Big Mount Thomas
Chennai, India


Entrance to "Big Mount Thomas"

Saint Thomas, The Apostle of India

It is part of Indian history that Saint Thomas lived in India's Malabar and Coromandel Coasts for nearly 20 years. Year 52 AD he, according to tradition, landed in Muziris, modern-day North Paravur and Kodungallore in Kerala state. Muziris was an ancient seaport at the Malabar coast and an urban center in south-western India, that existed from around 1st century. By preaching the words of Christ to jewish settlers and locals, he baptized and won several converts today known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis.
He built churches at places like: Palayur, Quilon. Chatil, Cranganur, Parur, Niranom, Kottamangalam. Thereafter he crossed the Western Ghats to the Coromandel Coast. At Little Mount Thomas in Chennai, former called Madras, he lived in a cave for many years. At Big St. Thomas Mount,
72 AD, while praying before the granite cross carved by Thomas himself, he was pierced to death and became a martyr, dying embracing the cross. He was buried at the site of Saint Thome Basilika, at the Marina Beach of Chennai.

In December 18th, 1955, the first president of the republic of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad spoke on the Celebrations of St. Thomas Day in New Delhi:
"Remember, St. Tomas came to India when many of the countries of Europe had not yet become Christian, and so those Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history than many of the European countries. And it is really a matter of pride that it so happened."

In the 16th century, the Portuguese were told of the burial place of the Apostle Thomas, by the natives and others and were taken there by Armenian merchants in the year 1517. From that year onwards, the Portuguese bean to settle down in Mylapore. In a few years, they discovered many other places and monuments in the vicinity of Mylapore, such as the Big Mount and the Little Mount. In 1523 they excavated the tomb and found a few relics therein. No other place has put forward a serious claim of possessing the grave of the Apostle.

St. Thomas in India

Christians reached India during the first century dated from the birth of Jesus Christ. There is strong evidence that one of Jesus' apostles, Thomas reached India in 52 AD, only 20 years after the crucifixion of Christ.
Thomas settled in Malabar and later expanded his missionary work to China.

Three places related to St. Thomas in Chennai

It is widely believed that Thomas was martyred in Tamil Nadu on his return to India in 72 AD. According to legend, he is buried on Little Mount Thomas in Mylapore, a suburb south west of the city center of modern Chennai, formerly known as Madras.
Big Mount Thomas, is a small rocky hill just north of Chennai airport. It takes its name from Sct. Thomas and it was here an enemy stabbed Thomas in the back during prayer.
Sct. Thomas Basilika, is a church built in Portuguese style by the Thomas Christians. Still there is a strong community of believers in Sct. Thomas in the Chennai area.

Before he died at Mylapur, he erected a very large cross and predicted to the people that when the sea would advance to the very foot of that cross, God would send them, from a far distant land, white men who would preach to them the same doctrine he had taught them. This prophesy was verified when the Portuguese arrived in the region , and found the ocean had advanced so far as to be truly at the foot of the cross. At the foot of this cross was a rock where St. Thomas, while praying fevently, suffered his martyrdom by a blow from the lance of a pagan priest. This happened according to the Romas Breviary, at Calamine, whichis in fact Meliapur, for in the language of the people the word Calurmine means on the rock (mina). The name was given the site in memory of the Apostles martyrdom.

A serene and beautiful relic-filled church built by the Portuguese stands on top of this 300-foot hillock. Pope John Paul II visited St. Thomas Mount on February 5th 1986.


Miracles of Saint Thomas'

One of the first miracles that the Apostle performed is said to have been at the temple tank at Palayur where the Brahmins were having their "Snanam", their morning bath. Challenged by them to perform a miracle in the water, the saint is said o have taken some water in his cupped hands and thrown it into the air. A depression was found in the place from where the water was scooped out and the drops of water that stood in the air turned into flowers and fell back into the tank.

In the "Acts of Thomas", we also find good many incidents of miracles worked by the saint: The miracle concerning the serpent, the Colt, the Captain, the wild asses, the wife of Misdaeus and Vasan, son of Misdaeus.

