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Also known as St Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas, San Thome Church is a Roman Catholic minor basilica at Santhome in Chennai. It was built over the tomb of Saint Thomas in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers.

In 1893, the British rebuilt it as a church with the status of a cathedral. The building we see today is the British version. The British architects adopted a Neo-Gothic style for the construction. The church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two being St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral at Galicia in Spain.

With its white texture and spires, the Santhome Church stands majestically tall and makes you pause and appreciate its beauty. Built in neo-Gothic style, the church delights every visitor with its naturally lit interiors, rows of wooden pews and striking windows with coloured panes. The main area that is called the nave is quite impressive and holds awe-inspiring chandeliers. Behind the main altar there are stained glass windows depicting St Thomas and other apostles of Jesus Christ.   

There are two chapels. The main is above the ground and the other is built under the ground. We can find a statue of the revered saint inside a glass case at his final resting place. Every day, pilgrims in large numbers visit the tomb which is decorated with flowers and candles.

A museum with important artifacts is a must-visit for the tourists visiting the church. The museum houses the spear or the lance head that was used to kill St Thomas, the great apostle’s fingerprint, an Episcopal chair, two postage stamps, inscriptions of his deeds on stones, the remains of his bones and wall paintings portraying St Thomas’s life and death. The mini theatre airs a short film on the life of St Thomas. At the rear end of the basilica is an old sundial.

 

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