(Last Updated on : 21/08/2010)
There are numerous churches in Chennai and its surrounding areas. Here, some of them are discussed:
Santhome Cathedral Basilica
Santhome Church is associated with the apostle doubting Thomas. He came here to spread Christianity when this area was known as Mylapore. He used to preach on the sands of old Mylapore which is now devoured by the sea. He escaped from his enemies and took shelter in a cave near Saidapet about 6 km away from Mylapore on the banks of river Adyar, called Little Mount.
He moved further to a hill now called St.Thomas Mount where he was killed in 72 AD. Later on, a church was built over it. But, the church was shifted to many places at various times and the latest was made into a basilica. The church is a splendid building built in Gothic style with beautiful stained glass windows portraying the stay of St. Thomas.
The central hall of the church has 14 wooden inscriptions, which depict scenes from the last days of Christ. There is a three feet high statue of Virgin Mary in this church, which is believed to have been brought from Portugal in 1541. In this church, a small hand bone of St. Thomas and the head of a lance are kept as sacred relics.
St. Mary's Church
This church of Chennai is said to be the first Anglican Church built inside the Fort St.George.
This is the church first church built in British India in 1642 AD. It is said to be the church of Our 'Lady of Assumption'. Now, it can be seen on Portuguese Church Street in northern George Town.
Church of St. Mary of the Angels
This is a Catholic church, which was built with the permission of the East India Company. This church was constructed on the site of a Portuguese cemetery in 1755. The inscriptions of 1642 are still preserved at the cathedral's entrance here. The beautiful oil paintings of the crucifixion and Mary Magdalane can also be found here. It is popularly known as St. Antony's Church.
St. Mary's Armenian Church
This church was built in 1772 on the site of the old Armenian cemetery. The church has a courtyard garden and gleaming pews, which are preserved nicely. The biggest bells in Chennai can be found in this church.
St. George's Cathedral church
This is an Anglican church, which was built in and sanctified in 1816. The spire of this church is 140 feet high and it was earlier regarded as a grand majestic monument. It had broad green lushy open space on Amna Salai near the Gemini Circle in those days but now, the church has lost its panoramic appearance.
This church is situated in Mylapore on the Luz Church Road. It is said to be the oldest church construction still surviving here near Chennai. This church is popularly known as 'Kaattu Koil', which means forest temple in Tamil. It is because there was a thick jungle around it in those days.
A legend lies behind the construction of this church. It is said that some Portuguese sailors in danger on the sea were guided by a divine light to safety. They saw the light glowing after they landed on the beach. They followed it till it disappeared. Then, they built the Luz Church on the spot and dedicated it to 'Our Lady of Light'. An inscription bearing the date 1516 can be seen in this church.
St. Andrews church
This church was built by the Scots on the Poonamallee High Road (now Periyar E.VR. Salai) and sanctified it in 1821. The church looks very impressive near the Egmore Railway Station. Its dome is unique and the marble floored passageways look magnificent.
Little Mount Church
This church lies halfway between Santhome and St. Thomas Mount. When St. Thomas was chased by enemies, he took shelter here. In Tamil, it is called Chinna Malai. Two churches can be seen here, the new one built half way up the hill in 1971 was dedicated to Our Lady of Health.
The Portuguese built another church earlier in 1551. It is the Sacrament Chapel still in existence, connected to the new church. The old church is a cave in which St. Thomas was hiding and doing prayers and penance. There is an opening to the east of the cave with a palm print nearby. As per the legends, this narrow opening was the portals of a tunnel through which St. Thomas escaped to St.Thomas Mount and the palm print is the hand print of St.Thomas.
There is a cross cut into the rock, which is believed to be the cross before which St. Thomas prayed. A spring falls nearby, which St. Thomas is supposed to have struck to quench the thirst of his followers. The water of it is said to have curative powers even today. Every year on the fourth Saturday and Sunday after Easter, the Little Mount festival is celebrated and thousands of devotees gather on these days.
St. Thomas Mount Church
This church lies on a 300 feet hill called 'Parangi Malai' in Tamil. It is said that the Portuguese had rebuilt a church here at the behest of King Emanuel. It was originally a chapel of the Nestorian Missionary. St. Thomas is said to have been speared to death in this mount. The miracle here is the 'The Bleeding Cross'.
According to the Hearsay tradition, it is said that it was chiseled by St. Thomas himself. It first bled publicly during May in 1558 and is said to have bled periodically since then. A painting of Virgin Mary and child Christ can be seen in this church, which is supposed to have been painted by St. Luke and brought to India by St. Thomas.