Apostle St. Thomas martyred
Thomas next proceeded overland to the Coromandel
ministered in what is now the Chennai (Madras)
area, where a local king and many people were
converted. One tradition says that he went from
there to China via Malacca and,
after spending some time there, returned to the
Madras area (Breviary of the Mar Thoma Church
in Malabar). According to the Syriac
version of the Acts
of Thomas, Masdai, the local king at Mylapore,
after questioning the apostle condemned him to
death about the year A.D. 72.
Anxious to avoid popular excitement, “for many
had believed in our Lord, including some of the
nobles,”the king ordered Thomas conducted to a
nearby mountain, where, after being allowed to
pray, he was then stoned and stabbed to death
with a lance wielded by an angry Brahmin. A
persecution of Christians in Southern inida
followed and sixty-four families eventually fled
Apostle Thomas was martyred in Mylapore near
Madras. (Tradition calls this place Kalloor -
the place of rock) in Tamilnadu State, India.
Tamil word Mailapur (i.e. the town of
peacocks), which the Greeks rendered as
Maliarpha, the Portuguese as Meliapor,
and the English as Mylapore.
The traditional date of martyrdom is 19th of
December, 72 AD.
His followers took his body and buried him in
the tombs of the Chiefs.
The Church which stands over the cave at Little
Mount where St Thomas traditionally known to
have hid himself from his murderers
The inscription in a marble tablet at the
entrance to the cave reads as follows:
“The cave where lay hid persecuted just before
being martyred by RAJA MAHADEVAN, king of
Mylapore, A.D. 68, THOMAS one of the twelve, the
great Apostle of India, the very one who put his
finger into the wounds of his Lord and God”
[Diagram of the graveyard of St. Thomas - 16 ft
deep when digged first]
The Church on St. Thomas Mount, which was built
by the Portuguese in 1523 and extended in 1547.
Coja Safar, an Armenian, extended it further in
The Marthoma Cross which is on the main altar,
in the Church on St. Thomas Mount.
Church in St. Thomas Mount, Mylapore, Chennai
The Gothic Cathedral built in
tomb is found inside this church
"it was found
to contain the among other Relics, the piece of
spear, a small piece of the Apostle's bone. This
is all that the Cathedral possess"
Shrine of Saint Thomas in Meliapore,
18th century print.
Original tomb of Apostle Thomas in Mylapore.
Tomb in 1900
Piece of a hand
Bone of St. Thomas which touched the wound of
Jesus, it was brought from Edessa and preserved
in the Milapore St. Thomas Museum
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.
A merchant from Edessa in Syria who visited that
region exhumed his body and took it to Syria.
In 232 the relics of the Apostle Thomas are
said to have been returned by an Indian king and
brought from India to the city of Edessa,
Mesopotamia, on which
occasion his Syriac Acts were
written. The Indian king is named as "Mazdai" in
Syriac sources, "Misdeos" and "Misdeus" in Greek
and Latin sources respectively, which has been
connected to the "Bazdeo" on the Kushan coinage
in tall helmet, holding a scepter, and making an
offering over an altar. Legend in Kushan
language and Greek script (with the Kushan
("Shaonanoshao Bazodeo Koshano"): "King of
kings, Vasudeva the Kushan".
(oesho), a conflation of Zoroastrian Vayu and
holding a trisula scepter,
with the bull Nandi.
Monogram (tamgha) to the left.
He is reported to have been converted to
Hinduism during his reign . It must
have been Saivism an early form of Christianity.
The martyrologist Rabban
a special day to both the Indian king, his
family, and St Thomas:
Thomae apostoli et Misdeus rex Indiae, Johannes
eus filius huisque mater Tertia" ("Coronation
of Thomas the Apostole, and Misdeus king of
India, together with his son Johannes (thought
to be a latinization of Vizan)
and his mother Tertia") Rabban Sliba (Mario
Bussagli, "L'Art du Gandhara", p255)
Ephrem's works note that the bones of St. Thomas
were venerated there in his time. The great
hymnodist alludes to the transferral of the
bones in his Carmina Nisibena
(42:1.1-2.2, Kathleen McVey, Ephrem the
Syrian, Paulist Press, 1989, p. 25):
one wails, "Where then
can I flee from the righteous?
I incited Death to kill the apostles
as if to escape from their scourges
by their death. More than ever now
I am scourged harshly. The apostle I killed in
to Edessa before me. Here is he and also there.
I went there, there he is.
Here and there I found him, and I am gloomy.
Did that merchant carry the bones?
Or perhaps, indeed, they carried him!
Nestorian bishop of Basrah, at the mouth of the
Tigris-Euphrates, wrote the Book of the Bee
in the thirteenth century which states:
“Thomas was from Jerusalem of the tribe of
Judah. He taught the Parthians, Medes and
Indians; and because he baptized the daughter of
the King of the Indians, he stabbed him with a
spear and he died. Habban the merchant brought
his body and laid it in Edessa, the blessed city
of Christ our Lord. Others say he was buried in
Mahluph [Mylapore], a city in the land of the
His relics were moved from Edessa. The Edessene
Chronicle says that in 394 "the casket of the
Apostle Thomas was removed to the great church
erected in his honor."
Muslims captured Edessa in 1142, at which the
Christians took the relics to the isle of Chios
in the Aegean Sea, where they remained for more
than a century.
In 1258 the prince of Taranto raided Chios and
sent the relics to Ortona, Italy, where they
were installed in the cathedral. In 1952
Cardinal Tisserant arranged to have sent to
Cranganore a thigh bone in 1952, on 19th
centenary celebration the arrival of Thomas
After a short stay in the Greek island of Chios,
on September 6, 1258, the relics were
transported to the West, and now rest in Ortona,
St.Thomas Apostle Basilica in Ortona, Italy
The golden copper urn in the Basilica St. Thomas
Ortona's great cathedral has the privilege of
housing the bones of St Thomas Apostle, which
arrived in Ortona on September 6, 1258, a booty
taken by captain Leone degli Acciaioli when the
island of Chio was sacked.