History of Our Lady of Snows Basilica
The history of Shrine Basilica is closely connected with the history of the conversion of the paravars, the indigenous people of the Pearl Fishery Coast. In fact, Our Lady of Snows is fondly called in Portuguese senhora, Das Nevis which means Our Lady of Snows. She has been given the unique title of Yelu Kadalthurai, Yega Adikala Thai in Tamil which means the Mother of Refuge for the seven major coastal villages, viz Vembar, Vaippar, Thoothukudi, Punnaikayal, Virapandianpatinam, Tiruchendur and Manapad. The beautiful statue of Our Lady of Snows has always been looked upon as a miraculous one, as many miracles are said to have occurred in the Shrine from the time of its installation at St. Pauls Church.
In 1582 a church dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy was consecrated by the Bishop of Cochin Msgr. It was also called St. Pauls Church. Every year the annual feast was celebrated on 5th August. In 1610 when the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Snows reached Thoothukudi, it was solemnly installed in the church of Mother of Mercy and thereafter gradually it came to be called the Church of Our Lady of Snows Basilica.
Fr. Vigilius Mansi wanted to build a beautiful church of Our Lady of Snows Basilica.He had to face lot of difficulties from the side of the Dutch as well as that of his own people. However, he obtained permission from the Dutch Government to construct a new church for Mother Mary of Snows. On 4th April 1712 he laid the foundation for the new church. Within a year he was able to complete the church. On August 5th 1713, the new church was opened and blessed. The first feast in the new church was celebrated in a very grand scale.
In 1982, when the Church of Our Lady of Snows celebrated the 400th anniversary, Pope John Paul II raised it to the status of Basillica through his apostolic letter.
Devotees to display their love and gratitude presented a golden car that was used to carry the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Snows around the town during her feast day. The Golden Car first appeared in procession on 2 February 1806. Since then on 5 August of every year the procession is organised.