Images of Medieval Art and Architecture

Text from The Saints in Art with their attibutes and symbols alphabetically arranged
by Margaret E. Tabor
Fourth Editon: London, 1924
Pages 113-4

ST. THOMAS (Biblical)
Saints Day-December 21

According to tradition he preached the Gospel in the East, and founded a Christian Church in India, where he died a martyr, pierced with a lance. A popular legend tells that he was sent by CHRIST to King Gondoforus of the Indies, to build a palace for him. The King gave him much gold for the purpose, but St. Thomas spent it on the poor and sick. The King threatened the saint with death, but his brother, who had lately died, came to life again, and warned him that St. Thomas was a servant of God, and that he had seen in Paradise a beautiful heavenly palace prepared for the King there. His attribute, the builder's rule or square, is in allusion to this story. There is another legend that St. Thomas, who had not witnessed the Virgin's Ascension to Heaven, doubted the fact, and looking into her tomb found it empty. The Virgin, pitying his weakness, let down her girdle from heaven that he might see it and believe. After many adventures the girdle ultimately came to Prato, in Italy, where it is preserved as a sacred relic.

When represented with the other apostles he is distinguished by his builder's rule; and is easily recognized in pictures of the 3Incredulity2, and of the legend of the girdle.

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Updated by Jane Vadnal, February, 1998