History of the Shrine

Home >  History Of The Shrine

St. Anthony’s Shrine is the earliest and the biggest shrine in the Diocese of Palayamkottai. The history of the shrine starts with a miracle done by St. Anthony of Padua to a Hindu man. In the middle of the 17th century, a man by the name Thommai came to a small hamlet Puliampatti from Sathankulam and settled with his family. He was a devout catholic with strong affiliation to the teachings of the church. He never missed a chance to participate in the mass which was very rare in those days. So he was regular to go to another village called Santhai Pettai where a small church had been built in honour of St. Francis Xavier. This church is located in the place where St. Francis Xavier is believed to have stayed for a while in course of his missionary journey along the coastal belt of the Bay of Bengal.

Mr. Thommai had 12 boy children and one girl child. Of whom, eleven boy children died one after another at a very tender age. The last boy survived along with the only girl child. The girl grew up and was given in marriage. But the girl returned her mother’s home after a sudden death of her husband. This added to burning tragedy already endured by Mr. Thommai due to the death of his boy children. Now the last boy too got affected with the dangerous chicken box and was on the verge of death. The lonely father was left alone with the great faith that he always had on Saint Anthony of Padua. One day as he was sitting with despair beside the dying child, St. Anthony of Padua made an apparition to the father saying “Build a church and worship God” and disappeared. Meanwhile his daughter too saw Saint Anthony of Padua as coming in a white horse. With much happiness and joy Mr. Thommai started thinking about the construction work of the church in honour of St. Anthony of Padua. At the same he saw his son recovering from the deadly disease.
Being a poor man depending on daily wage, he was disturbed with the growing enthusiasm to build a church that demanded huge money. Again St. Anthony of Padua appeared before Mr. Thommai and directed him to approach the Zamin (Land Lord) of Manniachi a near by village. Immediately he rushed to see the Land Lord. Upon hearing what Mr. Thommai had to say, the Landlord too shared with him what happened in his dream last night – a divine instruction to donate land to build a church. He asked Mr. Thommai to take hold of a land of his own choice. Again in his search for a suitable land, he was guided by the Saint by way showing an impression of cross on one of the leaves of a plant. He began the construction work of the church in a place called Puliyampatti. He also brought the beauti ful wooden statue of St. Anthony of Padua from Santhai Pettai and placed it in the church. He lighted a lamp to burn there continuously. Though the church was very small in size roofed with hay, miracles started happening to all who came to pray to St. Anthony of Padua. People irrespective of caste, creed and religion flocked to the Church of St. Anthony of Padua at Puliampatti.

The Steady Development of the Shrine of St. Anthony of Puliampatti

The miracles and healings taking place at the small hut church at Puliampatti merited the attention of the Jesuit missionaries working in the diocese of Palayamkottai.
Rev. Fr. Greguer SJ wrote in his diary regarding the church in Puliampatti way back in 1851, “On the 14th September 1851, from Sivalaperi I had a run to Puliampatti to visit the church of St. Anthony which is a building – the kiln for baking bricks is ready”. It is some time after 1851, that a solid church building with bricks was constructed in a diameter of 12’ x 10’ x 12’.

In 1903 Puliampatti was attached to Panneer Kulam Parish as a sub station. A Priests’ residence was built in 1922. From then onwards, it was made easy to the visiting priests to stay and offer service to the increasing pilgrims. On realizing the indispensable service by priests, Rev. Fr. Savariraj SJ, the then Assistant Parish Priest of Panneer Kulam was allowed by Rev. Fr. Kurvilla SJ to stay at Puliampatti permanently. On the 15th of February, 1954, Puliampatti was erected a new Parish with Rev. Fr. A. Mariadoss as its first parish priest. By his earnest effort the small shrine was elevated to the present diameter of 100’ x 40’. It was rededicated to St. Anthony of Padua in a grand sacramental ceremony presided over by the then Arch Bishop J. P. Leonard SJ on the 13th June, 1961.