As city of Madras was the capital of Madras Presidency, by the turn of 20th century, a good number of Orthodox men and women arrived in the city seeking higher education 24 St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Chennai — Centenary Year 2016 and employment. Their love and devotion for Orthodoxy led them to seek a place of worship to practice their faith. Since it was difficult to buy land and build a church on their own, they decided to seek permission to share an existing church. Anglican Bishop Most Rev. Whitehead granted permission for Orthodox believers to share Holy Immanuel Church at Broadway, a garrison church. This magnificent church was constructed in the 19th century for British soldiers, but over the years its congregation had slowly moved out to other churches.
In October 1916, Rev. Ougen Ramban was appointed the first vicar and Holy Qurbana was celebrated, therefore officially becoming the first Orthodox Church outside Kerala. Our first Vicar went on to become the Catholicos of the East, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Ougen II.
To manage the financial and other expenses of our church, a managing committee headed by a lay man as President was appointed and until · 1942, a number of distinguished women served as Vice Presidents. Later the Vicar became the President and lay man the Vice President. In 1944 the church members started an association for conducting religious and social activities such as retreats, annual sales, picnics, free medical camps, etc. Those were the period of popular and efficient priests such as Rev. C. Zachariah and Rev. Thomas, both of whom were later ordained as Bishops known as His Grace Zachariah Mar Dionysius and His Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios. In 1951, during the visit of His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II, the church was renamed as St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral honouring the Apostle of India. In 1952, four priests were ordained in the Cathedral, one of whom later became a Bishop named His Grace Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios. In those days there was a hostel in the Cathedral premise for the benefit of young men coming to our city from Kerala.
Our Cathedral underwent major renovations in 1962 and again in 2003. During both occasions, the then office bearers were steadfast in their effort to reach out to all our members and our members were generous in their offerings and support. In 1966 our Cathedral had about 700 families spread across the length and breadth of Madras. The Orthodox community in Chennai now consists of more than 1500 families having memberships in Broadway Cathedral (including Chapel at Mylapore and Pilgrimage centre on St. Thomas Mount) and in independent churches locationed at Koyambedu, Tambaram, Avadi, Sembium, Thiruvottiyur, Padi, Injambakkam, Chetpet, and Puzhuthivakkam.
Broadway Cathedral has also been instrumental in the development of outside Chennai churches at various locations within Madras Diocese. Aimed at spiritual developments, every year the members of our Cathedral take great pain at organizing convention at Royapettah which is hugely popular among all the Orthodox members of Chennai.