St. Thomas the Apostle [תאמא / Δίδυμος / മാര്‍ തോമ്മാ ശ്ളീഹാ / மாற் தோம்மா ஶ்ளீஹா / सन्त् थोमस् / Sanctus Thomas Apostolus / San Tommaso Apostolo]

  • תאמא / Thoma (Aramaic) = Δίδυμος / Didymus (Greek) = Twin
  • Arrival at Kodungallur [Cranganore/Muziris/കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്‍, mouth of the River Periyar/Choorni [പെരിയാര്‍/ചൂര്‍ണ്ണി]], India: 21st November 52 A. D. (traditional)
  • † Martyrdom at Little Mount/Calamina, Madras-Mylapore, India: 21st December 72 A. D. (traditional)

  • `In the days of Assuerus, who reigned from India unto Æthiopia over an hundred twenty seven provinces:'
    -- Esther 1:1 (Sole reference to India in the Bible)

  • Listings of the Apostles: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 21:2; Acts 1:13.

  • `And there was a certain sick man, Lazarus of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha her sister. (And Mary was she that anointed our Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.) His sisters therefore sent to him saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest, is sick. And Jesus hearing, said to them, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it. And Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. As he heard therefore that he was sick, then he tarried in the same place two days: Then after this he said to his Disciples, Let us go into Jewry again. The Disciples say to him, Rabbi, now the Jews sought to stone thee: and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not: because he seeth the light of this world: But if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him. These things he said: and after this he saith to them, Lazarus our friend sleepeth: but I go that I may raise him from sleep. His Disciples therefore said, Lord, if he sleep, he shall be safe. But Jesus spake of his death: and they thought that he spake of the sleeping of sleep. Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead: And I am glad for your sake, that you may believe, because I was not there. but let us go to him. Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his condisciples, Let us also go, to die with him.'
    -- John 11:1-16

  • `Simon Peter saith to him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered, whither I go, thou canst not now follow me, but hereafter thou shall follow. Peter saith to him, Why can not I follow thee now? I will yield my life for thee. Jesus answered him, Thy life wilt thou yield for me? Amen, amen I say to thee, the cock shall not crow, until thou deny me thrice. Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe in me also. In my father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you, Because I go to prepare you a place. And if I go, and prepare you a place: I come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you also may be. And whither I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas saith to him, Lord we know not whither thou goest: And how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him, I am the way, and the verity, and the life. no man cometh to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, my father also certainly you had known: and from henceforth you shall know him, and you have seen him.'
    -- John 13:36-38 14:1-7

  • `But Thomas one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen our Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side: I will not believe. And after eight days, again his Disciples were within: and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and he said, Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas, Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not incredulous but faithful. Thomas answered, and said to him, My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed. blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.'
    -- John 20:24-29

  • `You come from Peter; and we are the sons of another Apostle Thomas.'
    -- Mar Augustine Kandathil to the Delegate of Pope Pius XII, on the occasion of the nineteenth centennial jubilee of the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle at Kodungallur in 52 A. D., celebrated at Ernakulam, India, 28-31st December 1952.

  • `Christianity in India goes back to A. D. 52 when St. Thomas is said to have landed on our Western Coast. It today constitutes an important and vibrant part of the Indian mosaic. Our diplomatic relations with the Holy See are, themselves, over 50 years old. We value the role which the Catholic Church has played in India as also our cordial relations with the Holy See.'
    -- K. R. Narayanan, Kocheril to the Apostolic Nuncio-Designate, New Delhi, India, 30th August 1999.

