The old lighthouse bristow hotel is a restoration work of hard labour, unflinching determination against severe odds, and unselfish love. This ancient building was the official residence of Sir Robert Bristow, founder of Cochin Port, as well as a light house! It is said that Bristow used to watch the ships entering the port from the building. After his death, it was used as lodgings for senior officers of the port. This tradition continued till the 1980s when the place, with its sea view and manicured lawns, was converted into a hotel. The place has been carefully restored keeping in mind the British architecture, local culture as well as well deep influence from Bali. The owner Mr. Vikram Ghorpade is a firm believer in balance and was deeply influenced by the sense of oneness experienced in Bali. On entering the hotel, the wisp of the sea greets you integrating the outside with the inside. The architects Mudita Agarwal as well as Vandana Babbar worked very closely with the owner in creating a masterpiece making it one of the best locations in Fort Kochi.
The Paradesi Synagogue or Jewish Synagogue, in a corner of Jew Town is more than a hundred years old with many rare antiques. The synagogue, that woos many visitors, adds to the quaint charm of Mattancherry, Kochi. It is a beautiful structure decorated with splendid Chinese tiles and impressive Belgian chandeliers. What is notable about the structure is its hand-painted Chinese tiles that are truly commendable. The huge clock tower was added to the structure in the 18th century. Apart from that one can also observe numerous finely wrought gold and silver crowns that were gifted by the patrons of the time.
The Jewish synagogue was built in 1568, almost 1500 years after the beginning of the Jewish connection with Kerala. It was built on the land, adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace, given by the erstwhile king of Cochin. The synagogue, the oldest in the Commonwealth, was built by the Jewish community of Cochin. In 1662, it was destroyed by the Portguese and then reconstructed, two years later, by the Dutch.
Vasco House is believed to be the house where Vasco Da Gama stayed during his visits to Kochi, right until his death in 1524. The house, more than 500 years old, is on Rose Street at Fort Kochi.
The house, built in the Portuguese style of architecture, was one of the pioneering structures that paved the way for the construction of European buildings in Fort Kochi.
The large glass-paned windows open towards St. Francis Church. The windows, built in typical European style, and the balcony –cum-verandahs stand testimony to the architectural grandeur of the time. Converted to a home stay, Vasco House now woos visitors with its ambience and heritage.
The Palace was built and gifted by the Portuguese as a present to the king of Cochin around 1555. The Dutch carried out some extensions and renovations in the palace in 1663, and thereafter it was popularly called Dutch Palace. The rajas also made more improvements to it. Today, it is a portrait gallery of the Cochin Rajas and notable for some of the best mythological murals in India, which are in the best traditions of Hindu temple art. The palace was built to appease the king after they plundered a temple nearby.
The double storeyed palace building which stands by the panoramic Kochi backwaters has an exquisite collection of murals collectively covering over 300 sq ft of its walls. The themes of these murals have been borrowed from the great Indian epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, and mythology and legends about the Hindu gods especially Guruvayurappan. Some murals depict scenes from Kumarasambhavam and other works of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. Also on display are royal paraphernalia like weapons, swings and furniture which offer a glimpse of the lifestyle of the royal family.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral not only happens to be one of the oldest churches in Cochin, but also in the whole of India. Counted as one of the heritage edifices of Kerala, this church is visited by tourists the whole year round. It was built by the first Portuguese viceroy, Francesco de Almeida, when he arrived in Kochi way back in 1505. On 3 May that year, during the feast of the “Invention of the Holy Cross”, the foundation stone of this church was laid and upon completion, it was christened as Santa Cruz Cathedral.
Later on, when the Dutch conquered Cochin in 1663, they ruined all Catholic establishments except this particular cathedral and the famous church of St. Francis. In those days, the Santa Cruz Cathedral was used as an armory. It was, however, later shattered in 1795, after the British took over the city. An elaborate granite pillar of this monumental cathedral was what remained after the destruction of the Santa Cruz Cathedral. The pillar is still kept on the southeastern corner of the present Basilica.
