Etymology of St. Thomas Mount
The ancient history of the place dates back to the medieval period of Ramayana, when an ancient sage named Bringi Rishi was doing penance from a hill nearby to the city. He resided on that hill for several years, which in turn got the hill its name as Bringi Malai. The name was later changed to Parangi Malai which is currently known as the St.Thomas Mount.
Legend of St. Thomas Mount
According to legends, it is said that St. Thomas, who was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ travelled to India after the crucifixion of Christ, to spread Christianity and the word of God to the people of India. St. Thomas Mount is known to be the historic legendary place where Saint Thomas had been martyred, shot by his assailants with a bow and arrow. He clutched onto a stone cross while bleeding on it during his death. It became popular as the Bleeding Cross as it has bloodstains, which resurfaces still after being scratched off. It is also supposed to bleed afresh on a periodical basis. The first time the cross bled openly was in front of public during Mass in 1558 and the last record of its bleeding was in the year 1704.
To commemorate this, the Portuguese built the shrine of Mother Mary where the bleeding cross was hung in the altar wall. This small relic filled church was built in 1523 and houses the reputed oil painting of the Madonna by St. Luke, the Evangelist, which was brought to India by Thomas. The Little Mount on the St. Thomas hillock is reputed to have been the hermitage of St. Thomas, which was a humble cave in the hillside. To the east of the cave, an opening stands, supposedly that of a tunnel through which the Apostle fled from his assailants to St. Thomas Mount. Most people believe that the opening had been miraculously made and through that St. Thomas escaped from his enemies who waited in front of the entrance. Near the tunnel's entrance, an impression of a palm print is displayed on the rock. Devotees believe that the hand and footprint at the foot of the hillock, to be those of St. Thomas. He had been in the cave when he was attacked, escaping to the hill where he met his death. Thus acknowledging the importance of the holy site to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II visited this site of pilgrimage on 5th February, 1986, during his visit to India.
Shrines of St. Thomas Mount
Consecrated to Our Lady of Expectation or Mother Mary, in the year 1523, a shrine was made on the peak of the mount. It is thought that the altar of the shrine was constructed on the place where St. Thomas was martyred in AD 72. At the north base of the St. Thomas Mount, there is an entrance of four remarkable curves. A cross, which was built in 1547, surmounts these curves. It takes a flight of 160 steps to reach the top of the St Thomas Mount. There are 14 Stations of the Cross set up en route to the summit. Bordering the church, there is the Holy Apostles Convent, which is handled by the saints of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) order. It is an abode for the physically and mentally challenged children controlled by the convent nuns.
The name of St. Thomas Mount is linked with other important things in India. In the year 1972, to venerate the 19th centenary of the martyrdom, the Post and Telegraphs department of the Government of India, brought out a postage stamp describing the image of the blood strewn cross of St. Thomas Mount. Initially, in the year 1964, another stamp was being brought out by the same postal system which depicted the Ortona silver bust of St. Thomas located in Italy.
Visiting Information on St. Thomas Mount
The Chennai Central Railway station is at a distance of almost 18 km from the mount while the Chennai International Airport is the closest at a mere distance of 10 km.
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