History of the shrine
This unique church of the sacred heart of Jesus was built in the year 1894 AD by a French missionary Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ. This is a replica of the Rheims Cathedral in France.
Why The Church was Built ?
The donor a French Anglican lady by name Mary Anne was suffering from severe heart ailment. She met three Roman Catholic ladies who advised Mary Anne to have Novena prayer for the sacred heart of Jesus for nine days. When doctors abandon a patient, God's grace is the only source for curing if the patient completely believes in Him. With this conviction and confidence she had novena prayer to the sacred heart of Jesus. After five days of prayer she got completely cured. Immediately to show her gratitude to the sacred heart of Jesus Mary Anne wanted to build a church.
Why Idaikattur was chosen ?
Idaikattur was a village having a small chapel with thatched roof. The parish priest wanted to construct a big church to accommodate about thousand people. The local poor farmers were unable to provide funds for the construction of a church. Under this situation the parish priest Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ went to his native country France to collect funds. When Mary Anne came to know about the arrival of Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ in France she requested him to build a church to the sacred heart of Jesus in his parish Idaikattur in south India with a donation of 2000 franks. This is to express her gratitude to the sacred heart of Jesus and it should be exactly like the Rheims cathedral in France. Father accepted her request with great joy and agreed to build a church in Idaikattur.
Hindrance in the construction and the solution by the sacred heart of Jesus
As per the plan of the church, Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ marked the ground to carry out the construction work for foundation. At the start of this work a dispute arose between the Father and the village Hindus. By mistake the Priest had encroached the land of Hindus 10 X 150 feet for the construction of the northern side of the building. When this was brought to the notice of the Priest, he told them that it was his mistake committed unknowingly and he was ready to pay the cost for the encroached land and continued saying, "I am unable to change the structure of the building plan as it is very apt and cannot be changed." But the villagers refused to donate the land since the kings of this region donated it to them.
Soon the villagers got irritated and filed a suit against the priest in the court of law. The Priest too hired an advocate to contest in the court. The lawyer met the Priest and told that the records are favourable to the villagers and the priest did not have any records. So the lawyer advised the Priest to tell a lie that the disputed land was in the position of the church for the past twenty-six years so that the judge may give enjoyment rights in favour of the father. But the Priest refused to tell the lie saying that he was constructing the church for the Lord Jesus. Let His will be done. Hearing these words from the Priest the advocate refused to contest the case and quitted as he was not willing to be defeated.
The civil case was prolonged for years. Then a new judge came and arranged a commission of advocates to inspect the site in question and to study the problem by comparing the cost of construction over the site occupied and cost of land occupied by Priest. The leader of the commission had a dream on the previous night of his arrival at Idaikattur. In his dreams he found a big building being built by hundreds of angels in full swing. The bricks, tiles and other materials were heaped near by.
The next day of his dream the leader of the commission reached Idaikattur. When he looked at the church, he astonished because that was the same building that he saw in the dream. The leader met the father and explained his dream and asked him to continue his work since it was chosen by God Himself and constructed by Angels. Then the leader of the commission called the villagers and told them about the dream. He asked them to donate the place occupied for the construction of the church. The villagers convened a meeting and discussed the problem. They too were convinced of God's presence in the place. Finally they passed a resolution unanimously to donate a space of 25 X 150 feet which is beyond the church limit. Then the Priest completed the work successfully.
Special features of this shrine
Since the church was said to be built by angels, Fr. Ferdinand Celle SJ has placed 153 depictions of angels in and around the church
He has depicted the relics of forty saints in four elliptical shaped wooden bowls, which rest over the wooden heart in the main altar portion.
We pray for all the devotees of the sacred heart continuously through these heavenly beings.
Although the sacred heart shrine at Idaikattur is a replica of the Rheims cathedral in France , It has some unique features
It is constructed with 200 different types of moulded bricks and tiles in lime martyr. They are used for its decoration.
The inner gothic arches rest over the columns embedded with ribs its corner rising up to the vaulted roof.
The windows are decorated with small brick pillars adjoined with hallow flower bricks and stained glass works which depicts the events of the way of the cross colourfully and beautifully. Since south India is a tropical country utilization of the hallow bricks in the construction reduces the heat and also there is a vacuum gap between inner vaulted roof makes an air-conditioned system below the shelter of the wall.
The stucco figures and the statues of saint, angels and the sacred heart of Jesus, his foster father St. Joseph and the Holy family statue with golden gilt and the mother of sorrows are of great beauty and symbol of ancient French art work.
Historical events of the conversion given by St.John de Britto to Kattayadevan, son-in-law of Kilavan Sethupathi king from Hinduism to Christianity and St.Britto's sentence of death by king Kilavan Sethupathi are depicted in stained glass work on northern and southern entrance facade.
The main altar of the church is more beautiful with gigantic gothic facade of 45 feet high with stucco figures of God the father holding His only crucified son Jesus by his hands and the holy spirit proceeding from his chest surrounded by angels in clouds and in the glittering gold rays of the sun around the whole work are relief from the wall.
This main altar depicts the doctrine of the Christianity i.e., the father, the son and the holy sprit are in one and the same clearly shown to all people who look at it.
The gothic arches are decorated with rows of beads, flowers, garlands. They all are in terracotta works.