1 - 2 Hours
The 282-year-old Dutch Cemetery in Fort Kochi is considered to be an authentic record of hundreds of Europeans - both the Dutch and the English - who arrived in India to expand their colonial empire. It is the oldest European cemetery in India. Consecrated in 1724, the cemetery has 104 tombs. It is now being looked after by St. Francis CSI Church, Fort Kochi, which has the tomb of Vasco-Da-Gama. Though the cemetery remains closed for most of the day (for fear of anti-social elements entering the place), it is opened on requests made by visitors.
The 104 tombs in the cemetery are a record of prominent Europeans who changed the history of the land. The interest among tourists from Europe to visit the cemetery is so much that constant requests are made to church authorities to open the gates. With the passage of time, the layer of plaster over the laterite stones in many of the tombs had withered away. Preventing further destruction of the cemetery, the tombs were replastered with a mix of lime mixture which cost a fortune but helped give the tombs back their old look. As of now, the church shells out money to pull out weeds and ensure the cleanliness of the place.
Tombstones of important personalities buried here have been preserved in the church.
What welcomes visitors to the cemetery which is tucked away behind the end of the walkway running parallel to the beach, is its heavy walls. The original calligraphic inscription `1724' at the entrance pillar has been preserved to date. The unique feature of the tombs is that none of them carry a cross, unlike in modern tombs. Both the big and small tombs resemble the Dutch architecture of the period. The inscriptions on them are in the old Dutch script. A record of persons buried here has been maintained in the church.
Reference has been made to the cemetery in the book St Francis Church, Cochin, by T.W. Venn in 1930. Venn says that the last burial took place in the cemetery in 1913 when Captain Joseph Ethelbert Winckler was laid to rest. The British Cemetery at Veli, which dates back to 1804, too is being managed by the church.