Each religion has a particular place of worship. For example-: the Hindus visit the temples; the Muslims visit the mosques and the Christians to the church. But usually the non-Hindus or non-Muslims, or even non-Christians will have a peculiar type of curiosity towards the holy place of the other religion, as they don't visit them often. They are not quite acquainted to the atmosphere of that holy place. And if it has some historical facts buried in it then the curiosity doubles up.
Here we are going to speak about such a holy place. The Santhome Cathedral Basilica Church in Chennai is a sacred place, especially for the Catholic Christians. Santhome was a small settlement of the Portuguese who arrived in the Mylapore shores in the 16th century. Santhome has many Catholic institutions including 100 year old buildings, garden houses, convents and the pride of the place, Santhome Basilica. A walk down the area gives the hint of what the Portuguese era would have been like in the 1600s.
It is believed that St. Thomas arrived on the coast of Malabar and after building churches and converting many locals, came to Mylapore in 52 A.D., where he built a small chapel. The Portuguese repeatedly built on the ruins of the St. Thomas Church. The church was then taken by the British in 1740 when the Portuguese power began to wane in the region. This church has the status of a minor basilica. So, originally the old church was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers and rebuilt again with the status of cathedral by the British in 1893. The British version still stands today.
The name of Santhome Cathedral Basilica is the Tamil version for the name St. Thomas, who is an archbishop of the Catholic Christians. St. Thomas who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ was buried in this place and as a tribute to his soul; a church has been built up in this southern part of Marina beach.
This church in Chennai, erected in accordance to the Neo-Gothic style of architecture, was favoured by the British architects of the 19th century. Its 183 feet high spire was built in 1894. Also, you can read the stained glass, where the divine moment of St. Thomas's meeting with the resurrected Christ is been depicted. Some remains of the corpse and also a part of the St. Thomas's bone have been preserved in the crypt that is situated in the centre of the church.
There is also a museum where all the artefacts related to St. Thomas and the era, have been carefully assembled. An interesting object in the museum is the spear that killed the saint. Inscriptions on stones tell the deeds of St. Thomas and also the two postage stamps that were released. There is also a mini theatre where visitors can view a short film on the life of St. Thomas. Recently, the Santhome Basilica Cathedral celebrated its 400 years of the Diocese of Mylapore.
Touring to this Madras Santhome Cathedral Basilica church is pretty easy, as you will get auto rickshaws, 'call taxis' and even luxurious cabs. Auto rickshaws are the cheapest ones but bargain carefully before you get into one. The standard charge is Rs.8 for every kilometre. The call taxis are the cabs that you get on your doorstep at any time whenever you call them. They charge higher but they are very active in their service.
The Santhome Cathedral Basilica Church in Chennai is a sacred place for the Christian catholic community all over the world.