St. Thomas Cathedral
The island of Bombay which was a Portuguese possession became a part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess Infanta Catherine of Braganza on her marriage to Charles II of England under the Anglo Portuguese treaty of June 1661. In 1668 King Charles transferred it to the East India Company for a loan of pounds Sterling 50,000 at 6% interest and with a rental of pounds Sterling 10 per annum!
At that time the main center of the East India Company in Western India was Surat. The President of the Company in Surat assumed the additional role of Governor of Bombay from 1668. Gerald Angier, who was the Governor from 1669, took the initiative to build a Church for the English community. The foundation stone for the Church was laid in 1676 at the present site of the St. Thomas' Cathedral. But construction was suspended for almost 40 years due to several setbacks such as shortage of finance, revolt against the Company in 1683, the siege of Bombay by Sidi Yakub in 1689, a plague epidemic from 1686-96, etc.
One of the gates in the Fort which the East India Company had built to protect their settlement was the entrance to the St. Thomas Church. It was called Churchgate. That is why the whole area towards the West of the Church is called “Churchgate” even today. The street leading to the Church was originally called Churchgate Street and has been more recently renamed (like many streets in Bombay) and is now known as Veer Nariman Road.
In 1714, a 27-year-old, enthusiastic Chaplain, Richard Cobbe, M.A., arrived on the scene and took the initiative to complete the building of the Church. It was opened for divine service on Christmas Day 1718. Ever since then, it has been in use as a Church.
This church was named after St. Thomas who was one of the 12 Disciples of Christ and was the Apostle to India. After the crucifixion of Christ, Thomas came to the South West (Malabar) coast of India along with traders who traditionally imported spices from Malabar. He established the Christian Church in Kerala in the first century A.D.
St. Thomas Church in Bombay became a Cathedral in July 1837 when the See of Bombay with a Bishop was founded. The tower and the clock at the Western End were added in 1838. About 25 years later a major renovation scheme was launched to enlarge the chancel. This was completed by 1865.
In the 1920's the original tiled roof over the chancel was replaced by a concrete slab. Cracks in this slab allowed seepage of water into the porbandar stone walls in the apse. The leakage became a serious threat to the structure by the turn of the 21 st century. Therefore a second major renovation of the Cathedral was undertaken in 2002-03. The leaking concrete slab roof over the apse was replaced by the original tiled roof. Simultaneously the stained glass windows over the altar and the St. Thomas Chapel on the southside were restored to their original condition. Completion of this renovation was marked by a special service on Xmas day 2003.
The Cathedral, which is located within a few yards of Flora Fountain, is open on all days from 7.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The monuments on the walls inside the Cathedral are a witness to the history of Bombay Presidency from early 18 th century.
All are welcome to visit and to spend a few moments in meditation. Holy Communion Service is held every Sunday at 8.45 a.m.