Open air granite cross Dipasthambham (Pillar of lights) Dwajasthambham (Flag Staff)
Nave (Palliyakam) Altar and Pulpit
Roopakoodu (Alcoves for icons) Baptismal Font Belfry (Bell tower)
Kottupura (Drum House) Oottupura (Dining hall) Natakasala (Theatre)
Ayudhappura (Armoury) Kurusupally Church Layout


Unlike temples of Kerala, there is no standard layout for the churches of Kerala. Many are designed according to their traditions. Mostly they have some common features. Generally, a church complex has religious structures such as granite cross, sthambhas, baptismal font, altar, alcoves for icons, belfry, drum house, church pond, kurusupally, cemetery, etc.

Open air granite cross

An open air granite cross is known as Kalkurissu, in Malayalam, which is erected in front of the church close to road. It is erected on a carved granite base having vertical shaft topped with horizontal bars forming arms of the cross. A winged cross has two bars (one short and one long) and four arms.

Dipasthambham (Pillar of lights)

Dipasthambham is found in ancient churches. It is similar in the form and function as that in Hindu temples in Kerala, but with a cross at the top.

Dwajasthambham (Flag Staff)

Dwajasthambham (flag staff) is a monolithic pillar resembling the one in Hindu temples. Functionally, festivals are heralded by hoisting of a flag on this flag staff.

Madubaha (Sanctury)

The area around the altar is known as Madubaha or sanctuary which is considered as holy because of the deemed presence of God. In certain churches (for example in the Syro-Malabar Church) the sanctuary is separated from the nave by a small partition, may be a set of railings or a curtain (Viri) or both.


Nave’ is a long central part or main body of a church that extends from the entry to the ‘chancel’ (the space around the altar).

Altar and Pulpit

‘The Holy Mass’, the most sacred of all the performances in a church is staged at the Altar. It is here that the priest(s) stand(s) and perform(s) and celebrates the Mass. Pulpit is the raised stand beside the Altar where the priest stands to preach to the community. The Altar and the Pulpit usually covers the entire eastern part of madubaha. Sacred objects intended for rituals are kept on a cup-board at the back side of the Altar duly decorated with icons or other carvings.


Chancel is part of church near the Altar


Vestry/Sacristy is the room near to chancel where priests put on vestments

Roopakoodu (Alcoves for icons)

Roopakkodu is alcoves (a small area formed by part of the wall being hollowed) for keeping statues and icons of saints. It could even be in a wooden gopuram with or without glass sides.


‘The baptismal fonts are basins used for carrying out be sacrament of Baptism

Belfry (Bell tower)

Belfries or bell towers were simple structures in the past, but now it has gained height. Bell towers contain bell or bells that ring to inform the time of worship, to call together people for special events, etc.

Kottupura (Drum House)

Kottupura is a small structure with railings around platform for housing musicians.

Oottupura (Dining hall)

As in the Hindu temples, Oottupura is a dining hall for holding sneha virunnu (cordial feast).

Natakasala (Theatre)

Some churches, especially St.Thomas Churches have Natakasala or theatre.

Ayudhappura (Armoury) and Vedippura (gun powder stores)

Some of the churches have Ayudhappura where weapons were used in olden days. During festivals fireworks are inevitable in churches. Discharge of pop-guns (Kathina vedi) is also usual. To keep the provisions for pop guns and fireworks, most churches have a Vedippura (gun-powder store).


Kurusupally or Nerchappally is a small chapel built in front of the church on the road side where devotees can offer cash or candles.


Church Layout

‘In addition to the above, the sacred pond (Pallikulam) and a cemetery are also found attached to certain churches