Saint Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Peter is a Greek name meaning rock. His father was Jonah from Bethsaida in the province of Galelee. He was the first Pope of Roman Catholic Church. Peter was a fisherman by profession. and he is the patron saint of Royapuram Church. The history of St.Peter’s church at Royapuram being so inseparably connected with the Christian Boat owners and Boatmen of the Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars of Chepaulk and Mylapore settled at Royapuram on 5th December 1799, who were the founder supporter and patron thereof and their headmen also managed all the affairs, it may be desirable to give a review of the past history.
Till 17th century the Royapuram Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars, the founder of St.Peter”s Church were residing at Durgarajapattinam a small village situated on the Coromandel Coast 40 mile north of Pulicat. .Armagon was the alternate name for Durgarajapattinam. Those days the village was ruled by king of Vijaynagar. The Gurukulavamsa Vernakula Mudalai were practicing Hinduism in that village. In 1626 the English East India Company obtained a piece of ground at Durgarajapattinam and erected a small fort and Factory. for their business. Francis Day was the first agent of Durgrajapattinam fort.
The East India Company was doing their business for four years at Durgarajapattinam. and then withdrawn their business. and sent Francis Day to search for suitable place for business near Portuguese settlement. of San Thome
1639 Francis Day obtained a piece of land in Madrasapattinam and built a small fort. It took thirteen years to complete the fort, At this juncture the four families Nallaveeran Mudaliar, Monthi Mudaliar,Andee Mudaliar and Acharappan Mudaliar belongs to Gurukulavamsha Varnakuila Mudaliar migrated from Durgarajapattinam to the northern side of the Fort.St.George of Madrasapattinam, as a consequence to the rising traffic(Sea) and increased employment. Those days ships used to anchor away from the shore opposite to Fort St.George at the Eastern gate, there being no closed harbour at that time ,Goods and people were transported by Masula boats to the shore and from the shore to ships. The Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliar under took this work. The members of the caste were divided into two section(1)Boat owners and (2) Boatmen.
1731the Gurukulavasha Varnakuila Mudaliar were removed in a body to the southern side of the fort, a place called Chepaulk village at the expense of East India Company’s Government. During their stay at Chepaulk they embarrassed Christianity and built a chapel.
1744 war was declared between England and France and sent admiral de la Bourdonnais to invade Madras. The Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars ran away with their families to the British occupied Fort St.David and stayed there till the treaty between England and France signed. 1749 the boat men and boat owners of Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliar returned to Chepaulk. A Church was allotted to GurukulaVamsha Varnakula Mudaliars by the Government.
The Church was under the jurisdiction of Mylapoore Bishop.. Aasarapan Thombiappan Mudaliar looked after the temporal affairs. After the fall of Santhome the Mudaliars staying in Millia pore village used to attend the religious service in Chepaulk chapel In 1798 Mudaliars of Chepaulk and Mylapore entered into agreement for the maintenance of the Chepauk Chapel. The agreement was executed in the presence of Mr.Tashwall, the Master Attendant of the Marine Board. The boat owners bound to pay 2 panams per boat per trip per day, the boat crew 16panams per month. The boat owners who thus contributed were 35in number.
In 1799 the government decided to shift the Custom House and Master Attendants Office from the Fort St.George to Black town. It was considered essential by the Marine Board authorities to shift the boat owners and boatmen from Chepauk; to their vicinity,.The Marine Board allotted a place in the Black town, 300yards to the northward of the northern rampart for boat people. In the new place there was no church to worship so they purchased a land and built a chapel. called St.Peter’s chapel. Rev. Father Jean Baptiste was appointed as vicar of the chapel.
The headmen of Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliar collected taxes from the boat owners and boat crews for the maintenance of the chapel . Misunderstanding between the vicar and the headmen of the Mudaliars started. The fund of St.Peter’s Chapel was lodged in government securities. In Oct 1829 the church now known as St.Peter’s the construction of which was commenced in 1825 out of the sum of Rs.40000/-sanctionead by the Government was built and completed and under the order of the MarineBosard, Mr Balfour the engineer delivered the keys and put the church, in charge of the acting headmen The Acting Bishop Dom Manuel de Ave Maria blessed the new church and appointed Rev Fr.Anthonis Martin de Silva as a vicar of the church.
