Santhome Cathedral Basilica in Chennai(India) is built over the Tomb of St.Thomas. It is believed that the original church at Mylapore had been built by the Apostle St.Thomas himself. In 1523 a church had been built over the ruined church of the Apostle.
The present Gothic Cathedral was blessed in 1896 and was raised to the dignity of a minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII on 16th March 1956. The name of Santhome Cathedral Basilica was derived from the name St. Thomas who is an archbishop of the Catholic Christians. St. Thomas who is a hard-core devotee 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.
Architecture and History
Basilica etymologically signifies a royal house or palace. The term as such, is a measure of the magnificence of a church and is conferred on those churches that are noted for their antiquity and historical significance. The Santhome Cathedral Basilica is essentially Gothic in architecture. This church in Madras is been erected in accordance to the Gothic style of architecture. Also you can read the stained glass were 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 are been preserved in the crypt. The length of nave of the Cathedral is 112 ft. and width is 33 ft. There is a transept between the nave and sanctuary 104 ft. in length and 25 ft. wide. The tower upto the spire contains three storeys. The topmost one was constructed to hold a clock while the second is now the belfry. The tip of the cross on the spire is 155 ft.(50 mtrs.) from the ground level.
Underground Tomb Chapel of St.Thomas
The Underground Tomb Chapel of St.Thomas at Santhome Cathedral Basilica has been built to enable pilgrims coming from different parts of the country and all over the world to participate in group Eucharistic celebrations, pray and venerate the relic of St.Thomas, while the services are being held at the Basilica.
Little Mount, Chennai (Madras)
Little Mount in Saidapet is where he lived and preached. It is not much of a hill but high enough for the churches on it to be noticed form a distance. The new church, consecrated in 1971 attracts attention by unusual circular shape. However, it is the old church next door, built in 1711 as extension to shrine which the Portuguese had built in 1511 that is thronged by pilgrims. It is not impressive from the outside, but is miniscule interior has an atmosphere not found in many churches. This Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is built against and above the rock cave that was St. Thomas' home.
The Santhome Cathedral Basilica Church in Chennai is a sacred place especially for the Catholic Christians. 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 kilometer. 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.
Santhome Cathedral Basilica is the only one in India and one of the three in the world, built over the tomb of an apostle of Christ. The Underground Tomb Chapel also houses the Relic of St.Thomas.
Conference of Catholic Bishops' of India (CCBI) elevated Santhome Cathedral Basilica to the status of a National Shrine on 11th February 2006.