Chapter Twenty-one

Where, then, is the tomb of St. Thomas if the two in Mylapore are Portuguese fakes? Where did he experience his passion and seal his mission with blood if not in India? We do not know the answer to this question, but there is a verse in an ancient St. Thomas hymn which says:

Thou despisest error
Thou destroyest unbelievers:
For, in the city where thou truly liest,
There never lives any of the heretics,
Jews, or Pagans.[70]


70. This hymn in Latin is earlier than the ninth century and is reproduced by Mgr. Zaleski in the Belgian Jesuit review Analecta Bollandiana, Vol. 6, 1887. It suggests that the whereabouts of St. Thomas’s grave was unknown in the ninth century and this is possible as Edessa was captured by the Arabs in 639 CE and ceased being a Christian state. The traditional dates of transfer of his remains are from “India”, i.e. from the royal mountain tomb in King Mazdai’s unidentified desert country, to Edessa between 222 CE and 235 CE (according to the Acts, all of the bones were transferred to Mesopotamia (Edessa) within the lifetime of King Mazdai), from Edessa to Chios in 1144, and from Chios to Ortona in 1258. The bones may have always rested at Edessa where St. Thomas had a tomb and a flourishing cult from earliest times; but in any case all of the skull was at Ortona in 1566 when the Bishop of Ortona issued his Deed of Verification, so there could not have been any skull bone at Mylapore for the Portuguese to find in 1523. The same is true of the other bones, though they, unlike the skull, are not specifically mentioned in the Ortona deed.