When S. Francis Xavier landed in Kerala, he came across a very strong Christian population in India and wrote to St. Ignatius Loyola in Rome that he met many Christians in Kerala.

The Impressions at Little Mount

St. Thomas has left behind lasting impressions for generations after generations, of persons and stones, rocks, with his chisel and hammer and more so with impressions of his person, even blood itself, as we can see even today at Little Mount Cave, where he left his foot print, finger print and blood stains at the altar and at the rocks inside and outside the cave.

In Saint Thomas days Little Mount was a jungle of trees and scrubs. Thomas was ever in danger of loosing his life and sought refuge in the cave at Little Mount. Still the cave can be seen. It is about 14 feet broad and 15-16 feet long and 7 feet in its greatest height. One enters with some difficulty through a crevice in the rock. The crevice is about 5 feet height and a little more that 1 1/2 foot broad.



Saint Thomas at the beginning of "Via Dolerosa"

"Via Dolerosa" inspired by the road to Golgata in Jerusalem.

"Via Dolerosa" depicting the sufferings of Jesus Christ before the crucifiction.

Mother Mary and the infant child Jesus

The life-size statues of station of the cross.
Text on the monument: "This is a holy place, please keep silent, place for prayer."

The imposing calvary overlooking the city of Madras, built on the hallowed spot of the martyrdom of the apostle by his grace Archbishop Louis Mathias in 1963.
"Big Mount Thomas" is situated very near to Chennai International Airport.


Many school children is visiting the holy place every year.

Sign telling about the specialities of this revered place

This church dedicated to our lady of expectation, is built by the Portuguese in 1547 A.D. The prayerhall is built 1523 A.D.

The church enshrines:

1. Relic: A piece of the bone of St. Thomas, the Apostle
2. The bleeding Cross: While praying before it, St. Thomas was martyred and it was stained with his blood. His cross was discovered in 16th century when digging the foundation of the church. It used to sweat blood on the 18th of Deember, every year from 1551 to 1704.
3. Miraculous picture of our Lady: Painted by St. Luke and brought by St. Thomas.
4. Fourteen ancient paintings of Jesus Christ, St. Paul and Jesus' twelve apostles.



The Bible has not passed down any information concerning the whereabouts, early life or the parents of St. Thomas and he is known as the silent leader of the apostles.
Christianity has a strong foundation in India which is pawed by the Apostle Saint Thomas.


Saint Thomas Church entrance.
The church. dedicated to our lady of expectation,
is built by the Portuguese in 1547 A.D.

Inside the church

Sermon in progress.
A relic in form a cross with St. Thomas bone fragment is seen to the left of the altar.
Old painting with the martyrdom of St. Thomas is seen on top of the altar.
The Bleeding Cross, according to tradition, carved by St. Thomas himself.

Altar with the "Bleeding Cross" carved by St. Thomas himself and
the very old painting depicting the stabbing of Thomas

The stabbing of Thomas


The "Bleeding Cross"

The "Bleeding Cross" is according to tradition carved by St. Thomas himself. While praying before it, he was martyred and it was stained with his blood. This cross was discovered in 16th century when digging the foundation of the church. It used to sweat blood on the 18th of December, known as St. Thomas Day, every year from 1551 to 1704.
A similar but simpler cross is found on Little Mount Thomas near the miraculous water spring at St. Thomas pulpit where he used to preach.

The Bleeding Cross


A piece of St. Thomas bone


Relic with a piece of Saint Thomas' bone

Close up of relic with Saint Thomas' bone

Jesus Christ, a side altar for personal worship


Saint Paul, the promoter of Christianity
throughout the world


One of the fourteen ancient paintings of Jesus Christ, St. Paul and Jesus' twelve apostles.


Links to websites on Saint Thomas - the official website of the Thomas Basilika - the website of the Thomas Christians



Other pages on Early Christianity in Kashmir, India on this website:

Rozabal, Srinagar  - The tomb of Christ?
Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar - Was Jesus Christ here?
The rod of Jesus Christ at Aish-Muquam?
The tomb of Moses? - Aham Sharif, Bandipur  ►  created by BP