Tuesday, May 21, 2013

San Thome Basilica

By Jahnvi Sreedhar

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
San Thome Cathedral Basilica   

A sultry summer afternoon, I walked towards the National Shrine of St. Thomas Basilica, Chennai, intrigued by its structure and stature and that it completes 120 years of existence in 2013…

San Thome Cathedral Basilica, popularly called San Thome is the British version of a 16th century Portuguese structure. In 1893 the British re-built the church in Neo-Gothic style of architecture, resplendent in its white beauty as it stands tall in historical and religious importance on the shore of Marina beach.

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
Before & After Renovation 

I entered the church to find the statue of St. Thomas to my left. This Italian piece of work was added as a part of renovation and restoration as a revival era structure, during 2004. To my right stood the graphical representation of Christ appearing to St. Thomas after resurrection.

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
Long Central Passage

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
Main Altar

The next few steps I took - totally in awe. The long central passage seemed to beckon me to the altar, flanked on either side by neat polished-wood pews; the exquisite stained glass windows at the end of the hall; the larger-than-life nave, the almost 40 ft. high ceiling, the sanctuary, the line of windows and the equally high arches embellished by vine leaves carved in high relief…

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
Naves, Arches & Stained-glass Windows

My mind was ticking away at my architecture lessons: Neo-Gothic style, associated with monarchism and conservatism has a distinguished architectural pattern. Tall spires, pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses are all typical to the structures built during the early 19th century and San Thome is no exception.

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
Polished-Wood Pews

Father Roche Chinnappa, Administrator San Thome was forthcoming, “The shrine is close to 450 years old. It’s an example of an honorable group of churches- the minor basilica, and an extremely popular tourist destination that draws people from across the globe.”

San Thome Cathedral Basilica , Chennai
San Thome Cathedral Basilica           

Unlike the Neo-classical style, imitations from this period are rare to find. Although there are a few examples in the 20th century and later of the Carpenter Gothic buildings, which were relatively unadorned, retaining only the basic elements of pointed-arch windows and steep gables.

Sharing my musings with architect-friend Kanchana Ganeshan, I was enlightened that the basic aim of this style was to create awe and unlike the Indo-Saracenic etc styles, one can hardly draw any inspiration from this architectural form. Again a premise that can be chewed upon…

The San Thome experience has not only left me with wonderment but also with serenity. 
Interestingly, and I must share this – St. Thomas is a patron saint of architects and builders! 

1 comment :

  1. Very well written Jhanvi, keep it up!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...