January 3, 2010

The site where St. Thomas was killed - St. Thomas Mount, Chennai, India

There is a general belief that Christianity was brought to India by the European priests during the 16th century CE. However, only very few people know that some Indians embraced Christianity in the very beginning – in the 1st century CE itself. St. Thomas was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. He was perhaps the only Apostle who crossed Rome to preach Christianity. He was believed to have landed in Kodangallur town located in Kerala state of India in 52 CE. It is also believed that St. Thomas was killed in Chennai in Tamil Nadu state, India, and the St. Thomas Mount area in the outskirts of Chennai city and the popular hilltop church are associated with the history of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Mount, which is also called as "Parangi malai" by the locals of Chennai city, is a small hillock located in the outskirts of Chennai city. It is very near from Chennai airport (around 6 km). The word “Parangi” in Tamil language refers to “foreigner” (interestingly this word was originated from English word), and “malai” means “hill”.
As per the legend, St. Thomas, who was preaching Christianity in India, spent his last years in a cave in St. Thomas Mount. Someone who did not like his preaching of new religion in India assassinated him with a spear in 72 CE in this mountain. Because of him, this mountain got the name “St. Thomas”.

A church dedicated to “Our Lady of Expectation” (Mother Mary) was built by the Portuguese in 1523  CE on the top of this hill. It is believed that the altar of this church was built on the spot where St. Thomas was killed. At the northern foot of the mount, an impressive gateway with arches inscribed in 1547 CE would welcome you to the church. You can reach the church located at a height of 300 feet above the sea level by climbing around 135 steps. On the way, you can find the sight of fourteen statues (Stations of the Cross) which talk about the last day of Jesus Christ.

On the top of the hill, there is a Calvary, built in 1963 CE, which acts as the landmark of this mount. Near the Calvary, you can find a prayer hall and next to that the 16th century church dedicated to “Our Lady of Expectation” is located. The small church houses the holy stone cross which was believed to be carved by St. Thomas. When he was pierced to death his blood sprinkled on the Cross and the Cross was believed to be bleeding many times especially on 18th December. It was found bleeding publicly in 1558 CE, and it was bleeding till 1704 CE. The church also has the holy relic of St. Thomas. There is a painting of Mother Mary with child Jesus which was believed to be painted by St. Luke and was brought by St. Thomas himself. It is considered as the oldest Christianity related painting in India. You can get a beautiful aerial view of Chennai city from top of the hill. If the climate is good, climbing up the hilltop and enjoying the sight of Chennai from top would be a pleasant experience for you.

Please note that there are many people who challenge if St. Thomas visited India and if he was killed and all. According to them, the story was cooked up by the Portuguese. 

When you find time, go and visit this beautiful church either in the early morning or in the pleasant evening.You can reach this place easily either by public transport or on your own transportation. The distance is around 6 kms from the airport and 16 kms from Chennai Central Railway Station.
Happy travelling.

Site Name: Our Lady of Expectation Church or St. Thomas Mount
Site Type: Religious site, Church
Location: St. Thomas Mount area, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India


1) The site where St.Thomas was killed
2) One of the sites arguably associated with the initial spread of Christianity to India
3) The bleeding cross
4) 2000 years old painting of Mary with Baby Jesus

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  1. Interesting article. I thought Chinna malai is the one near Saidapet bridge. It is not so?

  2. Not only your article was interesting but also the information your brought before us is altogether new. I always wish to know more & more details in the history.Thank you.
    Mangesh Nabar

  3. reading this post has given experience of visiting the church. a good guide to the people interested in visiting the church

  4. Parangi malai is from the name of Sage Bringi and not as given. It is a great fun to say that Christians preached in Chennai in 1st A.D.

  5. Nice article KK. It answers a lot of questions of mine . :) :) .

  6. The article shared the history of great apostle St. Thomas, with his mission of preaching the people of our country about the only Begotten of God. The info in this article is not known to even many who stay in and around Chennai. Thanks for sharing.

  7. can you plz tell how to reach the hill top ? where is the starting point of the trekking ?

  8. Can you let me know where is the starting point to reach the top ? and how can we reach it ?

    1. You need to go to Mount Poonamallee High Road - hardly 0.75 km from Kathipara junction. That is the starting point; you need to climb a lot of steps to reach the top.

  9. any tell me bus numbers from cmbt to mount of st . thomas

  10. can anyone tell bus numbers from cmbt to mount of st thomas