The architecture of the basilica is a blend of the Indo-European and the gothic style. The making of the pulpit and the wooden paneling of this cathedral is very impressive. Moreover, the Italian paintings dating from the time of the original foundation of the church adorning the interiors of the Santa Cruz Basilica give it a completely magnificent look.
The St. Francis Church, well-known for its beautiful architecture and ambience, is believed to be one of the oldest churches built by the Europeans in India. St Francis Xavier’s Church at Fort Kochi was built in the year 1503, by the Portuguese traders. They came here with Admiral Pedro Alvarez de Cabral, via the same route taken by the legendary Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who landed at Calicut in 1498. The Church is actually a quite modest, unpretentious structure. Architecturally, this church is not very jazzy, but it stands as a landmark of history and church architecture of India. Later, many churches were built in India keeping the Saint Francis Xavier Church of Cochin in mind. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon. Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route from Europe to India, landed at Kappad near Kozhikode (Calicut) in 1498.
Towards the entrance in front of St Francis Church, Francisco de Almeida, the Portuguese viceroy, was allowed, in 1506, by the Raja of Cochin to reconstruct wooden buildings in stone and masonry. The wooden church was rebuilt, presumably by the Franciscan friars, with bricks and mortar and a tiled roof was erected.
The Indo-Portuguese Museum, Fort Kochi: It throws light on strong Portuguese influence in both art and architecture of the region. The museum is an important centre for understanding the Indo-Portuguese Christian art heritage and the museum is the outcome of the efforts of late Joseph Kureethra, Bishop of Kochi.
The museum is divided into five main sections, according to the nature of items displayed. They are – Altar, Treasure, Procession, Civil Life and Cathedral.
The Indo-Portuguese Museum in Kochi is indeed one of those symbols in the annals of Kochi, bearing the rich heritage of Indo-Portuguese culture and artistic influence.
Bastion Bungalow, situated on River Road in Fort Kochi, was built in 1667. The Portuguese built Fort Immanuel during the early decades of the 16th century. When the Dutch captured Kochi in 1663, they started destroying the fort and reduced it to almost one third its size. Originally, the fort had seven bastions. Of these, the Stormberg bastion was later converted to the Bastion Bungalow.
The Bungalow built around the circular structure of the bastion is a beautiful structure. Even when the British destroyed the walls of the fort during their invasion in 1806, they left the building untouched.
Architecture The Bungalow, today the official residence of the Sub-Collector, is an impressive building of Dutch architecture. Built into a wall of the original fort, it has long, open veradahs and a tiled roof in geometric patterns. Brick, laterite and wood have been mainly used for the construction. The first floor verandah is made entirely of wood. It is said that there is a network of secret tunnels beneath the bungalow, but nothing has been found yet.
The building was declared a protected monument by the State Archaeology Department a few years back.
Thakur House, on Dutch Cemetery Road, is another building that reflects the glory of a bygone era. It was built on Gelderland bastion and was earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow. The House, atop a cliff facing the sea, has been an important landmark of Fort Kochi for centuries.
Architecture and Ambience
The Thakur House, which reflects the opulent lifestyle of the colonial era, has lovely lawns and is cooled by breeze from the sea below. Made in the 1700s, the monument of Dutch architecture, has characteristic spacious rooms, wooden floors and bay windows.It is a two-storeyed building, and the perfect symmetry of both floors is astonishing. The original building consisted of several halls and verandahs; however, alterations were made to the original structure by its various occupants. Glass lamps hang from the roof beam and crystal and earthen pottery adorn the shelves and tables – all providing a colonial grandeur to the building. Several paintings decorate the walls of the rooms.
During the 17th century, the building, on account of its strategic position, served as a prominent look-out point near the Cochin Harbour. It is believed that the house has several tunnels leading to far-off places in Fort Kochi such as the St. Francis Church and Bishop’s House.
