Monday, July 2, 2012

San Thome Basilica in Chennai

The Santhome church in Chennai.

The word Santhome or San Thome is derived from Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. South Indian Christian belief is that the apostle came to India in A.D.52, was martyred in A.D.72 at St.Thomas Mount in the City and was interred in Mylapore. A church was built over his tomb and this is known as the San Thome Basilica.

It is believed that it was St. Thomas who first brought Christianity to India. Certainly south India saw the establishment of the religion long before the European traders after Vasco da Gama began their proselytising activities in the subcontinent. There are only three basilicas in the world that are built over the tomb of an apostle, the other two are St. Peter's in Rome and St. Jame's in Spain.

Here is a picture of Jesus, with two peacocks, in San Thome Basilica.
This kind of Indian Christian iconography is quite common, especially in south Indian states. Garlands and peacocks will adorn statues, and Mary may appear in a Sari.

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