Restored Shrine (2004)
the whole world, there are only three churches
built over the tomb of an Apostle of Jesus Christ
- the Basilica of Saint Peter built over the tomb
of St.Peter in Rome, Cathedral of Santiago de
Compostela built over the tomb of St.James in
Spain and Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas built over
the tomb of St.Thomas. Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas
is in Chennai, India. Most Indian Catholics, why,
even most Catholics in South India, or even in
Chennai, seem to be unaware of the importance
of this extraordinary shrine.
Apostolic brief dated 16th March 1956, Pope Pius
XII gloriously raised the Cathedral Church of
the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore to the dignity
and rank of Minor Basilica.
present National Shrine of St.Thomasis built over
the tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who came
to India in the year 52 AD. After preaching on
the West Coast, he came to Chennai(formerly Madras),
and suffered martyrdom on a hill at the outskirts
of the city, today known as "St. Thomas Mount."
His body was buried on the spot over which the
present Basilica stands.
for the church, that too has much history behind
it. This lovely Gothic Church is an architectural
treasure. Rising 155 feet from the ground, with
a nave of 112 feet by 33 feet, and an imposing
sanctuary 62 feet long and 33 feet wide, it is
adorned with stained glass windows depicting St.
Thomas and the other Apostles. Inside the sanctuary
is a statue of St. Thomas seated.
valuable work of art kept in the Basilica is an
ancient painting of Our Blessed Mother, in front
of which the other great apostle of India, St.
Francis Xavier, used to pray.
are two new structures today: The Tomb Chapel
below the Basilica and Museum cum Theatre. The
new underground chapel with a separate access
outside the church structure, allows pilgrims
to pray at the tomb and tourists to visit it,
without disturbing the sacred functions in the
museum exhibits artifacts connected with St. Thomas
and the Basilica, and the theatre is used for
screening a short video on the life of the Apostle.