The basilica of Santhome church, a national shrine, located at the southern part of the Marina beach, in the city of Chennai has its own historical significance.
It is named after St.Thomas, one of the twelve legendry apostles of Jesus Christ, and is built over his tomb. It has the honour of being one of the 3 churches built over the tomb of apostles, other than St.Peter’s basilica in Rome and that of St.James’s basilica in Spain.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all the apostles of Jesus travelled all over the world spreading His word. St.Thomas became acquainted with an Indian merchant called Habban who used to do business in the Middle Eastern countries and through him, St. Thomas landed in India in 52 A.D. The original church of Santhome was said to be built by St. Thomas himself.
According to Dr S Radhakrishnan, the first president of India, “Even before Europe became Christian, India became Christian because of St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ”.
In the 16th century, the church was rebuilt by the Portuguese. However, its present magnificent version was designed by the British and was given the status of a cathedral in 1893. It was brilliantly designed by the then British architects in the Neo-gothic style which was popular during that period in England. The nave, the main body of the church is 112 feet and the width is 33 feet and the tip of the cross of the spire is 155 feet from the ground. The colourful stained glass windows, displays the moments of the apostle, St. Thomas with the resurrected Christ Jesus.
The three important pilgrimage centers are Santhome, Little Mount and St. Thomas Mount in Chennai because Santhome church was built by St. Thomas, Little Mount was where St. Thomas sought refuge and St. Thomas Mount was where he attained his martyrdom. Also there is a very interesting and incredible fact associated with these places ….these three places are situated in a straight line making an angle of 30 degree from the equator.
The church was recently renovated and includes two chapels, one above the ground is the main chapel and one below the ground is the tomb chapel. The church also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore church” because of the Mylai Matha statue brought by St.Francis Xavier.
The church is filled with the divine spirit which brings you solace and peace once you enter this ancient church. Over the years, it has been the divine place filled with the grace of God for many praying souls across the centuries. The sunlight seeping through its stained glass windows drenches you in the healing power of the Divine. The quiet gentle sea breeze touches you as you pray……it is a great spiritual experience to visit this inspirational church.
Thus the history of the church is closely entwined with the city of Madras for the past 400 years or so, ever since madarasapattinam came into existence.
Post by: Annie Leovalan
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