  • Left: `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, c. 1601. Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany.
  • Centre: Christ and St. Thomas, by Andrea del Verrocchio, Bronze statue, 1467-1483. 231.14 cm. Museum of Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy.
    Thomas: `Tv es Dominvs mevs et Devs mevs et Salvator gentivm'; Jesus: `Qvia vidisti me Thoma credidisti: beati qvi non vidervnt et credidervnt'.
    `Now Donatello had made for the Tribunal of Six of the Mercanzia that marble shrine which is now opposite to S. Michael, in the Oratory of Orsamichele, and for this there was to have been made a S. Thomas in bronze, feeling for the wound in the side of Christ; but at that time nothing more was done, for some of the men who had charge of this wished to have it made by Donatello, and others favoured Lorenzo Ghiberti. Matters stood thus as long as Donatello and Ghiberti were alive; but finally the said two statues were entrusted to Andrea, who, having made the models and moulds, cast them; and they came out so solid, complete, and well made, that it was a most beautiful casting. Thereupon, setting himself to polish and finish them, he brought them to that perfection which is seen at the present day, which could not be great than it is, for in S. Thomas we see incredulity and a too great anxiety to assure himself of the truth, and at the same time the love that makes him lay his hand in a most beautiful manner on the side of Christ; and in Christ Himself, who is raising one arm and opening His raiment and with a most spontaneous gesture, and dispelling the doubts of His incredulous disciple, there are all the grace and divinity; so to speak, that art can give to any figure. Andrea clothed both these figures in most beautiful and well-arranged draperies, which give us to know that he understood that art no less than did Donato, Lorenzo, and the others who had lived before him; wherefore this work well deserved to be set up in a shrine made by Donatello, and to be ever afterwards held in the greatest pride and esteem.'
    -- Giorgio Vasari on Andrea del Verrocchio in `Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects'.
  • Right: `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Giorgio Vasari, Oil on panel, c. 1572, Basilica di Santa Croce [Basilica of the Holy Cross], Florence, Italy.

  • Left: `St. Luke painting the Virgin', by Giorgio Vasari (with a self-portrait in lieu of St. Luke), Fresco, c. 1565, Cappella di S. Luca [Chapel of St. Luke], Basilica della SS. Annunziata [Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation], Florence, Italy (original locus of the Academy of Design, Florence founded in 1561).
  • Centre: `Theotokos of Madras' [Portrait of Madonna and the Infant Jesus, painted on wood], Church of Our Lady of Expectation, Periya Malai [Big Mount] / Faranghi Malai [Mount of the Franks] / St. Thomas Mount, Madras, India.
    `The picture at the mount is one of the oldest, and, therefore, one of the most venerable Christian paintings to be had in India.'
    -- Henri Hosten, S. J. [Hosten 1936]
  • Right: Self-portrait, by Giorgio Vasari, Oil on canvas, c. 1567, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.


  • Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode, Kodungallur [Cranganore/Muziris/കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്‍, mouth of the River Periyar/Choorni [പെരിയാര്‍/ചൂര്‍ണ്ണി]], Kerala, India. [Diocese of Irinjalakuda (Trichur)]
  • 7 1/2 Churches:
    1. Maliankara / മാലിയങ്കര [Kodungallur/Cranganore/Muziris / കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്‍] [Diocese of Irinjalakuda (Trichur)]
    2. Kottakkavu/Kottakkayal / കോട്ടയ്ക്കാവു്/കോട്ടക്കായല്‍ [North Parur/North Paravoor / വടക്കന്‍ പറവൂര്‍] [Archdiocese of Ernakulam; Mgr. Francisco Ros, S. J.]
    3. Palayur/Palur [പാലയൂര്‍/പാലൂര്‍] [Diocese of Trichur]
    4. Kokkamangalam/Kokkothamangalam / കോക്കമംഗലം/കോക്കോതമംഗലം [Shertallay / ചേര്‍ത്തല]; South Pallippuram / തെക്കന്‍ പള്ളിപ്പുറം [Archdiocese of Ernakulam]
    5. Niranam / നിരണം [Diocese of Niranam (Oriental Orthodox [Jacobite]); St. Mary]
    6. Chayal / ചായല്‍ [Nilackal / നിലയ്ക്കല്‍] [Diocese of Kanjirapally (Changanacherry)]
    7. Kollam/Quilon / കൊല്ലം [Diocese of Quilon (Latin)]
    8. Thiruvithamcode/Thiruvithamkoor [Travancore] / തിരുവിതാങ്കോടു് [1/2] [Diocese of Trivandrum (Oriental Orthodox [Jacobite]); St. Mary]
  • Church of St. Thomas [കുരിശുമുടി], Malayattoor [മലയാറ്റൂര്‍], Kerala, India. [Archdiocese of Ernakulam]


