The historical background of this church is intertwined with the traditional history of Christianity in India. Arrival of Christianity to India is of two phases, where by traditional accounts, St. Thomas brought the religion in the first century and attained martyrdom in Chennai in 53 AD. The second phase is after the arrival of Portuguese in the 15th century. The legends of the Church of Our Lady of Light connects both.
Soon after Vasco-da-Gama’s discovery, the Portuguese Franciscan monks, who were the original followers of St. Francis of Assisi set to bring the Gospel to India, with eight Franciscan Missionaries, started from Lisbon on 9th March, 1500 and landed in Calicut. In the first years, most of the chaplains and missionaries were Franciscans.Among eight Franciscan missionaries , three of them were slain in Calicut on 16th November, 1500. Rest of them arrived at Cochin on the 26th of the same month. Franciscan missionaries further launched in to the sea to bring Good news to the south. One day, sea-farers were perplexed and alarmed as they could not find the sea coast. The Franciscan missionaries appealed to Mother Mary devoutly. On the same night, they were attracted by a light and decided to follow the light and land there. After landing, they approached the light. It preceded them inland to an empty stretch of ground, a forest where the light vanished. On this spot, they built a church in honor of “NOSSA SENHORA DE LUZ” which means “OUR LADY OF LIGHT”. The church was damaged by the Golconda forces from 1662 to 1673. Further it suffered damages when Hyder Ali forces attacked it from 1780 to 1782. This is the history of the Luz church.
The existing structure at Luz was built by the Portuguese in 1516. The architecture of the building consists of patterns of gothic arches, Baroque ornamentation compounded with classic European style. The altars are gilded with silver and gold leaves and the ceilings with powder blue Fresco paintings. The building plan resembles the Portuguese style in more than one way. Luz church represents one of the many attempts made by these people to leave their identity in far-off places. The foundation stone of this church is considered to be ‘one of the oldest European monuments in India.
This ancient church was raised to the status of a Shrine on 15th August, 2010 and also to the status of a Heritage Monumental Shrine in the city of Chennai. This Heritage status is accorded by the Department of Metropolitan Development Authority as Heritage Building in Tamil Nadu