St. Thomas Shrine
Kothaparambu, Kodungallur, Kerala 680668, India
The first Christian church of India, and the resting place for many saints.
Location of St. Thomas Shrine
More about St. Thomas Shrine
St. Thomas Shrine at Azhikode (also known as Mar Thoma Pontificial Shrine/ St. Thomas Church) is considered to be the birthplace of Christianity in India. It is a famous Christian church situated few kilometres from Kodungallur town, and it is the first of the seven churches founded by the apostle St. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ.
History of the Shrine and the time of apostle St. Thomas in India
Apostle St. Thomas is believed to have landed at the Malabar Coast of Kodungallor (former Muziris) in a Roman vessel in November 21, AD 52. Portrayed as a courageous and challenging person, he preached gospel from Ethiopia to China. Many churches in West Asia consider St. Thomas the father of its faith. At Kodungallur he established the first Christian church in India and later founded six more churches in Kerala State- at Kottakkavu, Palayur, Kollam, Kokkamangalam, Niranam and Nilackal.
The martyrdom of St. Thomas and his tomb in Italy
After his stint at Kerala, St. Thomas moved to Tamil Nadu to propagate religion and he was martyred there in AD 72. He was buried at Mylapore and soon after his death, pilgrims especially from Kerala started to flock to the grave in numbers. For several centuries it was a custom that at least one member of every Christian family if they could afford it would visit and pray at the tomb of the apostle.
The relic was then transferred to Edessa, present day Urafa in Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Region in the first century. It was then transfered to Ortona in Italy on AD 1258. The relic in bones is now placed in the cathedral rededicated to St. Thomas and it rests beneath a marble altar. It was from these bones that the St. Thomas Church at Azhikode received the hand of the apostle.
The relic of St. Thomas at Azhikode Church
In December 6, 1953 the relic of St. Thomas was bought from Ortona, Italy and enshrined in this church under the supervision of late Eugene Cardinal Tisserant. Since the days of the relic- a bone from his right arm enshrined in the church, it has became a major pilgrim centre.
Exploring the Church and its premises
The church is built on the the model of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and it is situated on the banks of the river Periyar. The altar of the church holds the holy relic of St. Thomas and the church also holds the holy relics of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Saint Alphonsa and Blessed Mariam Thresia. People from all parts of society and religions come to the church daily to get blessings from these holy figures. The relic of St.Thomas is enclosed in a glass case and exposed daily from 9 am to 6 pm for worshiping.
Marthoma Smruthi Tharangam- a memorial presentation
Marthoma Smruthi Tharangam (meaning phenomenal memories of St. Thomas) shows the mission and vision of St. Thomas to the visitors. The audio visual program lasts for around half an hour in a theatre that can seat 80 people at a time. The program sheds light to major episodes in the life of St. Thomas: the scenes of Jesus Christ commissioning his disciples to different parts of the world, the entrance of St. Thomas to India, his apostolic activities in Kerala, his mission and martyrdom at Mylapore, preservation and enshrining of his mortal remains at Edessa and Ortona, and the enshrining of his holy relic at the St. Thomas Church at Azhikode.
In addition to the memorial presentation, the church houses the Marthoma Research Centre which gives informations regarding St. Thomas and Indian Christianity, books covering the topics can also be brought from here.
Yearly feast of St. Thomas at Azhikode Church
The main feast of the church is conducted every year on November 21 which lasts for a week. The feast, called ‘Bharath Prevesana Perunnal’ (the feast for entrance to India) commemorates the apostles entrance to India. On the first Sunday after November 21, several boats participate in the procession through the nearby Periyar River in remembrance of the arrival of the apostle.
Reaching St. Thomas Church by public transportation
St. Thomas Church is located in Azhikode Town of Thrissur District in Kerala State in Southern India. The church is roughly 6 km away from Kodungallur town, and there are many buses that ply through Azhikode route where the church is located. Kodungallur is located 40 km from the nearest major cities Thrissur and Ernakulam and can be easily accessed as there are plenty of buses from both the cities to the town. You can get down at railway stations either in Ernakulam or Thrissur to reach the Kodungallur.