  • Church of Our Lady of Health, Chinna Malai [Little Mount /சின்ன மலை / Galmona/Calamina], Saidapet, Madras, India. (1551) [Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore (Latin)]
  • Church of Our Lady of Expectation, Periya Malai [Big Mount / பெரிய மலை] / Faranghi Malai [Mount of the Franks] / St. Thomas Mount, Madras, India. (1523) [Diocese of Chingelpet (Madras-Mylapore) (Latin)]
  • San Thomé Cathedral Basilica, San Thomé, Mylapore [மயிலாப்பூர் / Meliapor / Town of peacocks / Maliarpha], Madras, India. (1523) [Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore (Latin); A. J. John, Anaparambil]
  • Church of Our Lady of Light [Nossa Senhora da Luz / காட்டுக் கோவில்], Mylapore, Madras, India. (1516) [Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore (Latin)]


  • La Cattedrale Basilica di San Tommaso Apostolo [Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle], Ortona / Ortona a Mare / Pearl of the Adriatic [Commune], Chieti, Abruzzo/Abruzzi, Italy. (1127) [Archdiocese of Lanciano-Ortona (Latin)]

  • Arrival of relics from Mylapore to Edessa/Osroene/Urhai/Urfa/Ur, Asia Minor/Turkey: 3rd July 232 A. D. (traditional)
  • Transfer of relics from Edessa to Chios, Greece (not earlier than 1142 A. D.)
  • Arrival of relics from Chios to Ortona (under the command of Leone Acciaiuoli): 6th September 1258 A. D.

  • Silver bust of St. Thomas. 60 cm.

    "While at Ortona the Relics underwent another vicissitude. A Turkish fleet under Ali Pasha captured the town on Thursday, 1st August 1566; the town was sacked by the enemy, who burnt and destroyed the churches, including that of the Apostle. Finding the altar of the Saint protected by heavy iron railings, and their efforts to burst open the Shrine failing, they employed gunpowder, and caused an explosion which burst up the stone forming the altar slab and fractured also that of chalcedony brought from Chios, ... It would seem that they expected to find great treasure there. On the departure of the Turkish fleet, when the inhabitants were able once more to return to the city and ascertain the extent and nature of the damage sustained, they found, at the bottom of the accumulated debris and cinders, the sacred bones of the Apostle, which had reposed under the altar with the relics of other saints, most providentially preserved intact. But they missed his head; after further search it was found crushed under the weight of a portion of the fractured altar-stone; they reverently picked it up, and were afterwards able, to their great joy and satisfaction, to reconstruct the skull so thoroughly that no part was found missing. A Notarial Act of what had occurred was drawn up by those present, attested and signed by the Bishop, John Domenic Rebiba; the Judge, John Vincent de Renaldo; the Syndic, Pompeius Panza; Joseph Massarius, Public Notary, and many others. This `Deed of the Verification of the Relics' bears the date of 16th November 1566. ... The sacred Relics now repose in a bronze urn placed beneath a marble altar. The head of the Apostle is placed in a silver bust..., and is exposed to public veneration on the celebration of the feast. ... Thrice in the year feasts are kept in honour of the Apostle. On the first Sunday of May, the day fixed for the celebration of the solemn transfer to Ortona; the 6th of September, the day of the arrival of the Relics at Ortona; and on the 21st of December, the day of the Apostle's martyrdom. The feast day in May is the occasion when the Head of the glorious Apostle, enshrined in a rich silver bust, is exposed to public veneration, and is carried in solemn procession through the city. This is not done at the other festivals. The May festival is kept up for three days."
    -- Mgr. Adolph E. Medlycott, "India and the Apostle Thomas: an inquiry with a critical analysis of the `Acta Thomæ'", pp. 115-118.

    Later, the Cathedral at Ortona was detonated on the night of the 20th December 1943 (the eve of the feast of martyrdom of the Apostle) by the German army fighting the Canadian army for control of the town in the ferocious Battle of Ortona (known as the `Little Stalingrad'); the relics survived unharmed, and the Canadian army took Ortona on the 27th; the Cathedral was later rebuilt and reconsecrated on 5th September 1949; the town was decorated with the gold medal for bravery by the President of Italy on 16th June 1959: `Nobile Città degli Abruzzi, di antiche tradizioni patriottiche, sopportava coraggiosamente, in occasione dell'ultimo conflitto, spaventosi bombardamenti aerei e terrestri, subendo la perdita di 1314 dei suoi figli e la distruzione della maggior parte del suo patrimonio monumentale e edilizio. Con fierissimo contegno resisteva intrepida ai soprusi degli invasori in armi, mai piegando nella sua purissima fede in un’Italia migliore, libera e democratica. Si prodigava con cuore di madre nel soccorso dei feriti e dei sofferenti affermando, negli orrori della guerra, il più alto spirito di solidarietà umana.' [Noble town of Abruzzo, of ancient patriotic traditions, bravely bore, on occasion of the last war, terrible aerial and land bombings, and experienced the loss of 1314 of its people and the destruction of the greatest part of its monumental and building heritage. With proud attempts it bravely resisted the abuses of the invaders in arms, never yielded in its pure faith in a better, free, and democratic Italy. It did its very best, as a mother, in assisting the wounded and the sufferers by claiming, despite the horrors of war, the highest spirit of human solidarity.]

