I had the opportunity to take part in an event sponsored by local Ahmadiyya Muslims encouraging peace between religions, and I was impressed by the diversity of religions represented by the guests at the event. One of these guests represented there told me about San Thome Church in Chennai, so named because it is built over the tomb of St. Thomas. San Thome is one of only three basilicas built over the tomb of an apostle – the other two being St. Peter’s Basilica and St. James’s in Spain. Saint Thomas brought Christianity to India in 52 AD and was martyred in Chennai in 72 AD. After speaking with him, I thought it might be interesting to have a closer look this weekend.
As I went on a Sunday, there was a lot of activity and I couldn’t really get any postcard-worthy photos, but in any case here are some photos so you can get an idea of how impressive the place is (from the outside anyway). Bear in mind the humidity in Chennai quickly turns most buildings gray (mildew in the stone, dust etc) – somehow this stays a pristine white:
The church sits right alongside a busy street, which makes its color even more impressive:
In the parking lot of the church is a decorated statue of “Our Lady of Mylapore.” Known locally as Mylai Matha, the wooden statue painted in gold and placed on a special altar is the subject of several feasts, and on the Saturday before I took the photos, it was apparently part of a procession in the city in which devotees competed to touch or pull the chariot. While she sits here, people constantly stop by in contemplation.
Note the intricate design with flowers (close-up):
Pretty impressive stuff. I didn’t get a chance to view the inside – but you can see more photos of San Thome (by others) here.