ERMIDA DA CRUZ OR KURUSU KOVIL
PRINCE MARTYR OF JAFFNA
According to Rev. Fr. S. Gnanaprakasar, OMI (A History of The Catholic Church in Ceylon), the youthful son of Cankili Raja (I) Cekaracacekaran was brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ through a Portuguese merchant named Andre de Souza, who in connection with his traffic, paid frequent visits to the Palace.
We have an account of the royal martyr of Jaffna from Andre de Souza himself. He wrote from Goa to the authorities in Portugal, under date 15 November 1545 thus: Finding myself in Ceilao (Ceylon) by order of D. Martim Alo de Souza, I sought for a long time to make the son of the King of Ceilao a Christian. I persevered in my appeals through the mediation of two Fathers of St. Francis whom I had taken with me. I laboured so much that he was converted and I was on the point of taking him to Goa for his baptism, when Cankili Raja (I) Cekaracacekaran had intelligence of it, and had him treacherously murdered.
He then ordered his body to be burnt with much ceremony, according to usage. God caused many miracles to be wrought on this occasion: the earth quaked and there was seen in the heavens a Cross as large as a mast, and on the spot where he was burnt, the earth opened in the form of a Cross also. The King, hearing of this had these openings closed; but they reappeared in the form of a Cross every time they were covered. This became the occasion for the conversion of many people. The persons present at his execution declare that many of the inhabitants, at the sight of these prodigies became disposed to embrace the Christian Faith. Cankili Raja (I) Cekaracacekaran ordered many of them to be put to death.
The Prince was from then known as Prince Martyr. A little Chapel of the “Ermida da Cruz or Kurusu Kovil” was erected by a native Christian named Antonio Fernandez, near the sport remembered by tradition as the place where the ashes of Jaffna’s protomartyr, the son of Cankili Raja (I) Cekaracacekaran, had been laid to rest, and where a miraculous Cross was seen. Local tradition affirms that the spot where the Prince Martyr’s holy remains were interred was somewhere near the site of the present St. Mary’s Cathedral Church of Jaffna. According to the “Yalpana Vaipava Malai” all the tract of land now known as the Town proper, including therefore, the site of the St. Mary’s Cathedral, was a thick forest in the time of Cankili Raja (I) Cekaracacekaran. All this happened in November 1544, and these facts have been authenticated by historical documents.