St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica, Chennai

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St. Thomas Basilica
National Shrine of Saint Thomas Basilica
Santhome Basilica.jpg
San Thome Basilica
St. Thomas Basilica is located in Chennai
St. Thomas Basilica
St. Thomas Basilica
Location within Chennai
13°2′1″N 80°16′40″E / 13.03361°N 80.27778°E / 13.03361; 80.27778Coordinates: 13°2′1″N 80°16′40″E / 13.03361°N 80.27778°E / 13.03361; 80.27778
LocationChennai, Tamil Nadu
DenominationCatholic (Latin Rite)
Former name(s)San Thome Church
Authorising papal bull16 March 1956
StatusMinor Basilica[1]
DedicationSt. Thomas
Relics heldBone of St. Thomas
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationNational Shrine[2]
Designated7 February 2006
Completed1523 (Current building 1896)
Length64 metres (210 ft)
Width12.2 metres (40 ft)
Nave width10 metres (33 ft)
Spire height47.2 metres (155 ft)
ArchbishopAbp. George Antonysamy

San Thome Church, also known as St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas, is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, in the city of Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. In 1893, it was rebuilt as a church with the status of a cathedral by the British. The British version still stands today. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style, favoured by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two being St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.


According to legend, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, arrived at Muziris in present-day Kerala state in India from the Roman province of Judea in AD 52 and preached between AD 52 and AD 72, when he was martyred on St. Thomas Mount.[1]

It is claimed that St Thomas' apostolic ministry in India took place specifically at Cranganore along the Malabar coast from AD 52 to AD 68. His journey through Kerala is said to have resulted in numerous conversions. After spending 10 years on the Malabar coast he is said to have travelled Eastwards across the Deccan Plateau, arriving in Mylapore in AD 68. The cave at the little mount is claimed to be his favourite preaching spot. A 2000-year-old, never-drying, miraculous stream of water on a rock face are said to be examples of the apostle's divine exploits. A church atop St. Thomas mount was built by the Portuguese in 1547 to mark the spot. It was on this St. Thomas Mount that the apostle was said to be killed by a lance which pierced through his back.

His mortal remains were believed to be buried in the location over which the present day Santhomes Cathedral Basilica stands. Sometime in the 10th century AD a group of Nestorian Christians from Persia founded the Christian village of San Thomes and proceeded to build a church over the burial site of St. Thomas. This structure fell to ruins between the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1522 the Portuguese moved the apostle's remains to a new tomb and church which attained the status of Cathedral in 1606.

Pope Pius XII honoured the Cathedral Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore, raising it to the rank of Minor Basilica by an apostolic brief dated 16 March 1956. Massive followings and the immense devotion of people to a very ancient image of the Blessed Virgin also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore” were among the motives that prompted the Pope to bestow this honour.

There was 118 years of insecurity and uncertainty from the time the Golconda’s occupied San Thome in 1662 to 1780. No considerable changes happened to the original structure of the church built in 1523. It was only in 1893 that his Excellency Dom Henrique José Reed da Silva, Bishop of Mylapore, resolved to build a new church with the tomb of the apostle in the centre. The second small tower in the centre of the existing cathedral marks the exact place where the apostle was buried. The present, Gothic-style church was completed in 1896 and duly consecrated by Rt. Rev. Dom Henrique José Reed da Silva, the first Bishop of the diocese. In 1956 the church was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica.[3]

San Thome Basilica is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore. In 1956, Pope Pius XII raised the church to the status of a Basilica Minor, and on 11 February 2006 it was declared a national shrine by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. The San Thome Basilica is a pilgrimage centre for Christians in India. The church also has an attached museum.[1]

Santhome Cathedral
Santhome Cathedral during evening mass
Santhome Cathedral—Side view from back side (evening mass)
Santhome Cathedral—St. Thomas and Jesus (Inside)
Santhome Cathedral—Just before evening mass


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas". Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  2. ^ National Shrine Status Archived 27 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas". Retrieved 27 January 2017.

External links[edit]