St. Thomas Basilica in St Thomas Mount
There are many historical holy places in Chennai. It consists of more than thousands of people who follow Christianity and more than 120 churches, out of which some churches has some historical significance. These Churches showcases the significant culture of Christians and portrays the magnificent architecture. The most famous and historically significant church located at the heart of Chennai is the "St. Thomas Basilica". The hillock containing the holy austere St.Thomas church is dedicated to "Our Lady of Expectation" (Mother Mary).
History of St. Thomas Basilica Church
St. Thomas Church is located over the mount named St.Thomas Mount or Parangimalai. It is also very popular for the Chennai people as all the tourists know about the place. The old traditional name of this mount is 'Periyamalai' meaning 'big mount'. Later it was named as parangimalai and now it commonly called as St.Thomas mount, after the name of the faithful apostle 'St.Thomas' who was one of the twelve apostle of Jesus Christ. According to the History this hillock signifies the place where St. Thomas prayed every evening. St. Thomas, who preached Christianity, came to South India in 52 AD. He preached about Jesus Christ to the people. King Mahadevan who ruled at that time got frustrated about the holy works of St.Thomas and he sent people to kill him during his evening prayer in this mount.
St.Thomas was shot by the arrows and fell on the stone cross and died. Later in the year 1523 a small chapel was built by a Portuguese worshiper named Diego Fernandez. In the year 1547 the stone cross on which St.Thomas died was found during the construction work of the church by Portuguese and later it was erected behind the alter. The alter of the shrine is located at the spot exactly where St.Thomas had died. In the year 1548 Father Gasper Goelho built the chapel into a big church to accommodate large number of worshipers. The mount is about 300 feet (91 meters) high and it has 160 steps to reach the top of the hill. In 1893 this church was also demolished and the present Gothic-style cathedral was built and consecrated in 1896. In 1956, this cathedral was elevated to the status of a Basilica as a tribute to the martyred St. Thomas. Now the shrine is administrated by diocese of Chengalpattu. POPE JOHN PAUL 2, who was the 12th pope, visited the historical famous St.Thomas basilica on 5th February 1986.
St.Thomas The Apostle
There is an interesting story about St. Thomas who was born in the Galileian city of Pansada. His early life went with the fishing as he was born in the family of fisherman and was later inspired by the teaching of Jesus Christ became one of the twelve apostles. St.Thomas was also called as Doubting Thomas, as he doubted Jesus after his death. Later he realized the sacrifice of Jesus and decided to preach his significance to world. So he came to India at coramandal cost in Kerala at 52 A.D and spent next 12 years in Malabar Coast of Kerala building 7 churches, baptizing many people, preaching about Jesus Christ and his sacrifices to the people of Kerala. He made many miracles and showed many signs of Jesus Christ and many people got inspired of him. He spent his final stages of life in little mount in Chennai. He was killed in St.Thomas mount at 72 A.D when he was performing his evening prayer and was crucified over the stone cross which was built by him. After his death his body was buried in 'San Thome church', which was the church built by St.Thomas by his own hands. His remains are preserved in the San Thome Cathedral located near the southern end of the Marina Beach. Later in the year 1972 St.Thomas was decreed as apostle of India.
Significance of St. Thomas Church in St. Thomas Mount
The main highlight of the church is the 'bleeding Cross' which was chiseled by the Saint himself .this was found by the Portuguese during constructing the church in 1547. According to the record this cross started sweating blood from 18 December 1558.Every year the cross sweated blood and later it sweated in the period of two years and years rolled it sweated after long intervals. The history says that the year 1704 the cross bleeded the last blood. The cross is kept at back of the alter of the church. Another historical feature is the oil painting of Mother Mary, who is the earthly mother of Jesus Christ. The main significant of this painting is this was painted by St. Luke, one of the faithful apostles of Jesus Christ and he was the Gospel writer. The painting was bought to India by St.Thomas apostle of Jesus Christ. In Later years the church was decorated by variety of Art and Antiquity by various priests. The Austere Church is the church located in St.Thomas Mount it is a square white structure with two side wings. There are four magnificent arches containing a cross at the top and it is located at the northern foot of the mount which can be climbed using the 160 steps. The walls of the church are decorated with paintings of fourteen stations of suffering of Jesus during his death.
Celebration in St. Thomas Church in St Thomas Mount
There are also celebrations taking place in the memory of St. Thomas. "Our Lady of Expectation" is celebrated as his memory on 18th December. This particular festival is very popular among the people who live near the church locality. On this auspicious day we can see a very big crowd in the church. On 3rd July of every year there is also one more day celebrated in the memory of St. Thomas and it is known as "Saint Thomas" day. During the festival the mount glows with glowing light and fireworks. Thousands of people join the celebration every year. Many people from foreign visit St.Thomas mount and it is one of the best and most famous tourist spot of Chennai. Apart from the Christmas celebrations the Church is also fully crowded during the weekends and Easter time. Easter is an important festival for Christians. Special prayers are performed during the time of Easter in St. Thomas Church in St Thomas Mount.