    Selected bibliography

    1. F. A. D'Cruz: `St. Thomas, the Apostle, in India: an investigation based on the latest researches in connection with the time-honoured tradition regarding the martyrdom of St. Thomas in southern India', Hoe and Company, Madras, British India, 1922.

    2. Henri Hosten, S. J.: `Antiquities from San Thomé and Mylapore, the traditional site of martyrdom and tomb of the Apostle Thomas', Madras, British India, 1936.

    3. St. John the Evangelist: `The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. John'.

    4. Kattakayam Cherian Mappillai: `മാര്‍ തോമ്മാ ചരിതം' [The story of St. Thomas], 1908. Adapted from the `Acta Thomæ' (apocryphal).

    5. K. R. Narayanan, Kocheril: `Speech by the President of India while accepting credentials from the Apostolic Nuncio-Designate of the Holy See to India', New Delhi, India, 30th August 1999.

    6. Maliekal Thoma Ramban: `തോമ്മാ പര്‍വ്വം' [Thoma parvam] / `റമ്പാന്‍ പാട്ടു്' [Ramban paattu] (in Malayalam), Niranam, 1601. Published: Bernard Alenchery of St. Thomas, T. O. C. D.: `മാര്‍ തോമ്മാ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികള്‍' [St. Thomas Christians], Vol. I, Palai, Kingdom of Travancore, 1916. Translated to English by Henri Hosten, S. J.: `The Song of Thomas Ramban', Ernakulam, Kingdom of Cochin, 1931. Translated to Italian by Francis Xavier Rocca, S. J.: `La leggenda di S. Tommaso Apostolo. Canto popolare del Malabar' [The legend of St. Thomas the Apostle: popular songs in Malabar], Orientalia Christiana, vol. XXXII / n. 89, pp. 168-179, Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, Piazza della Pilotta, 35, Rome 1, Italy, 1933. cf. also [Parakunnel 1935, Chapter IV]

      `Lately, ..., I came across a very old manuscript history in Malayalam verse on the life and labours of St. Thomas in South India. Therein it was declared that it was the epitome of a very ancient and original work written by Thomas Maliekal, a Syrian priest, who was the third in succession from St. Thomas, and that the abridgement was made by another Thomas, the father of a priest of the same family who was forty-eighth in descent from the Apostle.' [Panjikaran 1912, p. 5]

    7. A. Philipose, Maret: `The Apostolic origin and early history of the Syrian Church of Malabar'; A historical dissertation submitted for the Master of Arts Degree of the University of Madras; The Christian literature society, London, England, 1904. Also published in: Madras Christian College Magazine, III(4), pp. 547-558, 621-633, 662-675, April 1904.

    8. Mgr. Adolph E. Medlycott: "India and the Apostle Thomas: an inquiry with a critical analysis of the `Acta Thomæ'", David Nutt, 57-59 Long acre, London, England, 1905. `Acta Thomæ' (apocryphal).

    9. Idem: `St. Thomas Christians', The Catholic Encyclopædia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church. The Encyclopædia press, New York, USA, 1913.

    10. Mgr. Thomas Moothedan: `The Apostolate of St. Thomas in India', Eastern Churches Quarterly, IX(7), 1952, pp. 349-358.

    11. Mgr. Joseph C. Panjikaran: `The Syrian Church in Malabar'; A historical dissertation submitted for the Master of Arts Degree of the University of Madras; Br. Joseph, S. J., Superintendent, St. Joseph's Industrial School Press, Trichinopoly, British India, 1912. Reprinted with a few additions, 1914. Chapter I, `St. Thomas, the Apostle of India', pp. 3-12, published in The Tamilian antiquary, II(2), 1914, pp. 69-76.

