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St. Thomas the Apostle, the Apostle of India.

Most people know him from the single episode in the upper room after Our Lord’s resurrection (John 20) when he at first refused to believe without seeing.  And if you refer to “Doubting Thomas” everyone will know whom you mean.  But when you take a look at his whole life and his martyr’s death, it would be more accurate if we called him “Trusting Thomas.”  Sent out with all of the Apostles to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, Thomas evangelized in Syria and Persia before making his way down the ancient trade route to India, where he was eventually martyred.“is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any insecurity; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.”

 (Ezhara Pallikal)Seven and Half ancient Churches (AD 52) established by St. Thomas in Kerala

The locations of the seven churches have been identified from the chapter on St. Thomas in the Ramban Pattu, which also sketches his travels during the 1st century.  What exists now of this text, is the reproduction made by the 48th priest of Maliekkal family.
It mentions the arrival of St. Thomas at Malayattoor, his baptizing of 220 persons, and then his tour to Palayoor, Malyankara, Kottakkal, Gokkamangalam and Kollam. He stayed at these places for a year, established churches, and then reached Chayal Mala. The churches were set up close to places on navigable trade routes. Subsequently, Christians stayed in groups and established markets in these places.


The Ramban Pattu also says that St.Thomas reached Kodungalloor by ship along with Haban and met the Chola King. The plot of the Ramban Pattu consists of his establishing the churches in Kollam, Niranam, Chayal, Palayoor, Kodungalloor, and Paravur and then moving to Mylapore where he was killed and his soul ascending to heaven escorted by angels.  The churches he established, the hillocks where he offered prayers, and his tomb, are being considered sacred places.


The churches were built at Maliankara in Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal, Kokkamangalam, Kottakavu, Palayoor and Thiruvithamkode which are located in the present-day Kanyakumari.


 

Ezharappallikal or The Seven And Half Churches

 

Christianity,  one of the major religions of the world  is  monotheistic (believing in the existence of a single God) and  its very basis is  the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Messiah who is considered to be the son of God.  Having its roots in the  Mediterranean coast of the Middle East (modern Israel and Palestine), this religion is  ubiquitous, present almost in all countries. Christianity, as a matter of fact, began as a Jewish sect in the middle of the first century and,  believes in  the doctrine of Trinity implying   the belief  one god consisting of three persons: the Father, the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit.  The holy book of Christianity is the Bible which consists of the Old Testament (close to the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament (scriptures).  Though there are minor differences in the interpretation of the Bible among various denominations, the true Christian faith believes in leading the life  through the path of love and tolerance. It teaches the people  to be good and compassionate.


Gospels deal with the life of Christ and the religion is centered on the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. It is believed, that "Jesus sacrificed his life as a ransom for many". Four books about the life of Jesus became New Testament and the Christian theologians rely heavily on the Gospels.

Christianity  slowly spread to Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Egypt. Over a few decades, this religion gained enormous popularity and it became dominant by the 4th century.  Missionary work and colonization, led to the spread of Christianity to Indian sub continent, America, Australasia, Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world. The Christian preachers' work, as taught by Christ's teachings, centered around the ideology of  serving others;  Christians established health centers, churches, educational establishments, orphanages and shelters for the homeless. Jesus  had 12 disciples or Apostles who were responsible for taking the Gospels across the globe to preach Christianity. St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ arrived in India in AD 52 and reached  the western Malabar  coast to spread Christianity among the natives

The misconception that Christianity was introduced to India after the arrival of  Europeans towards the end of 1400s still persists. It was in AD 52 the Apostle St. Thomas  brought Christianity to India and as part of his zealous missionary work he established Seven and Half Churches (in Malayalam: Ezharappallikal) that is actually Eight Churches across the western coast (coastal Malabar) of India in the land now called Kerala. St. Thomas arrived in Kodungallur and established the Eight Churches and evangelized in present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Many of these churches came up  near Jewish settlements where Jewish community had been living there for some time engaged in trades. These were  01. Ezharappallikal at Maliankara (Kodungallur), 02. Kollam, 03. Niranam,  04. Nilackal (Chayal),  05. Kokkamangalam,  06. Kottakkayal (Paravoor or Kottakkavu), 07. Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and  08 Thiruvithamkode (Kanyakumari).   Among them the one at Maliankara is considered as first church. The Church  near  Kanyakumari was a  small one, Arappally means Half Church.