On 21st April 1834 Rt.Rev.Dr.Daniel O’Connor, Vicar Apostolic of Madras visited St.Peter’s Church at Royapuram. Dr.O’ Connor appointed Rev..Fr.Michael as a vicar of St.Peter’s Church.. Rev Fr Michael was replaced in the place of Rev Fr.Martin de Silva without the consent of the headmen. The headmanship and wardenship of the church be vested in four families represented by Annatha Mudali, Nallaveeran mudali,Monthy Mudali,and Asarappan ParanjothihMudali, the right being hereditary. Among the headmen there are two groups. One group supported the Vicar Apostolic and abide by their decision. the other group was against the Vicar apostolic.
After the appointment of Rev.Fr.Michael as the vicar of the St.Peter’s church in place of Rev,Fr.Martin de Silva, the feeling of the supporter of the Goanese Mission towards Irish clergy became more and more strained. They gave up attending St.Peter;s church and went to St John Church at Black town. In the 1846 St.Antony;s church was built opposite to St.Peter’s Church From this day onward the christians of the Gurukulavamsha Varnakula Mudaliar at Royapuram have been divided into two jurisdictions. .St.Peter;s Church for the supporters of Irish mission and St.Antony’s church for Goanees supporters
Nallaveeran Annapillai Mudaliar one of the supporters of the Goanese faction was ailing for some time .and died on the night of 1st Augest 1848l. His brother N.Mariadoss Mudaliar became the headmen He buried his brother’s body in St.Peter’s Chuch compound without the consent of the Parish priest. The parish priest of St.Peter’s Church filed a trespass case against N,Mairadoss Mudaliar
The first suit by Mr.Annathay Appasamy Mudaliar ,headman and supporter of Irish Misssion filled against Government C.S.No 108 of 1863 to release the fund for the maintenance of the church. As per the interim orders in C.S.No.105 of 1863 meeting for the election of the priest was held at St.Peter’s Church on 17th June 1865 at 4 p.m.. Rev.Fr.Vincent D’ Silva a Goanese clergy was elected by the majority of votes .Very.RevB.F.Amaranthay the Vicar General of the diocese of San Thome issued a circular justifying the appointment of priest for St.Peter’s Chuch as per court order.
At this juncture Rev.Fr.Gnanapragasanather appointed by the Most Rev.Fennely Vicar Apostolic of Madras, was working as the priest in charge of St.Peter’s Church. He did not give way for the elected priest Rev.Fr.DVincent d Silva to carry out his duties. as a priest. The dispute among the two groups supporters of Goanese Mission and Irish mission was solved by the election as proposed by the court . Rev Fr.Gnanapragasanather was unanimously elected as a vicar of St.Peter’s Church.. The supporter of Goanese Misssion did not cooperate with the vicar of the church even after the election.
Advocate General of Madras filled a suit against the headmen . C.S.No.102 of 1880 on the 11 March 1880 against Nallaveeeran Mariadoss Mudaliar and other headmen.. On the 5th December 1883, the chief Justice delivered his judgment in C.S.No 102 of 1880.
Till 1906 elected priest were working as vicar of the church. From 1920 Rev Fr.A.Michael was appointed and he worked till 1925. as the vicar of the church Internal; problems among headmen continues and Rev.Fr.Michael resigned his post.
From 1925 to 1934 Archbishop of Madras sent no priest to St.Peter’s Church. The congregation of Royapuram was under interdict for ten years.
Mr.P.A.Raja Mudaliar one of the community memberand others filled a suit in C.S.No.198of 1934 against Mr.A.P..Peter and others and the Ordinary of the Archbishop of Madras to modifythe old suit. 23rd day of November1937m Justice Wadsworth made certain order framing the scheme.Under the scheme, the secular administration of the church and its funds vested in a Board of Trustees representing the the church., The cash and securities forming the trust were transffrred to the Official Trusteees.