    12. Idem: `Christianity in Malabar with special reference to the St. Thomas Christians of the Syro-Malabar Rite', Orientalia Christiana, vol. VI(2) / n. 23, pp. 89-136, Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, Piazza della Pilotta, 35, Rome 1, Italy, April 1926.

    13. P. J. Thomas, Parakunnel: `The South Indian tradition of the Apostle Thomas', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, England, 1924, Centenary supplement, pp. 213-223.

    14. Idem: `St. Thomas the Apostle: A souvenir of the 19th century of his arrival in India', Ernakulam, India, 1952.

    15. `മാര്‍ തോമ്മാ ശ്ളീഹായുടെ ചരിത്രപരമായ മാര്‍ഗ്ഗംകളി പാട്ടു്' [The Margamkali song on the history of St. Thomas the Apostle] (in Malayalam), in 14 പാദങ്ങള്‍ [cantos] and 400 lines. Published: P. U. Lucas, Puthenpurackal: Part II: `ആണ്‍പാട്ടുകള്‍' [Songs for men] of `മലയാളത്തെ സുറിയാനി ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളുടെ പുരാതന പാട്ടുകള്‍' [The ancient songs of the Syrian Christians of Malayalam] (in Malayalam), Catholic Mission Press, Kottayam, Kingdom of Travancore, March 1910. Reprinted: Jyothi Book House, Kottayam, India, 1980. cf. also John Peter Maffei, S. J., `Le Storie delle Indie Orientali', 1589, vol. II, p. 215; [Parakunnel 1935, Chapter IV].

    16. Herbert J. Thurston, S. J.: `St. Thomas the Apostle', The Catholic Encyclopædia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church. The Encyclopædia press, New York, USA, 1913.

    17. Mgr. Władysław Michał Zaleski: `The Apostle St. Thomas in India: history, tradition, and legend', Mangalore, British India, 1912.

  • Left: `St. Thomas the Apostle', by Domenico Theotocopuli (El Greco), Oil on canvas, c. 1610-14. 97 cm x 77 cm. Museo de El Greco, Toledo, Spain.
  • Centre: `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Oil on oak, 1634, 53.1 cm x 50.5 cm. Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia. Provenance: purchased by Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) from Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky (1710-1775), 1764.
  • Right: `St. Thomas the Apostle', by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Oil on canvas, c. 1619. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans, France.

  • Left: `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Giovanni Barbieri (Il Guercino), Oil on canvas, 1621. 115.6 cm x 142.5 cm. National Gallery, London, England.
  • Right: `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Sir Pieter Pauwel Rubens, Oil on wood, c. 1613-15. 143 cm x 123 cm [centre panel] 146 cm x 55 cm [side panels]. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium.

  • `SS. Andrew and Thomas', by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Oil on canvas, c. 1627. 59 cm x 76 cm. National Gallery, London, England.

  • `The incredulity of St. Thomas', by Gerard van Honthorst, Oil on canvas, c. 1620. 125 cm x 99 cm. Museo Del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

  • Left: Silver bust of St. Thomas. 60 cm. La Cattedrale Basilica di San Tommaso Apostolo [Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle], Ortona/Ortona a Mare, Chieti, Abruzzo/Abruzzi, Italy. Stamp issued on 2nd December 1964 at Town Hall, Ernakulam, commemorating St. Thomas, on the occasion of the visit of Pope Paul VI to India, 2-5 December 1964, to attend the International Eucharistic Congress, Bombay. Sc# 394, SG# 493.
  • Right: Persian cross, Church of Our Lady of Expectation, Periya Malai [Big Mount] / Faranghi Malai [Mount of the Franks] / St. Thomas Mount, Madras, India. Stamp issued on 3rd July 1973, on the occasion of the 19th death centenary of St. Thomas [संत् थोमस् के महाप्रयाण् की 19-वी शताब्दी], by N. N. Wanchoo, Governor of Kerala, and Mar Joseph Parecattil, Archbishop of Ernakulam. Sc# 583, SG# 687.

    © Jan. 2006. David C. Kandathil, Chempu, Vaikom ( All rights reserved.