St. Thomas lived in India for 17 years: 4 years in Sindh (now in Pakistan), about 6 years in Malabar Coast and 7 years at Mylapore in Tamil Nadu where he was martyred. His Mortal remains are in St.Thome Church in Mylapore, Chennai. The Indian Postal Service of the Government of India brought out two commemorative stamps, in 1964 and 1973, in honor of the historic arrival of St. Thomas in India in 52 AD.

Doubting Thomas

Thomas the Apostle ( Didymus) A doubting Thomas is a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience — a reference to the Gospel of John's depiction of the Apostle Thomas, who, in John's account, refused to believe the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles until he could see and feel Jesus's crucifixion wounds.

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Saint Thomas Christians

According to Syrian Christian tradition, Thomas was killed with a spear at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai on 3 July in AD 72, and his body was interred in Mylapore.

 Doubting Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the other apostles, saying, "Except I shall see on his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." But when Jesus appeared later and invited Thomas to touch his wounds and behold him, Thomas showed his belief by saying, "My lord and my God". Jesus then said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Fortaleza da São Tomé

The Fortaleza da São Tomé, also known as Cranganore Fort or Kottapuram Fort, is situated in Kodungallur of Thrissur District in Kerala, India.[2] It was of 18 feet in thickness and was made of laterite. The stone fort was built by the Portuguese in 1523 and was named after Thomas the Apostle.[3] The fort was enlarged in 1565 and passed into the hands of the Dutch in 1663, who destroyed the fort.[4][5]

Kottapuram Fort was an important part of the Nedumkotta fort built by Travancore under the leadership of Eustachius Benedictus de Lenoy to defend against Tipu Sultan.

According to traditional accounts, Thomas is believed to have left northwest India when an attack threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar Coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra en route, and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor) (c. AD 50) in the company of a Jewish merchant Abbanes/Habban (Schonfield, 1984,125). From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast. The various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. In accordance with apostolic custom, Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malankara Church.

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Church of Saint Thomas, Mosul

 

The church is dedicated to Saint Thomas the Apostle and is believed to have been constructed on the site of the house that the saint resided in during his stay in Mosul, The church is first mentioned in 770 as part of a grievance to Caliph Al-Mahdi. The current structure suggests it was built in the 13th century. The church was damaged during Shahanshah Nader Shah's siege of Mosul as part of the Ottoman–Persian War of 1743–1746, and was subsequently renovated in 1744 by Cyril George, metropolitan bishop of Hattakh, with the permission of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud ,It was later renovated again in 1848]

 

The Mar Touma Syriac-Orthodox church in Mosul 

Legend has it that the Mar Touma Syriac-Orthodox church in Mosul was built on the site of the house where Saint Thomas was offered hospitality on his journey to India.The building, which is today found in the heart of the old city, was originally located outside of the walls of Mosul, built in 640. Its history is a complex one, as it was built in successive phases over the 7th, 18thand 14thcenturies.

More than a mere church, it is a complex five-nave architectural ensemble composed of two, or possibly even three, parallel churches, separated by arches with octagonal columns.

This tripartite architectural ensemble finds continuity and unity in form of the sanctuary which spans the north to the south with no separations. A total of eight royal doors separate the five-nave sanctuary.

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The Malankara Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on three days, 3 July (in memory of the relic translation to Edessa), 18 December (the Day he was lanced), and 21 December (when he died)

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Saint Thomas Christians

The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians of India, Marthoma Suriyani Nasrani, Malankara Nasrani, or Nasrani Mappila

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC)also known as the Indian Orthodox Church (IOC)or simply as the Malankara Church,is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church headquartered in Devalokam, near KottayamIndia.

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H.H. Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, The Ninth Catholicos of the East in Malankara (2021-Present)

His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews III was enthroned as the Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan (the Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India) on Friday, 15th October 2021. His Holiness is the 92nd Primate on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas.
His Holiness was born on 12 February 1949 to Mr Cherian Anthrayos of Mattathil family, being a member of St Peters Church, Vazhoor. After his school education, he joined Kerala University and passed his BSc Chemistry. After his BSc, he joined Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam, and had his GST degree. His Holiness took his BD degree from the Serampore University and did his higher studies in Theology at Theological Academy, Leningrad, Russia. Thereupon he joined Oriental Institute, Rome, and took his MTh and PhD from there. His Holiness was ordained a deacon in 1976 and a priest in 1978 by HH Baselios Mathews I. His Holiness was escalated to the post of an Episcopa on 30 April 1991 at a function at Parumala, and metropolitan in 1993. He is a well-known teacher and a faculty member of the Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam. A philanthropist, he works relentlessly for the uplift of the poor, especially women. He has started many ventures to help give employment opportunities to women from the economically backward classes. His Holiness was also served the Holy Episcopal Synod as its secretary.
His Holiness has authored a few devotional and contemplative books in Malayalam.