The Dutch built the Thakur House as a club and community centre for the Dutch East India Company. During the last decades of the 19th century, the bungalow was occupied by a prominent spice trading family of Mattancherry. In the early 1900s, it was used as lodging for the managers of the National Bank of India. The ownership of the bungalow again changed hands and went to a well-known tea-trading firm.
David Hall, reminiscent of the Dutch glory of yesteryears, is situated on one side of the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi. The history and architectural grandeur of the halls woos many visitors. It also houses an art gallery and acts as a cultural centre to support young exponents of visual and performing art forms.
David Hall was built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company. It was the residence of the renowned Dutch governor, Hendrick Adrian Van Rheede tot Drakestein. However, the building gets its name from a later occupant, a Jewish businessman called David Koder. Governor Drakestein initiated a pioneering study on the flora of Kerala that resulted in the 12-volume classic, the Hortus Malabaricus.
The characteristic features of this Dutch building have not been altered drastically either by Time or by its various occupants. The recent alterations made in the David Hall are in adherence with the Dutch typology. The typical Dutch architecture is visible on all elements including the wooden roof which is made of flat face rafters. A droop in the wood is seen as a result of these horizontal beams and so the wood is supported by trusses across them. As a whole, the roof gives a look of an upturned hill and this `architectural wonder is highlighted with the modern lighting in the Hall. The three-foot wide walls and the four-column windows are the other characteristics of the building and they add to its elegance. A well-manicured garden and the old trees in the courtyard too help the David Hall retain its grace intact.
Another imposing building in Tower Road now being converted to a heritage hotel is the famous Koder House, a magnificent three-storied structure in brick-red.
The building was a Portuguese mansion of the 1800s. In 1905, Samuel S. Koder, who belonged to an illustrious Jewish family of Cochin, bought and renovated it to give its present structure. Koder, who ran the Cochin Electric Company, was also the Honorary Consul to the Netherlands, and it was he who began the Cochin wing of the Free Masons. The building remained with the Koder family until one of Samuel Koder’s grandchildren sold it. The third generation sold it. Many prominent personalities such as prime ministers, presidents, ambassadors, highly placed government officials and businessmen have visited the House.
Architecture and Ambience
While rebuilildng this colonial structure, Koder had definite plans for it in mind. He changed it into a house that was a fine example of Indo-European architecture.
The house has spacious rooms with windows opening towards the sea. It has opulent wooden floors, carved wooden furniture and verandah seats at the entrance are some of its architectural peculiarities. The floor tiles set in the pattern of a chess board and the high glass paned windows are other unique features of the mansion. The window glasses are believed to be imported from Belgium. It is said that there were wooden balconies attached to the top floors of the building, but that structure has become a thing of past now. The wide teak staircases and the huge open spaces on all three floors add to the splendour of the building. The photographs depicting the building’s history are kept on the ground floor of the building.
The famous wooden hanging bridge with iron railings, dating back to the 1920s, is another peculiarity of Koder House. The bridge offers a bird’s eye view of Rose Street, which is right below, to a person standing on it. The bridge connects the building with the first floor of the shop across the street that used to be the Koders’ office. As the two buildings are now owned by two people, the entrance to the first floor has been walled off.
The Pierce Leslie Bungalow used to house the offices of the coffee merchants, Pierce Leslie and Company; hence the name. Constructed in 1862, its architecture is a fine blend of Portuguese, Dutch and local influences.
A prominent feature of the building is its waterfront verandahs. Apart from these, there is the wooden ceiling of the ground floor, arched doorways, carved doors and sprawling rooms all of which speak volumes about the opulence of a bygone era.
This ancient building was the official residence of Sir Robert Bristow, founder of Cochin Port, as well as a light house! It is said that Bristow used to watch the ships entering the port from the building. After his death, it was used as lodgings for senior officers of the port. This tradition continued till the 1980s when the place, with its sea view and manicured lawns, was converted into a hotel.
While many of the old buildings have been converted into commercial establishments of the hospitality industry, the Delta Study, constructed in 1808 as a warehouse, is now a high school that retains.