- Chennai Churches

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Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas, Santhome High Rd. In 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. The present National Shrine of St.Thomas is 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 attained 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. The shrine was restored in 2004. A 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. There 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 church. 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.

St. Mary's Church, situated in the fort, is one of the oldest surviving churches built by the British in India. This is the first English church in India and the oldest Anglican church in the East.Designed by William Dixon, the then Master Gunner of the Fort, it was constructed under the supervision of the Governor Streynsham Master. Given the precarious nature of the English presence in India at the time (not to mention later attacks by the French and the locals), the church has a defensive stance- thick walls, castellated parapets and a well within the grounds - to withstand any bombardment or siege). The church was consecrated on 28 October 1680. The tower was completed in 1701; the steeple added in 1710 and the tower was connected to the main body of the church in 1759. Robert Clive - more famous as Clive of India- married Margaret Maskelyne here in 1753. The first but equally famous wedding was that of Governor Elihu Yale (who was to become the benefactor of Yale College) to Catherine Himmers in November 1680. The interior of the church contains many fascinating plaques and monuments to early British India evoking past glories and lives full of achievement.

St. Thomas Mount St Thomas Mount, St Thomas Mount, Chennai South. St.Thomas, referred to as Didymus, in the Gospel of St.John is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He is one of the prime witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. St. Thomas Mount is associated with St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ, who is believed to have been martyred here. The mount is commonly called in Tamil "Parangi Malai" or "Bhringi Malai'.History says 2000 years ago, a saint 'Parangi' lived here ('parangi' in Tamil language is used to refer to a white person). According to local myth, St. Thomas was one of the first Christians to reach India and to preach Christianity. He is believed to have reached South India in AD 52, and spent the last years of his life in a cave on this hill. Tradition states that Thomas was assassinated by an arrow in AD 72, by persons hostile to him. Thus, the hillock acquired the name St. Thomas Mount. Over time Anglo-Indians predominated in this area. A small relic-filled Church built in 1523 by the Portuguese stands at the summit of the 300 feet high St. Thomas Mount. The place was visited by Pope John Paul II during his visit to India on 5 February 1986. 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 fourteen stations of the cross erected on the way to the summit.

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