During 18th century, Arcot Navob ruled the Tirunelveli region with tranquillity. At his time, the British Army Major Charles Compbel invaded the region and captured the city on October 18th 1764. From then, the military camped at Palayamkottai. The Military tank artillery was camped in the place, where the present head post office is. The infantry campsite was placed on the north Thiruchendur road. That’s why that place is still called north Military street (in Tamil, Vadaku Padai Theru).
Since there were many Catholic Christians in the military, the major constructed a small chapel and dedicated to St. Antony to fulfil their spiritual need. According to the historical documents available, we come to know that in 1879, the military force was dissolved. Earlier to that , i.e., in 1877, the small St. Antony’s chapel was handed over to the Superior of Madurai Mission Rev.Fr. Louis Verdier S.J. by the then military major.
The Church premise
This chapel was built according to the Gothic style of Portuguese architecture. After St. Antony’s chapel was taken over by the Madurai mission, St. Antony’s chapel became the place of common worship.
Th service of Catechists
In the liturgical activities of St. Antony’s chapel, the Superior of the Madurai mission appointed the lay man Mr. Michael, who hailed from Arcot and settled in Palayamkottai. In honour of his dedicated service to St. Antony’s Chapel and to the priests, Mr. Michael was given a prestigious title PANDARAM. After this pious man, his son Mr. Savari Michael continued to serve the Church until the age of 87. Since then his family clan is called ‘Pandarakar’
Emerged as a Shrine
When the R.C. Diocese of Palayamkottai was erected on 12 September, 1973, St. Antony’s Chapel directly came under the administration of the Diocesan Procurator. To facilitate the liturgical activities there was also a hall built adjacent to the existing church in 1997. Later in 2008, the diocese decided to construct the new Church for St. Antony. The foundation stone was laid on 02, September, 2008 by then Msgr. S. Antonysamy in the presence of Fr. Antony A. Cruz, parish priest of Cathedral and Vicar Forane of Palayamkottai . The new church construction was carried out by the Diocesan Procurator Fr. M.S. Antonysamy with the supervision of Mr. S. Manoharan.
The significance of this new church is that the massive construction was supported and contributed entirely by the devotees of St. Antony, irrespective of caste, creed and language. The creative architecture and cultural edifies of this new holy church attracts the people of the region in thousands.
In honouring the faith of the pilgrims, the diocese decided to raise St. Antony’s church to the higher level of Diocesan Shrine. This new Shrine of Palayamkottai Diocese was consecrated and dedicated by Rev. Bishop. Jude Paulraj D.D. on 24, October 2010.