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August 15th, 2008

Santhome Basilica Cathedral – Chennai, India

At the time it was built in gothic style Santhome church inside Santhome church inside altar People gather here always

A stained glass window depicting Doubting Thomas putting a finger into Jesus\' wound view of the tomb from a distance Over the tomb of St.Thomas The tomb of St.Thomas

St.Thomas mount chennai city, India

This Basilica Cathedral is one of three Basilicas built over the tombs of apostles of Jesus Christ. The other two are the Basilica of St. Peter, built over the tomb of St. Peter in Rome (St.Peter’s Basilica) and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela built over the tomb of St. James in Spain.

Standing tall against the Chennai skyline, with the azure blue of the ocean as the backdrop, the Santhome Basilica Cathedral is indeed an imposing structure. On entering the church you are filled with a strange sense of peace. You forget the hustle and bustle that awaits you outside. In the cool, dark interior there is a calm that is all pervasive. Built in the Gothic style the spire rises to a height of about 155 feet.

According to tradition, it is believed that St. Thomas came to India in the year 52 A.D. He worked initially along the West Coast and then traveled to Madras. He suffered martyrdom at St. Thomas’ Mount and his disciples buried him in Santhome over which the present Cathedral stands. Marco Polo, during his travels also visited India. He records: “It is in this province (Malabar) which is styled the Greater India, at the gulf between Ceylon and the mainland that the body of Messer , St. Thomas lies at a certain town having no great population; it is a place not very accessible”. When the Portuguese arrived at Mylapore in 1517, they were surprised to find a shrine there. But the shrine itself was almost in ruins. The Portuguese took it upon themselves to rebuild the church in 1523. This church became a parish in 1524.

But over the centuries, the elements took their toll on this small church and it was in dire need of repair. In 1893, this structure was demolished and the present church was built. The tomb of the saint was placed at the heart of the structure. A retired officer of the Royal Engineers who happened to be a parishioner volunteered to take on the job. The predominant feature of a Gothic structure is its tall spires. At the Santhome Basilica Cathedral, what strikes you immediately is the first spire. The second, and shorter one is constructed directly above the tomb of the saint. The tomb of the saint could now be accessed from within the church and pilgrims the world over comes to worship here. It was in 1956 that the church was declared a minor Basilica.

In 2002, extensive renovation and restoration work was carried out. The access to the tomb from within the cathedral was closed and an alternate and more convenient access was provided from the outside. Now pilgrims and tourists can visit the tomb and spend a few minutes of quiet without disturbing the service and devotion of the faithful. A museum has also been constructed and all the memorabilia of St. Thomas and of that period arranged interestingly. Also on display is the spear that killed the saint. Stories on stones tell one of the deeds of St. Thomas and also the two postage stamps that were released. In the mini theatre visitors can view a short film on the Life of St.Thomas. Recently this Santhome Basilica Cathedral celebrates its 400 years of the Diocese of Mylapore.

Church will be opened from 6.00am to 8.00pm.

July 12th, 2008

Sacred Jordan River

Serene Jordan River placid pictures Jordan river placid pics sacred Pilgrims bath and baptise in The Jordan River Pic Around 3,000 Orthodox Christian pilgrims took a ritual dip in the Jordan River near the West Bank city of Jericho part of their Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Jordan River pilgrims baptism picture Jordan River pilgrims baptism more pics Jordan River pilgrims baptism pics Jordan River pilgrims pic 01

The Jordan River is a river in Southwest Asia which flows into the Dead Sea. Historically and religiously, it is considered to be one of the world’s most sacred rivers. It is 251 kilometers (156 miles) long.

In Bible,in the old testment, the Jordan appears as the scene of several miracles, the first taking place when the Jordan, near Jericho, was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua (Joshua 3:15-17). Later the two tribes and the half tribe that settled east of the Jordan built a large altar on its banks as “a witness” between them and the other tribes (Joshua 22:10, 22:26). The Jordan was crossed by Elijah and Elisha on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8, 2:14). Elisha performed two other miracles at the Jordan: he healed Naaman by having him bathe in its waters, and he made the axe head of one of the “children of the prophets” float, by throwing a piece of wood into the water (2 Kings 5:14; 6:6).

Because the Israelites made a difficult and hazardous journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in The Promised Land, the Jordan can refer to freedom. The actual crossing is the final step of the journey, which is then complete. The Jordan also can signify death itself, with the crossing from life into Paradise or Heaven.

The New Testament states that John the Baptist baptized unto repentance in the Jordan (Matthew 3:5-6; Mark1:5; Luke 3:3; John1:28). This is recounted as having taken place at Bethabara (John 1:28).

Jesus came to be baptized by him there (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21, 4:1). The Jordan is also where John the Baptist bore record of Jesus as the Son of God and Lamb of God (John 1:29-36).

