Velankanni has one of the country’s biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres, the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health. Devoted to Our Lady of Good Health, it is popularly known as the “Lourdes of the East”. Its origins can be traced back to the 16th century. The church’s founding is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and Jesus to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the survival of Portuguese sailors assaulted by a violent sea storm. It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by Portuguese and then further expanded later on due to the influx of pilgrims. The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Annually, 20 million pilgrims flock to the shrine from all over India and abroad, out which an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival from 29 August to 8 September. The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.