Santhome Church in Chennai also known as Santhome Cathedral Basilica and International Shrine of Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica, sits on the tomb built over the mortal remains of one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. Saint Thomas had come to India in A.D.52, was martyred in A.D.72 and buried in this very site then known as Mylapore. “San Thome” assumes its name from Saint Thomas.
There are only two other Basilicas in the world other than Santhome Cathedral that have been built over the tomb of an apostle. One of them being “St.Peters Basilica”, in Rome and the other being “church of St.James the great”, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Travel diaries of Marco Polo the great Venetian traveller who has visited the tomb in 1292 have recorded thus about the miraculous healing power of the saint:
“The Christians who go thither in pilgrimage take of the earth from the place where the saint was killed (or buried), and give a portion thereof to anyone who is sick of a quartan or a tertian fever; and by the power of God and of St. Thomas the sick man is incontinently cured.”–Travels of Marco Polo Vol.II by Yule Edited by Cordier.
There is an underground tomb chapel below the Basilica. Registers mention that St. Francis Xavier lived in the presbytery of the old church in 1545. It is noteworthy to mention His Holiness Pope John Paul II visited and prayed at this tomb on 5th February 1986. St. Thomas is being hailed as the Father of Indian Christianity since he is largely considered to have brought Christianity to India.
We as a church welcome you, your family and friends to this very holy site. Come see, understand and experience the miraculous power of the living God through the saint who professed his faith by saying “My lord and My God”.
Santhome Church has been an important religious shrine as it is one of the three churches in the world that have been built on the tombs of the apostles. Romes’s St. Peter’s Basilica and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain are the other two churches built on the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint James respectively.
St. Thomas is also referred to as Didymus. He is believed to have landed in Kerala in 52 A. D and since then has been preaching Christianity until he was martyred in AD 72. He was killed on St. Thomas Mount with a lance that was pierced from his back.
Portugese who arrived in India in 1500 A D found the tomb of St. Thomas and built the church over the tomb. Britishers had reconstructed the church in 1893 and in 1896 it was consecrated by da Silva, the first Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in India. Pope Pius XII gave the church the status of a Basilica Minor in the year 1956.
Architecture of San Thome Basilica Church
Santhome Church stands majestically with the outer facade being complete white and the inner ceiling being dark brown. An amazing church built in neo-Gothic style delights every visitor with its naturally lit interiors, rows of wooden pews and magnificent windows with coloured panes.
The impressive main area of the church called as the nave is 112 feet by 33 feet and holds awe-inspiring chandeliers. Stained glass windows behind the main altar showcase the lives of St. Thomas and other apostles of Jesus Christ.
It has been wonderfully renovated to have two chapels. The main chapel is above the ground and the tomb chapel is built under the ground. Visitors can find a statue of the great saint inside a glass case at his final resting place. Pilgrims visit the quaint place where the tomb is decorated with flowers and candles every day.
Architectural Styles :
Gothic Architecture, Gothic Revival Architecture
One of the city’s most sacred shrines, Santhome Basilica was renovated in December 2004 and has a statue of Mother Mary brought from Portugal. Adding to the charm of the sacred shrine is the 183 feet high spire constructed in 1894.
Stained glass windows of the auspicious complex showcase the story of St. Thomas and the wooden plaques depict the story of the last days of Christ. Tall spires of the church grab the attention of every visitor. The main altar has the inspiring statute of Jesus Christ.
An informative museum with several important artefacts is a must visit for all the tourists which also houses the spear or the lance head that was used to kill St. Thomas. Other noteworthy collection exhibited in the museum includes great apostle’s fingerprint, an Episcopal chair, two postage stamps, inscriptions of his deeds on stones, the remains of his bones and wall paintings portraying St. Thomas’s life and death.
A mini theatre showcasing a short film on the life of St. Thomas is another interesting feature of the church. At the rear end of the basilica is an old sundial.
- AD 72 – Saint Thomas the Apostle died in St. Thomas Mount and buried in Mylapore (presently Santhome).
- 1291 – John of Montecorvino visited the tomb in Mylapore.
- 1292 – Marco Polo visited the tomb.
- 14th century – Franciscan missionaries visited the tomb.
- 1517 – Portuguese missionaries arrived to Mylapore.
- 1522 – They started building Santhome Church.
- 1523 – Santhome Church was opened.
- 1545 – Saint Francis Xavier visited Santhome Church.
- 1606 – Santhome Church was raised to Cathedral by Pope Paul V.
- 1893 – British rebuilt the Portuguese structure (cathedral).
- 1896 – Santhome Church was opened by British with the status of cathedral.
- 1927 – Santhome Church was raised to Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XI.
- 1986 – Pope John Paul II visited Santhome Church.
- 1996 – Century of British structure (church) was celebrated.
- 2004 – The church undergone renovation.
- 2006 – Santhome Church was declared as National Shrine of India by CCBI.
Burials in Santhome Church
- Saint Thomas the Apostle
- Bishop Louis Mathias
- Archbishop Casimir Gnanadickam
- Archbishop Anthony Rayappa Arulappa
- Archbishop Aruldas
- Bishop Francis Arthur Carvalho
Feast Day - 3rd July
The annual feast of saint Thomas, patron saint of the Catholic diocese of Madras-Mylapore is to be celebrated from June 29 to July 8, with novenas and Mass every evening at the St Thomas Cathedral, San Thome.
The flag hoisting will take place June 29, 5.30 pm and the feast will be celebrated on July 3. Mass on this feast day will be celebrated at 5.30 p.m. by Rev. Dr.George Antonysamy, archbishop of the diocese.
A car procession, starting from the St Lazarus Church zone to the cathedral will be held on July 7 evening and the celebration comes to a close with the lowering of the flag on Sunday evening.
During the feast days, at 11 a.m., Mass will also be celebrated in the crypt chapel in this campus.
- 7.15 A.M.
- 10:00 A.M.
- 11.30 A.M.
- 6.00 A.M.
- 8.30 A.M.
- 6.00 P.M.
Santhome Church has an attached museum contains lot of historical things belongs to Saint Thomas the Apostle and Santhome Church and the tomb. It has oldest Cross of 7th-8th centuries and Inscription. It is located at the backside of Santhome Church. And that is the way to enter the tomb of St. Thomas erected under Santhome Church. The museum has an information center about Saint Thomas the Apostle, Tomb of St. Thomas and about Santhome Church and more.
Currently there are two new structures one being the Tomb Chapel below the Basilica and the other a Museum-cum-Theatre. Exclusive films on the Patron saint Thomas and the church are screened twice daily for local and foreign pilgrims. The new underground chapel has a separate access from outside the church structure, allowing pilgrims and tourists to visit or pray at the tomb without disturbing the sacred proceedings in the church. Eucharistic celebrations happen every day at the fully air-conditioned tomb chapel.
Holy Eucharist Chapel
A meditation chapel adjoining the main church provides perfectly for those soulful, silent moments with the Eucharistic God. This chapel can be approached from the left wing of the church apart from an exclusive entrance from the outside. The day does not begin for scores of local public without a short or prolonged visit to this Holy Eucharistic chapel.
National Shrine of St. Thomas Basilica
38, Santhome High Road, Dummingkuppam,
Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600 004, India
Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Chennai is well connected Bus Station, Railway Station and Airport facilities rest of the country.
The nearest airport is Chennai Meenambakkam Airport (17.3 Kms) from Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Chennai.
The nearest railway station is Velachery train station which is (13.3 Kms) from Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Chennai.
The nearest Chennai Bus Station is (8.1 Kms) from Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Chennai.