Important Places


Mylapure
ST. THOMAS CATHEDRAL BASILICA, CHENNAI

San Thome Basilica is a Roman Catholic (Latin Rite) minor basilica in Santhome, in the city of Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. In 1893, it was rebuilt as a church with the status of a cathedral by the British. The British version still stands today. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style, favoured by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two being St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.

HISTORY
According to legend St Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, arrived at Muziris in present-day Kerala state in India from the Roman province of Judea in A.D. 52 and preached between A.D. 52 and A.D 72, when he was martyred on St. Thomas Mount.

It is claimed that St. Thomas's apostolic ministry in India took place specifically at Cranganore along the Malabar coast from 52 A.D to 68 A.D. His journey through Kerala is said to have resulted in numerous conversions. After spending 10 years on the Malabar coast he is said to have travelled Eastwards across the Deccan Plateau, arriving in Mylapore in 68 A.D. The cave at little mount is claimed to be his favourite preaching spot. A 2000 year old never drying, a miraculous stream of water on a rock face are said to be examples of the apostle's divine exploits. A church atop St. Thomas mount was built by Portuguese in 1547 to mark the spot. It was on this St. Thomas Mount that the apostle was said to be killed by a lance which pierced through his back.

His mortal remains were believed to be buried in the location over which the present day Santhomes Cathedral Basilica stands. Sometime in the 10th century A.D a group of Nestorian Christians from Persia founded the Christian village of San Thomes and proceeded to build a church over the burial site of St. Thomas. This structure fell to ruins between 14th and 15th century. In 1522 the Portuguese moved the apostle's remains to a new tomb and church which attained the status of Cathedral in 1606. Pope Pius XII honored the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Madras - Mylapore raising it to the rank of Minor Basilica by apostolic brief dated 16th March 1956. Massive followings and the immense devotion of people to a very ancient image of the Blessed Virgin also known as "Our Lady of Mylapore" was among the motives that prompted the Pope to bestow this honour.

There was 118 years of insecurity and uncertainty from the time the Golconda's occupied San Thome in 1662 to 1780. No considerable changes happened to the original structure of the church built in 1523. It was only in 1893 that his Excellency Dom Henrique Jose Reed da Silva, Bishop of Mylapore resolved to build a new church with the tomb of the apostle in the centre. The second small tower in the centre of the existing cathedral points to the exact place where the apostle was buried. The present Gothic style church was completed in 1896 and duly consecrated by Rt. Rev. Dom Henrique Jose Reed da Silva, the first Bishop of the diocese. In 1956 the church was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica.

San Thome Basilica is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore. In 1956, Pope Pius XII raised the church to the status of a Basilica Minor, and on 11 February 2006, it was declared a national shrine by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. The San Thome Basilica is a pilgrimage centre for Christians in India. The church also has an attached museum.

Chinnamalai
CHINNAMALAI

Little Mount (Chinnamalai) is a small hillock that lies on the bank of river Adayar in the Saidapet taluk of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is traditionally acknowledged to be one of the places where St Thomas, an apostle of Jesus, lived and preached when he came to India. In 1551 AD, Portuguese built a Church over the site where St Thomas is believed to have lived in. Later, in the year 1970, a part of this old Church was demolished and a larger circular Church was built to accommodate more devotees.

Little Mount now is a bustling area with a mix of residential and commercial activities. IX Metropolitan Magistrates (Saidapet) court, Saidapet MTC bus depot, and All India Radio are located in Little Mount. Other Governmental offices such as Raj Bhavan (Governor's house), Highways Department, Panangal Maligai are located at the borders of Little Mount.

Current development in and around Little Mount include New Life Assembly of God (NLAG) Church, Checkers Hotel, Lemon Tree Hotel, Temple Steps Office Space. MRTS line from Alandur to Chamiers road has a station at Little Mount.

St. Thomas
St. Thomas is believed to have stayed in a tiny cave in Little Mount. He led a spartan prayerful life in solitude, often praying on the top of the hill and preaching to the local crowds that gathered to hear the Good news. The cave is well preserved even today and can be accessed from the old Church (chinna kovil) and is used for prayer and meditation by the devotees from all creeds. On the other side of the case is an opening through which St. Thomas is said to have fled to escape this assailants. At the front of this opening, you can find hand and foot imprints of St. Thomas etched on the rock. A little farther away from the cave is an eternal spring from which is believed to be a work of St. Thomas. When St. Thomas was thirsty, he split the rocks and drank the refreshing water that gushed forth from the spring.

