.J., “Some Syriac Libraries of Kerala (Malabar), India: Notes and Comments,” 43; J.P.M. van der Ploeg, The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and their Syriac Manuscripts, 124–129, listing 5 MSS, Hubert Kaufhold, “Syrische Handschriften juristischen Inhalts in südindischen Bibliotheken,” 11, 48–51, 55–56.

    About the Project Manuscript Archives and Collections The Saint Thomas Christians in India About Kerala