Unraveling a beautiful secret in Chennai – Santhome Church

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Tamil Nadu | 95

I have been to Chennai umpteen number of times – either on work or to meet someone or just as a transit city for a bigger destination elsewhere. Given the nature of my visits, I never really explored Chennai as a tourist. It frankly, never occurred to me as one . It just seemed like any other metropolitan city. Thanks to my journey on the Golden Chariot, I discovered one lovely secret of this city – Santhome Church. This church has remained a little elusive as people here take it for granted. It’s history and significance seems to be forgotten and for me, that precisely was the reason I enjoyed the church. In this blog post, I reveal all that I discovered about this lovely secret – Santhome Church.

Santhome Church, Chennai

Significance of Santhome Church

Santhome Church is also, known as St.Thomas Church. This church is significant not just for the history of Christianity in India but also, for the Christians worldwide. It is one of the three churches in the world that is built over the remains of a saint – St. Thomas in this case. The other two include St.Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. St.Thomas himself, is quite significant as he is one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and was considered to be a miracle saint. He came to India somewhere around 52 AD. While he landed in Kerala, he traveled through the South of India slowly spreading a new faith – Christianity. Eventually, he reached Chennai and they say, used to preach from the Mount of St.Thomas. It is here that he was struck dead and buried. They say, that his body still remains below the church and that definitely, make this monument a landmark one.

History of Santhome church

The Old Santhome Church before it was rebuilt

Around 16th century was when a proper church was built by the Portuguese over the grave of St. Thomas. The initial structure did not look like what is today. Over time, the church fell into disrepair until the British decided to reconstruct. Around the late 1800s, the current, white shining building was constructed and has remained since.

Exterior of the Santhome Church in Chennai

The beautiful spires of the Santhome church, Chennai

The sight of a gorgeous white church against the clear blue skies of Chennai had me completely spellbound. It is hard not to get impressed. The huge spires and the Gothic-style architecture is bound to make you look up again and again. The tall steeples have this lovely carved designs that appealed to the artist in me. I even loved the dome-shaped windows around the church.

The beautiful spires of the Santhome church, Chennai

The dome shaped windows of the Santhome Church, Chennai

I am sure that the white structure would look equally beautiful in the dark nights but sadly, for this visit I had be content with a day view. I had not had enough of the outside but did not have the patience to wait more. The only thought running through my head – “If the outside is so stunning, I wonder what awaits inside!”

The stained glass interiors of Santhome Church

And was I rewarded! Those very windows that I was admiring from the outside, were even more gorgeous from the inside. What was white and simple outside was as colorful and vibrant inside. The Altar was just so impressive with its bleeding Jesus statue and the backdrop of the colored glass.

The Inside of the Santhome Church, Chennai
Altar of Santhome Church

I loved the whole arched roof effect in brown wood within the church. As simple as it was, it helped lift the whole colored glass effect. The murals alongside the wall and the elegant colors of the windows just added so much of vibrance to the otherwise dark church. Scroll through the slide show below to know what I mean.

Stained glass windows of the Santhome Church, Chennai
Inside Santhome Church, Chennai
Inside Santhome Church
The stained glass windows of the Santhome Church
Stained glass windows of the Santhome Church, Chennai
Inside Santhome Church, Chennai
Inside Santhome Church
The stained glass windows of the Santhome Church
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Check out these seating arrangements. For one moment I thought it was for the dignitaries. However, that was not the case. It was for anyone who visited the church.

Some of the seating arrangements within the Santhome Church

There was something simple and yet elegant about the church interiors. And that is why I fell in love with this place.

The remains of St.Thomas

A glimpse of the remains of Saint Thomas near the Altar within the main church

Close to the altar, you can get a glimpse of the grave of St. Thomas. You can visit the same by exiting the church and heading to the little building behind it. Here you need to descend to the basement and pay your respects to the remains of St. Thomas. No photography is allowed here and I would urge people to respect the same as responsible tourists.

Museum at Santhome Church

Spend a few minutes at the museum that is within same building that leads you to the grave of St. Thomas. I found a few interesting exhibits here – like this relic of St.Thomas.

I also, found this picture depicting St.Thomas unblocking a river with his miracle. It is said that the log could not be removed by the strongest of men but he managed to do it by dragging it with his girdle. The King was pleased and granted him leave to build a church.

Bronze art depicting a scene from St.Thomas's life at the Santhome church

Santhome Church may not be the grandest of church but it is definitely an important one, especially if you are a huge heritage buff. It is also, a good example of how sometimes the simplest things are elegant and appeal. These two for me were the main draw and I sure was glad to have stumbled upon one of Chennai’s secret. So, the next time you plan to go to this metro city, you too, might want to unravel this secret by adding Santhome Church as one of the key places to visit in Chennai. Remember to pin for a reminder!


Getting here:

  • Chennai is one of the key metros in India and is very well-connected by road, rail and airways.
  • Santhome church is located in Mylapore and one can reach here either by bus, taxi or an auto rickshaw. It is quite central and finding transport should not be an issue from anywhere in Chennai.

Travel Tips:

  • Here is the official website of this church. The Mass timings are included here for those who are keen to attend one.
  • Shoes are not allowed inside the main church.
  • Please maintain silence when you visit the church
  • You can team your visit here with one to India’s longest beach – Marina Beach. The church is quite close to the same.

P.S: I visited this church as a part of the Golden Chariot tour, organized by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation .



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