Mylapore: The resting place of the Doubting Thomas
The church stands prominent in the list of the most beautiful churches of the world owing to its naturally-lit, stained glass interiors and proximity to the Bay of Bengal, the whispers of the waves giving it an ethereal feel.
By Anitta Bejoy
Built on the mortal remains of the saint who confessed his faith by the words, "My Lord, and My God", San Thome Cathedral Basilica, Mylapore, is a neo-Gothic architectural wonder. The church stands prominent in the list of the most beautiful churches of the world owing to its naturally-lit, stained glass interiors and proximity to the Bay of Bengal, the whispers of the waves giving it an ethereal feel.
Legend has it that a massive log of wood was washed to the shores of the present day San Thome, unmovable by the strongest of men, was easily taken out by means of the girdle of St. Thomas. As a reward, the Raja of Mylapore gave away the log to the saint who built a chapel out of it.
Thomas Didymus, who arrived in AD 52 at Muziris, an ancient port town of Kerala, founded the 'Ezharapallikal' and converted many to Christianity who later came to be known as the 'Malankara/Marthoma Nazranis' or the Syrian Christians. Putting an end to his apostolic mission in the Malabar, St. Thomas is believed to have arrived in Mylapore in AD 68.
His reforms were disliked by the Brahmins of the land, who plotted to murder him. This in turn impelled him to take refuge in a cave, near the present day St. Thomas Mount. He was alleged to be slain with a lance by a Brahmin, and his body interred in Mylapore in AD 72. His relics were later taken to Edessa in Upper Mesopotamia.
The famed hill shrine of St. Thomas Mount has a 'Bleeding Cross' built into its altar. It is believed that St. Thomas died clutching a stone cross, chiseled by the saint himself. The cross periodically bled afresh from 1558 to 1704, giving it the name. The shrine is also home to an ancient oil painting of our Blessed Virgin, used in prayer by the saint, known popularly as the 'Scapular of St. Thomas'.
The miraculous stream on the rock face of the Mount, with an unceasing flow of water has over years quenched the thirst and cured the ailments of the faithful devotees. The historical church of San Thome is listed among the churches built on the tombs of the apostles of Christ, the others being the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Basilica of St. John the Apostle in Ephesus, Turkey. The church, clad in white with its towering steeples and elaborately coloured glasses, pronounces God's glory through its patron, St. Thomas.
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