Mylapore Church

Mylapore was historically known as Vedapur  - the city of the Veda. As the available historical and archaeological evidence show, it could well be the oldest part of Chennai, with written records of early settlements going back to the first century BC. It was known for its ancient port with a flourishing trade with the Roman Empire, receiving gold in exchange for its products like pepper and fine cloth.

St. Thomas the Apostle died at Mylapore in 72 AD.  Ptolemy (AD 100 - 170) had recorded in the 2nd century AD that the port of Mylapore was known to the Greeks and the Romans. The Saivite Saints of the 7th Century, Saint Sambandar and Saint Appar, have sung about the Shrine in their hymns. Mention has been made of the early settlement of Santhome (currently known) by Arab travelers and merchants of the 9th and 10th centuries AD. Marco Polo visited the place in the late 13th century and left a detailed description of the land, the people along with their customs and religion. 

It was considerable maritime time and the ancient German and Greek maps refers to the town as Maliarpha. The later Scottish researchers like James Playfair(1755 – 1794) referred to it as "Meliapour" Mylapore was occupied by the Portuguese in 1523, who established the viceroyalty of "São Tomé de Meliapor" or "Saint Thomas of Mylapore." Portuguese rule lasted until 1749, except for a brief interregnum between 1662 and 1687, when the town was occupied by the French.

After 1749, the British East India Company took possession of the settlement and Mylapore was incorporated into the administration of the Presidency of Madras. T 

Kapaleeswarar Temple

Kapaleeswarar Temple is one of the most famous temples of Chennai. During the period of Kalabhra inter-regnum in Tamil Nadu Originally built in the 7th century by the ruling Pallavas, the temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century to construct the San Thome Basilica, and a new temple was constructed in the 16th century by the Tuluva dynasty (1491–1570 CE) using remains of the old temple. The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. The temple exhibits exquisite Dravidian architecture. The huge temple is surrounded by traditional crowded street markets of Chennai selling fruits, flowers, vegetables and traditional brass ware.

There is something strange about the History of South India, especially of Kerala.  Whereas we have unbroken history of the reigns of Kings elsewhere in India, the history of South India is blank from the coming of St. Thomas until around fifth century for most South Indian states (Chola and Pandya States) and until around eighth century in Kerala.


The people who controlled South India during this period is referred to as Kalabhras.  But nothing of their origin, character, religion or social structure is known. One even wonders whether these were intentionally destroyed.   Blotting out names and history was an age-old method practiced in ancient cultures.    Historians affirm that  this is exactly what happened in the case of South India as a whole until the fifth century. In Kerala this period extended until the eighth century.

Kalabhras were the South Indian dynasty who between the third and the 6th century C.E. ruled over entire Tamil country, displacing the ancient Chola, Pandya and Chera dynasties. Information about their origin and details about their reign is scarce. They did not leave any artifacts or monuments. The only source of information on them is the scattered mentions in Buddhist and Jain literature. They were displaced around the 7th century by the revival of Pallava and Pandya power.

These periods were the period when Thomas Christianity was powerful in all South India.  They were never even mentioned in the history - probably because they were intentionally blotted out by the Gnostic taking over groups of Hinduism which found its evident clear start with the seperation of Vaishnavites from Saivites and then later under Sankara the seperation of Hinduism as we know today from Christianity was inaugurated soon after the council of Kollam.   Pallavas were of Syrian Gnostic origin.

When the curtain raises under Pallavas we have a Kapaleeswara Temple where the shrine of Thomas was. Alongside of it there is also the  AdiKesava Perumal Temple constructed in honor of Keshava or Lord Vishnu.

San Thome Basilica

Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to Muziris in Kerala India in AD 52 and was martyred in 72 CE by spear at Mylapore and his body was interned here.After his death, his body was buried in the Church built by him. A pot containing earth, probably moistured by his blood and the lance with which he was pierced were both buried in his tomb. In the 10th century AD Christians from Persia, founded this Christian village of Santhome, and then they built a Church and tomb over the burial site of St.Thomas. 

His relics were moved to Edessa (now Urfa in south-east Turkey)in the third century (some time between 222 - 235 AD) by the King Mazdai (Vasudeva?). Due to war between countries these bones were moved from Edessa to Chios in 1144 and then from there to Ortona in 1258.


The Portuguese who came to India in 1523 AD found a small shrine called "Ben Thuma", that is, the house of Thomas, in the custody of a Muslim. The Portuguese then built a Church and erected the Diocese of Santhome-de-mellapore. Dom Sebasteao-de-Pedro of the Augustinian Order was the first bishop of the Diocese of Mylapore.


San Thome Basilica

19/38, Santhome High Road

600004 Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

*Tradition holds that St Thomas the Apostle preached in this region and was martyred on St Thomas Mount.

*This church is built over the tomb of St Thomas. The tomb is empty; however, a few small relics are within the church.


This is only a memorial tomb




The original tomb was opened four times in its history.

It was opened for the first time to cure an ailment of the son of the Raja Mahadevan. St.Gregory of Tours recorded this in his book 'De Miraculis Sti Thomae'.

It was opened for the second time between 1222 and 1235 when most of the Saint's relics were removed to Ortona in 1258 for a troubled journey on the East Coast of India. His relics are present in Ortona even today.

It was opened for the third time in 1523 by the Portuguese who arrived at Mylapore to rebuild the ruined Church over the tomb of the Apostle, St.Thomas.

Dom Jose Pinharno, the bishop of Mylapore, opened it for the fourth time in 1729 to give pilgrims the earth from the sepulcher. It was at this time a bright light appeared from the tomb.


Today, the Shrine preserves a small bone of the Saint and the head of the lance with which the Saint was pierced. In 1954, his Eminence Cardinal Eugene Tasserant brought a piece of bone from the hand with which the Saint touched the side of Jesus after his resurrection, to the Shrine.



San Thome Cathedral: A piece of the Apostle’s arm bone kept in a crucifix reliquary. It was a gift to San Thome Cathedral from San Tomasso Cathedral Basilica, Ortona, Italy, and was brought to India in 1953 by Cardinal Tisserant.


San Thome Cathedral: The spear head
Tip of the lance that took the life of St. Thomas which was recovered from the grave during the portuguese excavation and preserved in the Milapore

St. Thomas Museum



San Tomasso Cathedral Basilica in Ortona contains the actual tomb of Thomas the Apostle.

Basilica di San Tommaso Apostolo (Basilica of St Thomas the Apostle),Corso Giacomo Matteotti 35,  66026 Ortona, Italy *The relics of St Thomas the Apostle rest within a golden casket placed within a white marble altar located in the crypt of this church.  The actual tomb of St. Thomas in Ortona, Italy. The complete skeleton of the apostle has rested in this cathedral since 1258.

San Tomasso Basilica: The complete skeleton of Apostle Thomas has lain in this cathedral since 1258.



San Thome Basilica was built over his original tomb in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, after demolishing the original Kapaleeshwarar Temple which stood on the grounds, and rebuilt with the status of a cathedral by the British in 1893 which still stands. San Thome Basilica is the principal church of the Madras-Mylapore Roman Catholic Archdiocese. In 1956, Pope Pius XII raised the church to the status of a Minor Basilica, and on 11 February 2006, it was declared a national shrine by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. It is an important pilgrimage center for the Syrian Christians of Kerala. The church also has an attached museum.


The skeleton of St. Thomas

Piece of the Finger bone of St. Thomas in a Roman church.

Piece of the Skull of St. Thomas the Apostle kept in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Patmos, Greece.