Our Lady of Health Church
The Portuguese realized the importance of this sacred place and in 1551 AD, built a Church in honor of Our Lady of Health. A part of this Church still exists despite several renovations and development activities around it. You can access the cave, in which St. Thomas lived, from a small entrance at the left side of the altar of this Church.

Developments around the Church
Recent developments in and around the Church include developing a large tract of land behind the Church as Holy Land. All stations of the cross and a few stations of rosary are built in concrete on this land. The altar at the Holy Land is said to have been finished in Italy and blessed by the Pope before it was installed here. New buildings in the Church campus include an adoration chapel, next to the old Church, a new parish office, at the other side of the circular Church, and a pulpit and altar to hold festival celebrations.

Church Festival
The annual feast of Our Lady of Health is held on the fifth Saturday after Easter. It is preceded by flag hoisting nine days earlier and Novena. On each day, mass and prayers are offered for special intentions of a specific category of people. On the feast day, the high mass is followed by a car procession around the Church. Next evening, the flag is lowered after a high mass.

Status of the Church
Recently the Church was elevated to the status of a Shrine. Now it is referred as "Shrine of Our Lady of Health." Masses are offered regularly (at 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, and 6:00 PM during weekdays and (6:30 AM, 8:00 AM, 11:30 AM, and 5:00 PM during Sundays). During special occasions such as Christmas, masses are offered in two languages (Tamil and English). Every Sunday a mass is held in Korean at 10 am and an English mass at 6:30 pm.

St. Thomas Mount
ST. THOMAS MOUNT
St. Thomas Mount (known in Modern Tamil as Parangimalai) is a small hillock in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, near the neighbourhood of Guindy and very close to Chennai International Airport.

The ancient Syrian Christian community of India trace the origin of their church to St. Thomas the Apostle, believed to have been martyred in St. Thomas Mount. From the 17th century, this part of Chennai was populated predominantly by Anglo-Indians The St. Thomas Garrison Church is at the foot of St Thomas Mount. St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church is located east of the shrine at North Silver Street, foot holds of the mountain shrine.

The neighbourhood is served by the St. Thomas Mount railway station, on the southern line of the Chennai Suburban Railway Network.[citation needed] Integration of the Metro and MRTS with the suburban station in the neighbourhood, is expected to make the suburb the city's largest transit hub after Chennai Central. In the state assembly elections of 1967 and 1971, there was a constituency known as the Saint Thomas Mount.

Hill Shrine
A shrine dedicated to "Our Lady of Expectation" (Mother Mary) was built in 1523 on top of the mount. The altar of this shrine was built on the spot where St. Thomas' death traditionally believed to have been occurred. At the northern foot of the mount, is a gateway of four impressive arches surmounted by a cross bearing the inscribed date 1547. A flight of 160 steps leads up to the summit of the mount. There are 14 stations of the cross erected on the way to the summit.

Ayanavaram
ST. THOMAS PASTORAL CENTRE
16, Ayanavaram Road, Chennai - 600 023. Phone: 044-2644 3803

A Brief History
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, which comes under the Chaldean Liturgical family, is one of the twenty-two churches of Catholic Communion. The Chennai Syro-Malabar Mission was established in 1983 and it was entrusted to Mar James Pazhayattil, the Bishop of Irinjalakuda by the Syro-Malabar Archiepiscopal Synod. This Mission is rooted in the emphasis of II Vatican Council that and individual church should maintain her cultural and ecclesial identity. Therefore the first and important task of this mission was to look after the pastoral needs of Syro-Malabar Catholics in Chennai. Rev. Fr. Jose Palatty was appointed as the first Chaplain by the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Most Rev. Dr. R. Arulappa.

At present there are around 5000 families in the mission. 16 priests and about 80 Sisters support the Mission through their spiritual leadership. The Mission has already consecrated eight Churches. The Pastoral Centre at Ayanavaram co-ordinates at programs of the Chennai Mission. There are three religious houses for men congregations and eight religious houses for Sisters. The Fathers and Sisters run eight Schools, two Special Schools, a Cancer hospice, a Clinic, a Hostel and two Retreat centres.