Mumbai Lens: St. Thomas and the Archangels

The moment I enter St. Thomas’ Cathedral in the Fort area of Mumbai, I am transported to England. Everything about the Cathedral from the cool white-washed interiors to the simple wooden pews to its polished brass memorials and wall plaques, and its many stained glass windows reminds me of the Anglican churches of England.

St. Thomas’ Cathedral is the first Anglican church in Mumbai and is also believed to to the oldest British building in this city. Though construction of the Cathedral of St. Thomas began in 1676, it was abandoned and remained neglected for nearly 40 years, when it was “adopted by an East India Company Chaplain in 1710. It was opened for worship as a church on Christmas Day in 1718″ (for details click here). St. Thomas’ was consecrated as a cathedral in 1837 and was selected for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific heritage conservation award 2004.

I love stained glass windows and spend quite a while admiring the many windows in the Cathedral. But the one window that completely captivates me is one that I almost missed. It is to one side and in a niche: a stained glass window of St. Thomas, flanked by two archangels St. Michael and St. Gabriel in a single frame.

St. Thomas Cathedral, Stained Glass, Mumbai

The stained glass window at the St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai. From L to R St. Gabriel, St. Thomas and St. Michael

This window also points out that I am in an Anglican Church. Though the Roman Catholic Church venerates St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael as the 3 archangels, St. Raphael is not really considered as an archangel by the Protestants. So, it was not surprising to see just 2 archangels instead of the 3 that I have seen in Catholic Churches.

My rather bad quality photograph does not show the details of the stained glass figures, but this window is absolutely fabulous. I was unable to find the name of the artist or when the window was made and installed. I first visited this Cathedral in August 2011 and it is time to revisit this beautiful place of worship once again, particularly since I heard that it has been spruced up with a paint job and some minor repairs.

The rains in Mumbai is also the perfect season to explore all the “indoor” treasures that the city has to offer. So if you are a Mumbaikar or you are visiting Mumbai, why don’t you drop into St. Thomas’ Cathedral?

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more of the posts here.

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23 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: St. Thomas and the Archangels

    • This window was practically glowing in the dim corner that it overlooks. It is stained glass that actually made me understand what “jewel tones” meant !

  1. I have not yet seen this beautiful cathedral, although I have heard a lot about it. The stained glass window is beautiful. Growing up as a Catholic, I also had very little knowledge about archangels, except the passing reference made to Michael and Gabriel in the Bible. Raphael is mentioned briefly in one of the books of the Bible. What was more significant was the prayer to our guardian angels that we were taught by our parents and teachers.That had much more meaning, and as a child I always believed that my guardian angel was by my side 24×7. I still say this beautiful prayer; at times almost automatically, especially when I am nervous and scared.

    • Neena Barnes, you are visiting this Cathedral of St. Thomas over the weekend !
      I was actually a little sad not to see St. Raphael here as I consider him my own guardian angel, you see :)

  2. The information you provided to identify the Church, I was never heard about that. Thanks For such information.

  3. To me a church is a church, and I guess I need a crash course in church architecture to distinguish between one and the other. But I love stained glass windows and saw some awesome ones in the church at Mt.St.Michael in Cornwall. Alas, I didn’t have a Sudha to enlighten me on their finer aspects. Maybe we could begin in Mumbai? :D

    • I would love to take you around the different churches in Mumbai, Zephyr. There are so many of them and with such different architectural styles. The ones in South Bombay and very different from the ones in the Western suburbs. I’m already planning an itinerary post the monsoons :D

  4. I really like this cathedral – a really nice place to go and sit in the cool, and savour the peace and quiet. And in my favourite part of Mumbai! I felt the same, yes, it is a very English church

    • South Bombay is my favourite part of Mumbai too. :) In spite of having stayed in Mumbai for so many years, I visited the St. Thomas Cathedral only after my stay in London. And when I walked in about two years back, it was like… being transported back to London. I felt so nostalgic.

  5. Have individual features been painted on the stained glass panels? I can see the slight outline of St Michael’s eyes and nose. I was wondering if the light had obscured the features of the other 2.

    • Yes, Meera. Individual features are very much there and the absence of it in the photograph is a testimony to my skills. I am planning to visit it soon and will try and post a better photograph.

  6. I visited Santhome In Chennai few years back and I found it very beautiful…I have a thing for churches… love the tainted glass painting…it gives a medieval look to the church…Thanks for sharing…looking forward to visit the cathedral…

    Fuad

    • Welcome here, Fuad and thank you very much for stopping by and commenting. Santhome is quite quite different and has incorporated a lot of local Indian flavour. In that sense, it is very different from the St. Thomas Cathedral in Mumbai, which is very Anglican, very English. If you like churches and stained glass windows then you must definitely visit it.

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