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St. Santhome Church, Chennai


St. Santhome Church, Chennai

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.

If you have just one day to visit Chennai and looking to visit San Thome Basilica Church, you can choose on of our Chennai city tour packages or customize your own tour with your preferred list of tourist places in Chennai.

Architecture of San Thome Basilica Church, Chennai

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.

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. You can plan to visit this tourist attraction with Chennai local sightseeing tours from Chennai Tourism in a private cab of your choice.

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.


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