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St. Thomas the Apostle – apocryphal stories and legends

© Photo: www.pravoslavieto.com

St. Thomas the Apostle, a native of Galilee, was one of the apostles of Christ, who died a martyr for the Christian faith. In the ancient Aramaic language, his name means a twin, that’s why it is often claimed that he bore a strong resemblance with Jesus. His memory is celebrated on October 6, and along with the other apostles - on June 30. There is another feast dedicated to him as well - the so-called St. Thomas Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. In the past this day was called The Easter of the Dead because at that time the women painted eggs again and took them to the cemetery to their deceased loved ones – so that the souls of the departed could find peace and not turn into vampires.

One of the emblematic episodes in the life of the saint is known as the Assurance of Thomas. When the risen Christ appeared to some of his disciples, Thomas refused to believe and uttered his famous words: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the wounds of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!" Eight days later, the Savior appeared again to his disciples, Doubting Thomas was also among them. Jesus turned to Doubting Thomas in person and prompted him to verify the authenticity of the miracle. The saint did not hesitate to put his fingers in the wounds of Jesus and then exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!" Thus the doubt of Thomas has led unequivocally to the truth of the Resurrection, and he received the epithet Doubting. In the Bulgarian language, the expression Doubting Thomas has become an idiom meaning a distrustful, always suspicious skeptic, which some believe is the Bulgarian nature. Another idiomatic expression in Bulgarian is the phrase “to put one’s finger in the wound” – meaning to raise a painful topical issue.

© Photo: wikipedia.org

The Incredulity of St Thomas by Caravaggio
Apocryphal stories and images of church art connect Apostle Thomas with one of the most precious Christian relics – the chastity belt of the Virgin Mary. Shortly before her death, the Mother of God wanted to see the twelve apostles for the last time. Via a miraculous manner, they were transported upon clouds to Jerusalem from the lands where they preached Christ’s faith. Mary blessed them and passed away. Only Thomas failed to appear on time for the meeting, because he was busy converting to Christianity people in distant India. Only on the third day did he set out on his cloud. While airborne, he suddenly saw the Virgin, who at that moment was ascending to heaven. Desperate for failing to bid his farewell to her, he cried out with an entreaty that she could bless him. In response, she took off her chastity belt and gave it to the saint, thus bestowing him with proof of her bodily ascension. Legends say that the belt has been preserved to this day and continues to perform miracles. Three holy places claim to possess it: the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos, St. Stefan church in the Italian city of Prato, and the church Umm al- Zenar in the city of Homs, Syria.

Apostle Thomas allegedly was a skilled master builder. According to his biography, shortly after he was sent to teach in India, a messenger of the Indian king arrived in Jerusalem, looking for a skillful artist to build him a sumptuous palace. Thomas was hired to perform the task and traveled to India. There he appeared before the king and received money from him for the work, which he quickly gave away to the poor and the sick, preaching the doctrine of Christ. The king became angry and closed the Apostle in prison, but soon a miracle occurred. The king's brother was suddenly healed after a serious illness and had a vision of a beautiful heavenly palace. So the king understood that Thomas had not prepared an earthly but a heavenly dwelling with the charity he gave for the salvation of his soul, and his brother converted to Christianity. Because of this episode in his biography, though he was not in practice a builder, Apostle Thomas is considered the patron saint of builders, masons, and carpenters, among other holy people as the Old Testament Noah and Joseph Obruchnik.
As a master builder and carpenter, the saint is portrayed also in the Apocrypha. There he presents himself as follows: "I am a carpenter and I am able to make ploughs and ships. And I am a master of the stone and I can build royal courts and palaces." In some folklore texts, the character of Saint Thomas goes together with the ancient story of Daedalus who made wings and flew with them. Old builders told stories in which St. Thomas was a master builder and erected the mosque of Sultan Selim in Edirne. He made it so beautiful that the Sultan asked him whether he could build a better one. The master replied that it depended on money. Infuriated, the Sultan decided to kill him, but Saint Thomas guessed and got on one of the minarets, made himself wings and flew. According to some versions, he escaped, while in others he fell and died. It is also believed that it was the Apostle Thomas who invented the carpentry tools and he is also believed to be a patron of builders, keeping them from falling from scaffolding and from injuries.

During the Renaissance, Apostle Thomas was revered as the patron of the mason guilds - professional associations of master builders and masons. They celebrated solemnly his feast day and often presented as donations to the churches in their homelands icons with his image. Even today, October 6 is marked in Bulgaria as the professional day of architects, builders and masons. 

English: Rossitsa Petcova
По публикацията работи: Vihra Baeva
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