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An ‘Apostle of Christ’ lies in the ‘Town of Peacocks’

santhome-cathedral-basilicaSt.Thomas one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ’s tomb lies in the basement of a magnificent Cathedral Basilica at Mylapore – Chennai, India! A church built on his tomb!
St.Thomas, one of the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ came to India travelling outside the Roman Empire. He Landed on the shores at Kerala – India at a place called ‘Muziris’ – ‘Tamilakam’ in the year 52 AD. This place was inhabited by the Jewish community then and is known today as “North Paravur & Kodungalloor’. Unfortunately the 1341AD massive flood has realingned the coast at Kerala eroding the mentioned place!
St.Thomas baptized several people and these people were called ‘St.Thomas Christians or Nasranis’. Travelling further and across the land he landed at ‘Mailapur’ – ‘a town of peacocks’ at Chennai. St.Thomas took the brunt of the local population in this strange foreign land who were not pleased with his teachings, baptisms or conversions. In a short duration of time he was martyred – lanced to death when he was kneeling in prayer at St.Thomas Mount 4 kms away from current Mylapore in 72 AD. Today St.Thomas Mount is a site of reverence to all sects of humanity – Hindus, Muslims & Christians.
Santhome Church at Mylapore, Chennai today is a ‘Cathedral Basilica’ – it was raised to this status by Pope Pius XII on the 11th of February 2006 ! The Pope called St.Thomas the ‘Father of Indian Christianity’. . .it is he who single handedly brought Christianity to India! In the 16th Century the Portuguese explorers built a church on the tomb of St.Thomas, the apostle of Christ. Later in 1896, the British known for their famed Neo-Gothic architecture rebuilt the cathedral. Today ‘Santhome Church’ also known as the ‘Santhome Cathedral Basilica’ stands at a busy cross roads of Mylapore at Chennai. This snow-white massive gothic structure is imposing. . . It is approximately 50 metre in height, the spires dominate the sunny blue skies. There’s ample parking and this structure is open to all faiths. The interiors are fabulous. The stain glass and windows gleam in reverence filtering the day light in. The experience inside is simply divine! Our lady of Mylapore – ‘Mylai Madha’ also graces the shrine inside. She is seen as the ‘comforter of the afflicted’. Anything asked in reverence at this shrine & … your prayers are met! Father Gaspar Coelho, the then Parish Priest in 1543 has installed this beautiful wooden structure of ‘our lady’.
This Basilica has a beautiful museum having artifacts, paintings and articles of importance and interest to historians and the Christian faith followers. The basement has the tomb of St.Thomas, a visit down here is a moving experience! In 232 AD, the relics of the apostle were moved from Mylapore to the city of Edessa – Mesopotamia. This was made possible by a kind Hindu South Indian king.
In his short span of 20 years in India St.Thomas had established seven and a half churches all over Kerala. He was also called the ‘Doubting Thomas’, he refused to believe anything without any direct personal experience. He doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ too! Only when he saw the wounds of Christ, which Jesus revealed to him did he believe and uttered his famous lines – “My Lord & My God!”
The beauty and the uniqueness of this shrine is the international reputation of it being one on a tomb of Jesus Christ’s apostle! There are only 3 in the world. One is of St.Thomas at Mylapore, Chennai – India! The other two are St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St.James de Compustela in Spain.
Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller visited the tomb in 1292 and commented on its healing power! St.Francis Xavier, the Second Apostle of India pilgrimed on foot from Nagapattinam to Mylapore and spent 4 months in continuous prayer imploring God by the tomb of St.Thomas in 1545.
Pope John Paul II visited and prayed at the tomb of St.Thomas on 5th January 1986.
21st December is the day of ‘Feast of St.Thomas’ each year. 3rd of every month is the ‘Day of St.Thomas’. 2nd Saturday of every month is celebrated as ‘Mylai Matha Day’. This snow white Santhome Cathedral Basilica should be a must visit on the list when you visit Chennai. It takes an hour of your time to faith! May you be blessed and your prayers be answered. This Cathedral Basilica is a center for pilgrimage for Christians in particular.
-Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography
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