St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam is the mother house of the CMI Congregation, the foundation stone of which was laid on 11 May 1831.
Here it may be specially mentioned that the Mary Immaculate Shrine in front of the Church to the south identifies the spot where the founding fathers erected a wooden cross, prior to laying of the foundation stone. The shrine was constructed in 1905 through the efforts of Fr. Francis Sales Puthiaparambil to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the profession of the first fathers. The artistic gate in front of the Church facing the panoramic scene on the west was built in 1931 to commemorate the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone on 11 May 1831. The late Fr. Hyacinth Kunnunkal, the then Prior of Mannanam Monastery, was its architect. The fourteen Stations of the Cross, beginning from the St. Joseph Shrine down the hill and concluding at the gate, reminds us of the Cross piously conducted by the first members on Friday and on other occasions.
The three-storeyed building on the southern side of the Church was the seminary building started by the first fathers in 1833. In 1904 it was assigned to St. Ephrem's High School, which had been started in 1897. Today it is St. Aloysius Boarding House. To the south of this building there is another three-storeyed building with a spacious auditorium constructed in the 1990s. This is at present the St Ephrem's Higher Secondary School, which is now open to both boys and girls. Close to this towards the west, there is another two-storeyed building, housing St. Joseph's Press started by St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara in 1844. The building as we see today was constructed by Fr. Francis Sales Puthiaparambil. Many devotional, doctrinal and other books have been and continue to be published from this press. It is from this press, the Nazrani Deepika was printed and published for about 15 years.
On the northern side of the church is the monastery building where the first fathers, including St Kuriakose Elias Chavara, lived. The ground floor of this building serves today as the hall for confessions. On the first floor, the second of the three rooms was the one in which St Kuriakose Elias lived for about 30 years. The inscription above the door of this room, legible even today, is worth noticing; it is a quote from St. Paul (2 Cor. 5:1), written in Latin, which reads: "Scinuts enbn quoniam st terrestris domus nostra hujus habitationts dissolvatur, quod edificationem ex Deo habenuts, domunt non manufactam aetenzam in coelis" (We know that if the earthly tent, in which we live is destroyed, we will have a building from God, a house not made with hands, but an eternal one in the heavens). This room contains certain items of furniture used by St Kuriakose Elias Chavara. The pilgrims spend the day in prayer in this room. On the walls around, there are a few souvenirs (photos) left by the devotees in thanksgiving for the favours received. The door opening to the west leads to a hall of historical importance. This is the hall in which Archbishop Leo Meurin and other ecclesiastical dignitaries held meetings with the Syro-Malabar faithful, before the erection of the Syro-Malabar Vicariates. The wooden floor of the past has been replaced by a concrete floor. The hall now houses the library and archives of St. Joseph's Monastery to the north of this rises an imposing four-storeyed monastery building, which was constructed in 1938 by Fr. Eugene Manjooran, the then Prior of the Monastery. To the extreme south of the campus is the Kuriakose Elias College, started in 1964 by the late Fr. Fabian Kalathil. It is a first grade college with graduate and post-graduate courses and admits both boys and girls today. To the extreme north is the B.Ed. College started in 1956 by Fr. William Neriamparambil. A Teachers' Training College (TTC) and an M.Ed. College were added in 2005.
At the centre of these massive structures is the beautiful St. Joseph's Monastery Church with an octagonal cupola and a towering belfry. It was designed and built by the first fathers themselves. Though renovated several times in the course of years it retains the old structure. The Church contains the tombs of St Kuriakose Elias and most of the first fathers. On the main altar is the exquisite statue of St. Joseph, which Malpan Thomas Porukara got sculptured by an artist. This legant and spacious church is the heart of the CMI Mother House. Here everyday especially on Saturdays almost continuously people from far and wide come to pray. Thousands are being relieved of their sufferings, and receive comfort and consolation at the tomb of St Kuriakose Elias.
Before the Syro-Malabar hierarchy was established, Mannanam was for many years the centre of church activities in the south and Elthuruth in the north. Mannanam with its various structures is an eternal memorial of founding fathers and a monument of history. It tells the story of the continuous growth of the CMI Congregation and to a great extent, of the Syro-Malabar Church itself.
Pilgrim Centre and Museum
In order to give greater facilities and convenience to the devotees who flock to Mannanam almost daily, a pilgrim centre was constructed in the 1990s. It also houses a museum, designed and executed by Master Ramachandran. The exhibits, mostly paintings, are based on the events connected with the life of St Kuriakose Elias. Memorial items like the country boat and bullock cart used by him for journey and the wooden press designed by him and executed by carpenters and black smiths can be seen in the vicinity. San Jose Book Stall, established in 1976, is functioning here. The edifice of the Sanskrit School started by St Kuriakose Elias Chavara in 1846 was shifted from the original place to the present site recently.
St Ephrem's English School, established in 1887, was raised to High School in 1893. It is worthy of note that Blessed Kunjachen Thevarparampil, and the Servant of God Bishop Thomas Kurialassery were students of St. Ephrem's School and also inmates of the St. Aloysius Boarding House, which was started here in 1888. The School was raised to Higher Secondary in 1991. Kindergarten was established here in 1995; Day Care & Play School were established in 2003. The new building for St. Joseph L.P. School was constructed in 1990. St. Joseph Training College (B.Ed.) was established in 1957 on the initiative of the late Fr. William Neriamparambil, who was also the first principal; Kuriakose Elias College was established. In 1964, when Fr. Fabian Kalathil was the Prior, M.Ed. College, and TTC were established in 2005 when Fr. James Thayil was the Prior.
Kuriakose Elias Carmel School (ICSE), Mannanam (Estd. 1990)
The need of an English Medium School at Mannanam was felt by many members of the Province. However, none was willing to establish it directly under the Mannanam Monastery. Hence, there came up a suggestion to establish one directly under the province but at Mannanam itself. A plot of ground at the eastern corner of Mannanam property was set apart for the purpose and Fr. Philip Pazhayakari was given the charge of establishing the said school. He completed the main section of the building and started the School and a Junior College with the ICSE syllabus in 1991. Kuriakose Boarding House was established in 1999. Chavara Institute of Educational Research and Training (CIERT) was started in 2003.