San Thome Cathedral is majestic, historic and tranquil, a place to marvel at European-inspired architecture and discover the life of a martyred disciple. Portuguese pioneers established the cathedral during the 16th century. In the 1890s British colonists redeveloped the cathedral using the neo-Gothic designs favoured by 19th-century architects from Great Britain. Visit this cathedral which commemorates St. Thomas, who was one of Jesus’ 12 apostles.
Marvel at the cathedral’s photogenic whitewashed façade, characterized by pointed spires, pinnacles and arched windows. Gaze up at the 183-foot-tall (56-metre) main spire, added by the British in 1894. Walk around the outside of the cathedral and note the impressive two-level Gothic colonnades.
Step inside to see a peaceful nave framed by large archways. Look for the crypt of St. Thomas, which contains bone fragments of the apostle’s body. St. Thomas is said to have introduced Christianity to India and received martyrdom at nearby St. Thomas Mount in the 1st century A.D. Check out the colourful stained-glass windows, one of which depicts a meeting between St. Thomas and Christ. Don’t miss the statue of Our Lady of Mylapore.
Go to the cathedral’s small museum to learn more about the life of St. Thomas. A major highlight is a spearhead that allegedly killed him. Investigate the displays of inscribed stones and postage stamps released in his honour.
The cathedral is in the Santhome district of the Mylapore neighbourhood. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Chennai’s city centre. Getting here is easy via auto-rickshaws, taxis and trains. Thirumayilai MRTS Station is a 20-minute walk away. While here, explore Santhome, a district established by the Portuguese and set on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. Also nearby is Kapalishvara Temple, a magnificent example of Dravidian architecture.
San Thome Cathedral is open daily and admission is free. A mass service in English takes place on a daily basis. Find full details on the cathedral’s official website. This is an active place of worship so dress appropriately when visiting.