St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church – Niranam

 

Niranam Pally is one of the oldest churches in India. It is believed that the church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, in AD 54. The church was reconstructed several times since then. The stones in the church shows the reconstruction in 1259. St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ landed at Malankara near Cranganore around A.D.52. 

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According to traditional accounts of the Saint Thomas Christians of India, the Apostle Thomas landed in Muziris (Cranganore) on the Kerala coast in AD 52 and was martyred in Mylapore, near Madras in AD 72.The port was destroyed in 1341 by a massive flood that realigned the coasts. He is believed by the Saint Thomas Christian tradition to have established seven churches (communities) in Kerala.

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Nilakkal Church

Nilackal St. Thomas Ecumenical Church

According to Ramban Pattu St.Thomas lived in Nilakkal for a year. Nilakkal is known as Chayal in certain documents. This was once a prominent city and commercial centre. Even now there are trade routes from here to Tamil Nadu through Sabarimala. During the 6th century, people fearing dacoits, are believed to have fled to Kanjirapally, Ranni, Thumbamon, Vadasserikara, and Erumeli. Remnants of Christian churches have been found in the forests. The present church stands on the land allotted by the Government in 1976.

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Kokkamangalam Church

This is a Christian dominated area on the coast near Pallipuram in Cherthala. St. Thomas is believed to have lived here for a year and converted 1,600 persons to Christianity. Kesari Balakrishna Pillai in his book, Charithrathinte Adiverukal (The Roots of History) says that St. Thomas set up a church here.  Places near Kokkamangalam like Muttom, Pallipuram and Cherthala were some of the major centres of migration.

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St. Thomas Church, Kodungalloor

St. Thomas Church, also known as Marthoma Pontifical shrine.

St. Thomas the Apostle landed in Kodungalloor on November 21st, 52 C.E. Here, he built his first church and spread the message of faith and salvation across the State. The bone of the right arm of St. Thomas was brought from Ortona in Italy and enthroned in the present church. From then on, the shrine at Azhikode has been a great pilgrimage centre attracting thousands from all around the world, irrespective of caste and creed. Today, this site is a prominent pilgrimage centre for Christians around the world. 
 

Kollam Church

The Church established by St. Thomas is believed to have been destroyed due to sea erosion. It was probably the Christians who migrated from Persia who constructed the Theresa Church. It is believed that the church too was destroyed by sea erosion. Kollam was a port and trading centre known for the export of spices. Duarte Barbosa, who visited Kerala in 1514, has recorded the existence of a church set up by St. Thomas in Kollam. When Portuguese Governor, Albuquerque, reached Kollam in 1503, there were 2,000 St. Thomas Christian families there. When the Portuguese imposed on them Latin customs and conventions, they fled to Chathanoor and Adoor.

Kollam Church :The ruins of the second church are still visible in the sea during low tides. The name "Pallikallu" given to it by the local fishermen literally translates as "the stone of the great church".

Our Lady of Purification Church also known as the Port Kollam Church is a historic Roman Catholic church near Kollam Port in Kollam district of Kerala. According to ecclesiastical tradition the church was established by Thomas the Apostle in 52 CE along with six other churches in Kerala and these churches together are called Ēḻarappaḷḷikaḷ. 

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Kottakkavu Church

This place was known as Kottakayal or Pattamana Paravur. The church founded by St. Thomas was destroyed in the attack of Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. The church we see today at North Paravur is the one constructed in its place.

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Palayoor Church

Palayoor Mar Thoma Major Archiepiscopal Church

Chavakkad, a coastal village in Ponnani taluk, was the place St. Thomas last visited.  Palayoor was a Jewish settlement. The proof for this is the names of the places in the vicinity such as Yudakunnu and Yudakulam. The Jews migrated to Mala and Manjali from Palayoor.  In the 16th century, Father Fenichi, a priest constructed a church covering the original church and then demolished the original. This can be seen in the structure of the existing church.

