Catholic Shrines in Chennai, India – Thomas Charles Nagy

“The two main issues that weaken the historicity of the St. Thomas story and thus make St. Thomas a controversial figure in the modern day, is the reliance on the Acts of Thomas, as a pseudo-historical document, as well as the flimsiness of oral tradition as an accurate recording of history. Additionally, while the various arguments regarding the preservation of early Christian communities along the Malabar Coast are far more historically viable, they also cast some doubt over the validity of the St. Thomas tradition. It seems far more logical that Christianity was introduced to India by way of the Eastern Syrian Church, maybe as early as the fourth century CE, and maintained by subsequent migrations from those regions of the Middle East that fell under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Syrian Church.” – Thomas Charles Nagy

Catholic Shrines in Chennai, India (Cover)


This thesis investigates the phenomenon of Catholic renewal in India by focussing on various Roman Catholic churches and shrines located in Chennai, a large city in South India where activities concerning saintal revival and shrinal development have taken place in the recent past. The thesis tracks the changing local significance of St. Thomas the Apostle, who according to local legend, was martyred and buried in Chennai. In particular, it details the efforts of the Church hierarchy in Chennai to bring about a revival of devotion to St. Thomas. In doing this, it covers a wide range of issues pertinent to the study of contemporary Indian Christianity, such as Indian Catholic identity, Indian Christian indigeneity and Hindu nationalism, as well as the marketing of St. Thomas and Catholicism within South India. The thesis argues that the Roman Catholic renewal and “revival” of St. Thomas in Chennai is largely a Church-driven hierarchical movement that was specifically initiated for the purpose of Catholic evangelization and missionization in India. Furthermore, it is clear that the local Church‘s strategy of shrinal development and marketing encompasses Catholic parishes and shrines throughout Chennai‘s metropolitan area, and thus, is not just limited to those sites associated with St. Thomas‘s Apostolic legacy. – Thomas Charles Nagy

Nagy’s reference to Sita Ram Goel and Ishwar Sharan can be found in the thesis starting at Chapter Three (3.3).

See also

  1. For an analysis of Nagy’s thesis see the Thomas Myth blog.
  2. The Haaretz Paradox: Why would an Israeli newspaper propagate the myth that St. Thomas was killed by Hindu priests? – Aravindan Neelakandan