I HAVE VISITED ST THOMAS Mount in Chennai twice so far. The two visits were separated by at least a quarter of a century. Amongst the many interesting things to see and experience on this sacred hill are some examples of Armenian script. This characteristic lettering can be found both on several tombstones and on some framed paintings of saints. Also, there is some Armenian writing inscribed on an ornate pulpit.
The church on the Mount is dedicated to Our Lady of Expectation. There are several sculptures of the pregnant Mary in or near the church, which was constructed close to the spot where St Thomas (the doubter) is supposed to have died. The church was constructed by Portuguese Franciscan missionaries in the 1520s. None of this information provides any clues to the presence of the Armenian lettering.
Armenians began setting in Madras in significant numbers in the mid-17th century. There is an Armenian Street in Chennai, where one can find an Armenian church. This was built in 1712. The two funerary monuments I saw on the Mount are dated after 1712: 1739 and 1764. The paintings with Armenian script are far newer. I am no expert on Armenia, so can say little if anything about their religious practices. Many Armenians are Christians, and a few of them are of the Catholic variety. I can only assume that the graves on the Mount are those of Catholic Armenians, and that some Catholic Armenian donor provided the paintings.
If anyone can give me more information about the presence of Armenian script in this church on the Mount, please share it with me.