Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Portuguese St. Thomas Church and bleeding Cross, Chennai

St Thomas mount church (1523), Chennai. bleeding cross. www.ricci.usfca.edu
Christianity is not new to India and had been here, in particular in the southern India before the arrival of Europeans beginning with the Portuguese in 1498. 

In 1523, for the first time  the Portuguese  established a small shrine of Mother Mary,  a relic-filled place of worship on the summit of  the 300 foot high hillock of what is now called St. Thomas Mount (in Tamil Parangi Malai), a  busy suburb of Chennai city (Madras), close to the historical Guindy Racecourse. 

Legend has it that St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, traveled to India after the crucifixion of Jesus, bringing the gospel to the people of India in 52 AD. He landed on the coastal Malabar of Kerala and established seven and a half churches. After that, he wandered around many  places to spread Christianity among the natives.  It is believed that he visited this place - Parangi Malai, settled here to  spread the Gospel of  Christian love and  at last chose to live  in a small cave like place like a hermit.  As usual, he was  friendly with the local people and had been busy with his missionary work. While living here,  unfortunately, he was killed by some assailants for an unknown reason and it is said  that he breathed his last clutching a stone cross while bleeding. According to another version, he was killed in a hunting accident. His death is a controversial one.
St.Thomas Mt. church, Chennai. Church'
The cross was built into the altar of the church after confirmation of instances of bleeding first reported in 1704  by a priest and it  has remained here since  then. The shrine  atop the hillock is a legendary place of veneration and an oil lamp is continuously burning here in memory of St. Thomas. This church is in possession of  a  valuable painting  that was brought to India by the great  saint himself. It is that of the Madonna, one of the seven paintings  believed to have been painted by the apostle St. Luke.  It is considered to be the oldest Christian painting in India!!
Interior, St.Thomas Mount, Chennai (1523). churchwilliam.blogspot.in
Acknowledging the sanctity and divinity  associated with this shrine - the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to “Our Lady of Expectation”, Pope John Paul II  graced this holy  site on  5 February  1986, during his visit to India. This church on the summit can be accessed by a flight of 160 steps  and one  Petrus Woskan, an Armenian merchant, built the path way with granite steps to make the climbing easy for the visiting  pilgrims. At the northern foot of the Mount stands a gateway with four beautiful  arches  and  a cross bearing the inscribed date 1547. This suburb is named after St. Thomas in a fitting memory to the  great saint.
St Thomas Mount church, way to to church.ntweblog.blogspot.com
The ancient Syrian Christian community of India, originally confined to Kerala owes the origin of their church to St. Thomas.  St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic church is also on the mountain. This place in the 17 th century and later was  inhabited  by Anglo-Indians community and there is the  St. Thomas Garrison Church (built in 1880) located at the bottom of St Thomas Mount.
New World Encyclopedia
 The Festival of Our Lady of Expectation is celebrated on December 18th every year on  a grand scale with religious fervor  by the Christian community and also by the Hindus living in this area.  Saint Thomas day -  July 3, commemorates his martyrdom on this  hillock.

This place is well accessed by highways and  by the Chennai Suburban Railway net work.

Tit-Bits: 

01. The Government of India Department of Post and Telegraphs in 1972 released a postage stamp, depicting the picture of the bleeding cross of St. Thomas Mount to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the saint's martyrdom. 

02. In 1964, the Post and Telegraph department of India had released a stamp, depicting the Ortona silver bust of St. Thomas located in Italy.

Ref:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/St._Thomas_Mount

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Thomas_Mount