Neil's Website | Ajit's Website



AD 72

Apostle St. Thomas martyred

Thomas next proceeded overland to the Coromandel coast and 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 to Kerala


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 1707.



The Marthoma Cross which is on the main altar, in the Church on St. Thomas Mount.



The Church in St. Thomas Mount, Mylapore, Chennai The Gothic Cathedral  built in 1893.
The 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. Thomas Museum


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 of Vasudeva I.



Obv: Vasudeva in tall helmet, holding a scepter, and making an offering over an altar. Legend in Kushan language and Greek script (with the Kushan letter Ϸ "sh"): ϷΑΟΝΑΝΟϷΑΟ ΒΑΖΟΔΗΟ ΚΟϷΑΝΟ ("Shaonanoshao Bazodeo Koshano"): "King of kings, Vasudeva the Kushan".
Rev: ΟΗ
ϷΟ (oesho), a conflation of Zoroastrian Vayu and Hindu Shiva, 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 Sliba dedicated a special day to both the Indian king, his family, and St Thomas:

"Coronatio 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)

St. 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):

The evil 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 India
[has come] 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!

A 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 Indians.”

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 there.

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, Italy.

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.