In the statistics of 1855, we find the following interesting notes “Coimbatore is one of the 10 Districts (=parish) of the Diocese: Fr. De Gelis is the Parish Priest of Coimbatore: 150 Catholics : Church in construction : decent presbytery a house to be soon occupied by seminarists.”
Out of the first five Indian priests to be ordained for our diocese, 2 were ordained at Karrumathampatty and other 3 were ordained in the temporary chapel in the procure! The successor of Bishop Goddle, was Bishop Claude Marie Depommier (1865-1873). Since the Cathedral was not yet ready, he was consecrated as Bishop at Pondicherry on 8-10-1865.
In the statistics of 1855, we find the following interesting notes “Coimbatore is one of the 10 Districts (=parish) of the Diocese: Fr. De Gelis is the Parish Priest of Coimbatore: 150 Catholics : Church in construction : decent presbytery a house to be soon occupied by seminarists.” Out of the first five Indian priests to be ordained for our diocese, 2 were ordained at Karrumathampatty and other 3 were ordained in the temporary chapel in the procure! The successor of Bishop Goddle, was Bishop Claude Marie Depommier (1865-1873). Since the Cathedral was not yet ready, he was consecrated as Bishop at Pondicherry on 8-10-1865. His great achievement was to complete the cathedral whose construction had been going on for 17 long years (mainly due to the lack of availability of funds, I am sure) with some modifications of the original plan of Bishop de Bresillac, and he consecrated it on 28-4-1867. Thus at last Coimbatore Parish got its own parish Church and the Diocese, its cathedral!”
Mgr. Depommier, provided the church with 3 bells from France, whose musical harmony still enthralls every listener and adds solemnity to all grand functions, and a nice altar in honor of his patron St. Joseph also, from France one of the bells was the gift of Mr. Rellis, who was the English Master at St. Michaels and also was teaching the fresh French Missionaries, English for many years! Valuable Paintings of St. Martin of Tours, of the Good Shepherd and of the Beheading of St. John the Baptized were the gifts of the then French Emperor Napoleon the III. This master piece of the Life-size St. Martin’s painting was existing till 1968. Unfortunately it disappeared in 1968 due to the white-ants, and unobtrusively eating away the wooden frames and the canvas. It is also a glaring testimony to the scarce respect we Indians show for the art-treasures.Already the other two master-pieces were allowed to meet with the same fate, but we had not learnt the lessons! It is said that, while the paintings were destroyed by white-ants, the priceless frames of teak were unscathed in the other two earlier paintings. On 18-10-1927, a Rev. Sister of F.M.M. painted picture of Our Lady of Lourdes for that frame and had it installed! The main Altar, which was also a master-piece of wooden carving was the gift of Mrs. D’Gargan’, a French Lord’s wife. The various beautiful statues and side altars, (there were 9, according to my memory) were by the generous donations of the local Catholics. In 1899, the main Altar was remodeled at a cost of Rs. 2000/- again, due to the generosity of the same French lady.
The plan of the cathedral was With regard to the completion of our cathedral, “on a reduced plan, “(as Fr. Bechu puts it mildly) heard from the fathers of the older generation, such as Fr. S .Joseph, that according to the original plan of Bishop de Bresillac, the main aisle of the cathedral was to be longer at least by another 50 meters and that actually the foundation was dug out and even built accordingly!” So, one can imagine the grandeur of our cathedral if it were built according to the original plan! When the length of a building is shortened, all the other architectural measurements would have also to be down- sized accordingly! The world needs people of deep faith, and daring as Mgr. de Bresillac to realize dreams that would appear to other ‘ant-like’ mortals, as impossible!
Bishop Depommier died at Nagapatinam and was buried there on 08-12-1873. But is mortal remains were dug up in 1883 and transferred to Coimbatore and re-entered in the cathedral that he must have worked so hard to complete. According to the statistics of 1872-73, there were 17,300 Catholics in the whole diocese, and Fr. Arival was the Parish Priest of the Cathedral and Rayappanather (one of the first 5 priests of the Diocese) was his Assistant.
The list of the Missionaries who had gone to their Eternal reward and buried inside the cathedral is as follows. 1. Fr. Metral Chervet. (He was actually appointed as the first Bishop and pro-vicar Apostolic of the new Coimbatore Pro-vicariate in 1845, but unfortunately he died two months before the Appointment Bull from Rome reached Coimbatore! died on 16-2-1875 2. Fr.Bertail died on 25-11-1875 3. Fr.Lapan. Died on 16-11-1861 4. Fr.Jean Malbec died on 1-2-1862 5. Fr. Aviral died on 6-3-1868 (cfr: Bechu : p.50)
In the years 1876, 1877, the terrible famine, called “Kanji Totti Panjam (‘gruel centres’) and “Eshwara Varuda Panjam” “(The famine of the Tamil year, Eswara”. The Tamil method of calculation of the years consists of 60 years-cycle, each year with its own name). Shelters and free meals (Kanji) were supplied at Coimbatore also, along with other places. In 1886, St. Michael’s Elementary School was raised to the grade of High School and a Boarding also started. [It will be a surprise to many that one of the reasons for the down-sizing of the cathedral was not only lack of funds, but much more, the minuscule number of parishioners to fill it! Till the beginning of the 20th century not even half of the main aisle of the cathedral used to be filled even on Sundays, in spite of the Orphans, Boarding students etc! (Again the source: The fathers of the older generations)
The Sacred Heart Altar inside the Cathedral was erected in 1888-89, through a donation of Mrs.Simon. Fr.Robin had done much to improve the parish (Dec. 1898- Sept. 1904) in the year 1901, a room for catechism was built in 1902 the chapel of St. Francis Xavier at N.H. Road was rebuilt. It was during his tenure, the great earthquake of 1900 took place and the eastern bell-tower collapsed due to it. It was rebuilt.