The prophesy of Isaiah regarding the Messiah which names the Jordan (Isaiah 9:1-2) is recounted in Matthew 4:15. The New Testament speaks several times about Jesus crossing the Jordan during his ministry (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and of believers crossing the Jordan to come hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases (Matthew 4:25; Mark 3:7-8). When his enemies sought to capture him, Jesus took refuge at Jordan in the place John had first baptized (John 10:39-40).

Jordan is really a  good choice among the Holy Places, for one to see. Check out some pics of the sacred river Jordan above.

July 6th, 2008

Church of Nativity Bethlehem

Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is a major Christian holy site, as it marks the traditional place of Christ’s birth. It is also one of the oldest surviving Christian churches. Click Here for more pics.

In the Bible:-

The birth of Jesus is narrated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew gives the impression that Mary and Joseph were from Bethlehem and later moved to Nazareth because of Herod’s decree, while Luke indicates that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, and Jesus was born in Bethlehem while they were in town for a special census. Scholars tend to see these two stories as irreconcilable and believe Matthew to be more reliable because of historical problems with Luke’s version.

But both accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. According to Luke 2:7 (in the traditional translation), Mary “laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” But the Greek can also be rendered, “she laid him in a manger because they had no space in the room” — we should perhaps imagine Jesus being born in a quiet back room of an overflowing one-room house.

The gospel accounts don’t mention a cave, but less than a century later, both Justin Martyr and the Protoevangelium of James say Jesus was born in a cave. This is reasonable, as many houses in the area are still built in front of a cave. The cave part would have been used for stabling and storage – thus the manger.

What to see:-

The Door of Humility, a small rectangular entrance to the church, was created in Ottoman times to prevent carts being driven in by looters, and to force even the most important visitor to dismount from his horse as he entered the holy place. The doorway was reduced from an earlier Crusader doorway, the pointed arch of which can still be seen above the current door. The outline of the Justinian square entrance can also be seen above the door.

The wide nave survives intact from Justinian’s time, although the roof is 15th-century with 19th-century restorations. Thirty of the nave’s 44 columns carry Crusader paintings of saints and the Virgin and Child, although age and lighting conditions make them hard to see. The columns are of pink, polished limestone, most of them reused from the original 4th-century Constantinian basilica.

Fragments of high-quality wall mosaics dating from the 1160s decorate both sides of the nave. Each side once had three registers, of which we know the details because of a description made in 1628. The lowest depicted the ancestors of Jesus; the middle contained the decrees of provincial and ecumenical councils; and the top has a series of angels between the windows. The name of the artist, Basilius Pictor, appears at the foot of the third angel from the right on the north wall.

Trap doors in the present floor reveal sections of floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica. The mosaics feature complex geometric designs with birds, flowers and vine patterns, making a rich and elaborate carpet for Constantine’s church. Similar doors in the north transept protect another 4th-century mosaic that shows the Constantinian apse was octagonal; these are sometimes opened on request.

An octagonal baptismal font in the south aisle dates from the 6th-century church of Justinian; it originally stood near the high altar. The inscription reads, “For remembrance, rest and remission of sins of those whose names the Lord knows.” Archaeologists have discovered an octagonal bed of exactly the same dimensions over a cistern near the altar which provided the required water. After the font was moved in the Crusader renovation, it became the focus of various colorful legends: it was the well into which the star of the Magi fell; the well where the Magi watered their horses; or the well to which David’s three heroes came.

The main altar at the east end and the one on the south (Altar of the Circumcision) are the property of the Greek Orthodox Church. The main altar includes an Orthodox iconostasis, which is crowned with gilded angels, icons, gilded chandeliers and lamps. On the north side of the high altar is the Armenian Altar of the Three Kings, dedicated to the Magi who tied up their horses nearby, and in the north apse is an Armenian altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Grotto of the Nativity, a rectangular cavern beneath the church, is the Church of the Nativity’s focal point. Entered by a flight of steps by the church altar, this is the cave that has been honored as the site of Christ’s birth since at least the 2nd century.

A silver star in the floor marks the very spot where Christ is believed to have been born. The star’s Latin inscription reads, “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born — 1717.” The floor is paved in marble, and 15 lamps hang above the star (six belong to the Greeks, five to the Armenians and four to the Latins).

All other furnishings date from after the fire of 1869, except for the bronze gates at the north and south entrances to the Grotto, which are from Justinian’s 6th-century church.

Steps away from the birthplace shrine is the Chapel of the Manger, owned by the Roman Catholics. Fragments of 12th-century wall mosaics and capitals around the manger survive. Back in the upper church, a door in the north apse leads to the Catholic Church of St. Catherine.

Quick Facts:-

Names:Church of the Nativity
Type of site:Eastern Orthodox church; Footsteps of Jesus; Catholic shrine
Dates:339 AD
Location:Manger Square, Bethlehem, Israel
Phone:02/274-2425
Hours:Summer: 6:30am-noon, 2-7:30pm daily; winter: 5:30am-noon, 2-5pm daily. Grottoes closed to tourists Sunday mornings.
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