Arappallikal - Church

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Thiruvithamkode

Thiruvithamcode St Marys Orthodox Church (Arapalli) or Thomayar Kovil, is located in Thiruvithamcode, Tamil Nadu, India, 30 km to the south of the Kerala state border. It is believed by the Christian communities in Kerala that the historic Thiruvithamcode Arappally, also called Amalagiri church as named by the Chera King Uthiyan Cheralathan, was built by St. Thomas, known as the Apostle of India, in AD 52.AD

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Malayattoor

St. Thomas is believed to have returned to Malankara coast via Malayatur where he establishes ‘the half church’ (a small Christian community dependent on the Church of Maliamkara). Oral tradition says that while travelling through Malayattor, faced with hostile natives, he fled to the hilltop where he said to have remained in prayer and that he left his footprint on one of the rocks. According to beliefs, during prayer, he touched a rock, upon which blood poured from it

The pilgrimage to Malayattoor

One of the famous pilgrim centres in Kerala, Malayattoor is located on the slopes of the picturesque Western Ghats, 52 kms from Kochi beside the Periyar River. 'Malayattoor' literally means the meeting place of land, mountain and river. It is the first pilgrim centre in India to be accorded international status by the Holy See, the official seat of the Vatican. It is also the largest pilgrim centre in the name of St. Thomas in India. Thousands of pilgrims of all castes and creed undertake the pilgrimage to St. Thomas church, located on top of the hillock Kurishumudi (hill of the holy cross) during the annual festival -Malayattoor Perunnal held in March/April, 8 days after Easter. 
There are two churches in Malayattoor dedicated to St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ - one on top of the hillock (Kurishumudi) and the other below. Malayattoor St. Thomas Parish Church or Thazathe Palli (the church below) was built in AD 900.

The church facade has the traditional Roman architecture but the altar is typically Greek in style. Behind the central altar there are carved designs and paintings including the five stations of joyful mysteries of Lord Jesus Christ. The church divided into three wings have separate facilities for confession and adoration. There is an ancient baptismal pond and a traditional pulpit which are of historical relevance. 

The pilgrimage to Malayattoor traces back its origin to the visit of the saint to Kerala in AD 52. It is believed that it was St. Thomas who brought Christianity to Kerala. According to the legends, when the saint first came to Malayatoor he had to face a very hostile reception and was forced to flee to the top of the mountain. There he prayed intensely for days together making sign of the cross on the rock. It is believed that Mother Mary appeared to console and strengthen him. Later at this spot on the rock, a golden cross was found. Thus the hillock came to be known as 'Ponnin Kurishumudi' (hill of the golden cross). Nearby the saints footprints and marks of his knees were also found on the rock.

Kurishumudi is located 2km south from Malayattoor St. Thomas Parish Church or Thazathe Palli. The church on top of Kurishumudi was built in 1893 over the golden cross, at 1269 feet above sea level and can be reached only on foot. 

Near the Golden cross, a little below there are the footprints (Kaalpadam) of the great saint embedded in the hard rock. The footprints are protected in a glass encasing. Pilgrims pray here to receive favours and miracle cures from the saint. Towards the east the ruins (a wall )of an ancient chapel (Aana Kuthiya Palli) still remains, but one can find the bearings of the tuskers who tried to demolish it when the place used to be surrounded by thick jungle.

This was the first building to be built on top of the hill in 1595. Now a new small shrine is erected in its place with the ruined wall of the ancient church protected in a glass encasing. A miraculous well situated near the ancient chapel is believed to be the spot from where St. Thomas quenched his thirst during his time of prayer. Legend says that the saint feeling thirsty, struck the rock from which fresh water started flowing. Pilgrims consider the water in the well to possess divine power to heal ailments. 

Located at the peak of the mount the Marthoma Mandapam, an attractive building carved in accordance with Greco-Indian architecture preserves the precious relics and a statue of St. Thomas. The building is erected in such a way that the relic is placed twenty steps above the ground which symbolizes the twenty years of St Thomas's missionary works in South India. Sannidhi, a spacious place for worship with a capacity to accommodate 10,000 people is located at the northern most part of the mount. Piyatha sculpture moulded at the top is the main attraction of Sannidhi. Marthoma Bhavan here was erected in 1972 to commemorate the 19th death anniversary of St. Thomas.

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