St. Thomas is the Apostle of India. He is venerated as the father of faith in India. St. Thomas Christians in Kerala and all over world consider St.Thomas as their father. This is a most vibrant tradition of Kerala.
AD 52 is a date implanted in the mind of all St. Thomas Christians irrespective of dominations. It is the day on which St. Thomas landed in Kerala at Cranganore. That is a feast day for Syrian Christians. The Bharath Prevesana perunnal is celebrated very solemnity Azhikode. November 21st is the Feast of Baratha Prevesana Perunnal. According to the tradition it is on November 21st that St. Thomas landed at Cranganore
St. Thomas founded seven churches in Kerala. Those churches are at Cranngannore, Kottekavu, Palayoor, Nilakal, Nirakan, Kokamanalam Chayal. After his ministry of Kerala he moved to Tamilnuadu and he was martyred at Mylapore. All these churches or communities built by St. Thomas keep vibrant memories of this apostolic origin. Further in Kerala there are pilgrim centers all over Kerala reminding us the living tradition of its connection to St Thomas.
After the apostolate in Kerala St. Thomas moved to Tamil Nadu. There he was martyred by the Hindu. The tradition holds that the martyrdom of St. Thomas is on July 3 which is celebrated as the feast St. Thomas all over world. He was buried in Mylapore. Soon after the event streams of pilgrim flocked to the apostles is graveside from all part of India. Pilgrim from Malabr stood foremost in the point of numbers. For several cetunties it was the custom that at least one member of every Syrian family that could afford it, visited the mylapore tomb and prayed at the tomb of the Apostle. Numerous miracles were recorded as a result of praying at the tomb and those who could not afford to go received dust particles from the graveside by which they received favors from St. Thomas.
The relic was transferred to Edessa in the first century. St.Ephren testifies to this transfer in his poems. We do not know who took it. But there are numerous testmonies to this transfer of relics from Mylapore to Edessa. From Edessa it was transferred to Chios in Italy. There it was venerated in three cathedrals of their respective famous bishop Paulimus, Glaudentius and Ambrose .
From Edessa the relic was transferred to Orthona St. Thomas Church on 17th June 1258 under the order of Manfred prince of travels. It was grand procession that wended its way from the sea cost to the cathedral of Orthona carrying the relics. The relic is placed in the cathedral rededicated to St. Thomas. Now the relic repose in bronze even placed beneath a marble altar. It is from this bronze was that the India received the Right hand brought by his Eminence Cardinal Tisseraent in 1953
Even the Eternal City of Rome was far from being the Centre of the World- culture during several centuries of the middle-ages. But the tomb of St. Peter had greater inner powers than could be broken by the forces of human history. Similarly, it is true, that the vagaries of history, especially the geographical changes at the mouth of the river Periyar, have almost wiped away the vestiges of the glorious past of the city of St. Thomas. But in 1953 something happened, which can be called a seconed landing of St. Thomas at Kodungallur, which should make that landing place the spiritual spring and Unity symbol of the Kerala Church. That was when Card. Eugene Tisserant, Dean of the College of Cardinals, brought the Relic of the Right Arm of the Apostle as a precious gift to the people of Kerala. The place was chosen purely inspired by a historical vision and a vision of the future.
It was a great day of celebration, with few parallels in the history of the Kerala Church. Whereas 1900 years ago the Apostle landed at Muziris as a lonely stranger and probably there was no one to receive him, now on Dec. 6, 1953, his Relic was carried in a solemn and colorful procession of decorated boats from the Pulloot bridge 8km away accompanied by hundreds of country boats packed with Christian and non Christian people, who had come from many places in Kerala.
Kodungallur, which was till the 15th Century the "Rome" of India and the East, both as the centre of the Indian Church and as its gateway to world-trade, has entered a new phase of its historic role, with the return of the Apostle to its shore. The event was prepared by the 19th Centenary Celebrations of the landing of St. Thomas in India in 1952, which aroused the minds of the Christians of Kerala. It was against the background of this centenary year, that Cardinal Tisserant, who was an expert in oriental church history and was the Secretary of the sacred congregation for oriental churches, decided to make an official visit to Kerala. His visit to Kerala may be said to coincide with the second spring of the Kerala Church, as subsequent history has testified. The transfer of the Relic was certainly part of that turning point of history
Having got prior information about the arrival of the Holy Relic, many discussions had taken places, as to where the Relic was to be enshrined, and who should be entrusted with its Trusteeship. Finally it was the decision of the Cardinal himself that the Relic should be deposited in the Shrine at the landing place of the Apostle.
It was been in the same condition until 1987 when a re-modelling of the sanctuary was undertaken for the occasion of the visit of H. E. Simon Card. Lourdusamy, Perfect of the Sacred oriental congregation, who rededicated the renovated Shrine and the new Altar. The renovation was done with the co-operation of the Devamatha Province and of the public. The celebrations gave the occasion for making the Shrine well-known all over Kerala through the press and through Telvision and for initiating the process of making the Church of Kerala participate in developing the Shrine into the Unity Symbol of the church in Kerala. Devamatha Province of the CMI-fathers also took steps to broadbase the juridical status of the Pontifical shrine, so that it should not be a concern of the Devamatha Province only, but of the whole church of Kerala. It is therefore hoped that the Pontifical Shrine will in the course of the next few years transform itself into the national Shrine of the Kerala Church.
A beautiful shrine was built in the model of Vatican cardinal himself blessed the Shrine and placed the relic in a safe built into alter inter the clome of shrine
St. Thomas Shrine is mainly a pilgrim centre where the relic of St. Thomas is kept. As stated above the right hand of St. Thomas is brought here and venerated here. Pilgrim from all part of India and abroad flock to this centre. It is this right hand which touched the right side of Jesus and made the profession of faith "my lord and my god". It is same right hand which baptized our fore fathers. This place has become a place where they can come and renew their profession of faith that baptismal profession. Really this centre has become cradle of Christianity in Kerala as the powerful relic attracts the faithful.
Every year the entry of St. Thomas into India is celebrated as a great feast at Azhicode. It is celebrated on Sunday after 21st November. On special attraction of this feast 'Bharatha Pravesana Pradakshinam' as the remembrance of the arrival of St. Thomas. Several boats participates in the procession through the Periyar river.
The flow of pilgrims increases every year. Faithful of all Christians' denomination make pilgrimage to shrine. Diocese makes this place to renew their faith. Different lay groups make pilgrim to this shrine. Franciscan association for example, makes their assembly here on July 3rd. Religious come from all part of Kerala. Foreign guests arrival increase every year. Guided tour makes this shrine also in their tour program. Several groups make their retreat at Divine Retreat center. At the end of retreat they pay a visit to their shrine.
A priest gives guidance to pilgrims. The priest helps the pilgrim to renew their faith and these pilgrimages become a deepening of their faith. At the end of instruction the pilgrim pray for some time. There is prayer model already printed and kept in the church. After the prayer the pilgrims are lead to the holy place called "sanihidhi" to venerate the relics.
As a religious house there is the residence for priest. There are their priests at present here at shrine.
For the pilgrim we have created the following facilities: