The beach capital of India, Goa has more to offer beyond the beautiful nature. Amongst the other must visits landmarks in Goa are its many churches. The entire Indian state of Goa is dotted with churches that reveal the rich religious heritage of Goa. The churches of Goa are monuments of stone. They are of permanent interest to the historian, the archaeologist, the student of art and architecture, the tourist and indeed to every curious intellect.
The most comprehensive group of churches and cathedrals built during 16th to 17th century AD at Old Goa comprise of the Se' Cathedral, Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapel of St. Catherine, Basilica of Bom Jesus; Church of Lady of Rosary; Church of St. Augustine. The Church of St. Cajetan is modelled on the original design of St. Peter's Church in Rome. The Church of Bom Jesus with its facade decorated with Ionic, Doric and Corinthian pilasters, shows the application of the Classical order. The Se' Cathedral, with its Tuscan exterior, the Corinthian columns at its portals, the raised platform with steps leading to the entrance, the barrel-vault above the nave, is yet another example of Renaissance.
The paintings in the churches were done on wooden borders and fixed between panels having floral designs as in the chapels housing the tomb of St. Xavier, the arches above the altars in the transept of the Se' Cathedral and in the nave on either side of the main altar in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Excepting a few which are in stone, the statues are mostly in wood delicately carved and painted to adorn the altars. They depict mostly the saints, Mother Mary and Jesus on the cross.
Church of St Francis of Assisi, Goa
This church is the former palace of the Archbishop that connects the Se Cathedral to the Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Just like Se Cathedral, facing west stands Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi built in 1521. The church joins Se Cathedral at the convent. The church and convent were built by Franciscan friars, the first group that came to Goa in 1517. Back then it was a chapel. Later, it was modified into a church in 1521 and consecrated to the Holy Spirit on 2nd August, 1602. The church was rebuilt in 1661, but the black stone gate finely carved was retained. The convent reconstructed in 1529 was initially a group of cells built by Friars in the garden for residence purpose.
The Government of Portugal closed the convent in 1835. Later in 1964, a museum was set up in the convent and today, it houses a number of artifacts, paintings and sculptors. The double storeyed structure, 230 feet long and 108 ft wide was the residence of Archbishop till 1695, when they moved to Panelim. The exterior of the Church is of the Tuscan order while the main entrance is in Manuline style.
The church built of laterite is lime plastered. The doorway is Manueline style and the facade is flanked by octagonal towers on either side. A recess in the wall holds the statue of Our lady of Miracles (transported from Jaffna in Sri Lanka). On the pedestal bearing the sign of Fransiscans stands a wooden statue of St. Francis. The church is open for the public from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm except on Sundays and the museum is open 9 am to 12:30 pm and 3 pm to 6:30 pm.
Inside the church
The interiors are Mosaic Corinthian in style, the arch ribbed, the walls are illustrated with scenes from Bible and vault ribbed. The church has a main altar and two other on either side in the transept, a nave with three chapels on its either side and a choir on first floor. The choir has, in between carved wooden panels, a portrait of Fransiscian hagiology (literature related to their lives). The church has a belfry and a sacristy towards the north of the main altar. A wooden pulpit exquisitely carved with floral patterns on the left welcomes sight as you enter. Buttress walls are adorned with frescoes depicting sophisticated floral designs. These walls inside the structure separate the three chapels and support a gallery above.
The main altar dedicated to St. Francis is heavily ornated, the style is Baroque with Corinthian touch. Also on the altar is an equally large statue of Christ on the cross, underneath are mentioned the three vows of the saint - poverty, humility and obedience. On both sides of the nave are beautiful paintings made on wood illustrating instances of his birth, his first anointment, taking oath and joining the Dominican and other such important instances marking the life of St. Francis. Beneath the main altar is a tabernacle supported by four evangelists. This tabernacle was earlier used for exhibiting the holy sacrament.
Inside the convent
The convent was turned into an Archaeological Museum for public in 1964. The museum has a rich collection of paintings, artefacts, statues etc. On display are eclectic collection comprising sixty portraits of Portuguese viceroys and governors of Goa. There are statues of Afonso de Albuquerque, Vasco da Gama and St.Catherine (in bronze) from the Viceroy of Arch. Some Hindu deities are also there like Lord Vishnu and a standing statue of Lord Surya (the sun god).
Basilica of Bom Jesus - Goa
Nine kilometers from Panaji, standing witness to a milestone event in the history of Christianity, is the world famous church of Goa, Basilica of Bom Jesus. The church of Bom Jesus, "Good" or "Infant" Jesus, is known principally for the tomb of St. Francis Xavier. In 1946, it became the first church of India to be elevated to the status of Minor Basilica. One of the richest churches in Goa, it is covered with marble and inlaid with precious stones and paintings depicting the life of St. Francis Xavier. The basilica, where the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are kept, is the best specimen of baroque architecture in India. St. Francis's body was brought to Goa almost 150 years after his death. It was a gift from Medici, Cosimo III, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany. It now lies in an airtight glass coffin, placed inside a silver casket fashioned by a 17th century Florentine jeweller. The chapel attracts large numbers of visitors every year.
Visitors from India and overseas flock to the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, built in 1605, and now declared a World Heritage Monument. The church houses the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa, who died while on a sea voyage to China on December 2, 1552. The following year, while transferring his remains to Goa, in accordance with his wishes, it was found that the saint's body was as fresh as the day it was buried. This miraculous phenomenon continues to attract the devout from all lands, and an Exposition or public viewing of his body every ten years attracts lakhs of pilgrims. The Saint had miraculous healing powers which were experienced by the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad when he came for the Exposition of 1878
It was the first church in India to be raised to the status of a minor Basilica in 1946. Construction work began in 1594 and the church was consecratedon 15th of May, 1605 by the Archbishop, Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes. Dedicated to infant Jesus, this church is most revered among the Goans. The mortal remains of Goa's patron St. Francis Xavier are kept here. Referred fondly as 'Goencho Saib' (Lord of Goa) by Goans, emotions of Goans run high when it comes to St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis was a member of society of Jesus who came to Goa in a 1542. Although his stay in Goa was short, just four months, but he kept coming back time and again since Goa housed the headquarters of Society of Jesuits in the East. He died enroute to China on December 3, 1552. Though he was buried there, his body was brought back to Goa after two years in accordance with his wish. It was then discovered that the body was still intact. The body at that time was laid in St. Paul's church but after St. Francis Xavier was Canonized in 1662, it was shifted to Basilica of Bom Jesus where it remains till date. Public viewing is held every ten years. This event attracts lakhs of pilgrims from round the globe.
The Church and the Architecture
Declared a world heritage site, Basilica of Bom Jesus stands as a fine example of Jesuit architecture. The design was inspired from St. Paul church but that church stands in ruins now. In the same compound built by Jesuits, was their Professed house. The Professed house, a double storeyed structure is made of laterite and lime plastered. Facing west, this triple storeyed structure stands 75 3/5 feet wide and 78 ½ feet tall. The facade of Basilica of Bom Jesus is a visual delight flaunting a combination of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles in the columns. The ground floor has three portals, above them are three corresponding long windows and on the second floor are three circular windows. While the beautification is true Baroque style complete with curves and embellishments, the facade is adorned by pillars and carvings. But the layout is simplistic with a single nave inspired by Renaissance style. The top most part of the facade forming a quadrangle is carved in basalt to form a medallion illustrating the emblem of Society of Jesus.
Attached to the church is a modern art gallery, the Bom Jesus Church art gallery. It's the first and largest art gallery in Asia. A buttress wall on the northern side is a recent addition to the structure. Basilica also organizes a sound and light show based on the life of Christ, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Joseph Vaz and the feast is held every year on December 3. The basilica is open from 6 am to 6:30 pm. everyday
Inside Basilica of Bom Jesus
Crucified in form, interiors of the Basilica are Mosaic Corinthian style, but the Renaissance inspired simplicity is remarkable. One of the richest churches in Goa, the floor of the church is made of grand marble and inlaid with precious stones. The roof of the church was originally tiled. There is a choir above the entrance supported by columns. These columns hold slabs which inform in Portuguese and Latin that 'the construction of this church of Jesus began on November 24, 1594 and Fr. Alexia de Menezes, the Archbishop of Goa and Primate of India consecrated it on 15 May 1605, when it was completed.' Also within the domicile are a main altar, a sacristy, a belfry at the back and two chapels, at the either ends of the transept. Running 182 4\5 feet long and 55 ½ feet broad, on each side are three rows of windows, one above the other. A projecting gallery in the second row supported by columns meant for dignitaries runs on the sides. At the end of the nave is main altar rich with gilded work in gold dedicated to infant Jesus. It has a statue of infant Jesus under the protection of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the society of Jesus, his eyes on the medallion of Jesuits. Above the medallion are depicted the holy trinity- the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
On the either side of the main altar in the transept are the other two altars dedicated to Our Lady of Hope and St. Michael. All the altars are rich with guild work and Baroque in style. In the north of the transept is the chapel of the blessed sacrament or the Mausoleum of St. Francis Xavier. This chapel where St. Francis Xavier lies in a silver casket is lavishly decorated with wooden carvings and paintings depicting scenes from the life of the saint. The tomb of St. Francis made of rich marble of different colours took ten years to complete. A present to the church from the last Medici, the duke of Tuscany, Cosimi III, this tomb was designed by famous Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini. In the centre of the nave of the church is the cenotaph, embellished with bronze guild, of the benefactor of the church Dom Jeronimus Mascarenhas, Captain of Cochin and Ormuz. An extensively carved wooden pulpit with a canopy is projecting from the southern wall. The pulpit is carved on its three sides with images of Jesus, four evangelists and four doctors of the church.
The church also has a rich collection of paintings relating to the life of St. Francis Xavier. On the Southern wall of the church are displayed paintings (Italian school) depicting various instances from the life of St. Francis Xavier. This modern art gallery is one of the largest and one of its kind in Asia. The gallery houses paintings of Italian art. The gallery has 36 oil paintings made between 1973 and 1976. The artist was paid only for the material used, his creativity being a gratis for the church, thus was commissioned by Fr. George D'Sa. The largest two are 'The Last Judgement' (6ft x 9ft) and 'Genesis' (4ft x 28ft),
Church of St. Andrew, Goa
This famous church of Goa Velha was originally built in 1583 but was abandoned for fear of its collapse. The present church, named after the Patron St. Andrew, the Apostle, was built in 1868 in a different place at the same village. The most remarkable feature of this church is the Procession of All Saints, the only such procession besides Rome, when 31 statues of the saints are taken in a procession on the 5th Monday of Lent around the whole village covering some 2-km distance. In the beginning, the number of statues was 65. The statues were taken from the Monastery of the Capuchos at Pilar in 1835 after the extinction of this religious order.
The Church of St. Cajetan, Goa
The Church of St. Cajetan is modelled on the original design of St. Peter's Church in Rome. The Church of Bom Jesus with its facade decorated with Ionic, Doric and Corinthian pilasters, shows the application of the Classical order. The Se' Cathedral, with its Tuscan exterior, the Corinthian columns at its portals, the raised platform with steps leading to the entrance, the barrel-vault above the nave, is yet another example of Renaissance. The paintings in the churches were done on wooden borders and fixed between panels having floral designs as in the chapels housing the tomb of St. Xavier, the arches above the altars in the transept of the Se' Cathedral and in the nave on either side of the main altar in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Excepting a few which are in stone, the statues are mostly in wood delicately carved and painted to adorn the altars. They depict mostly the saints, Mother Mary and Jesus on the cross.
Built in the style of St. Peter?s Basilica in Rome in c.1655 AD near the Viceroy's Arch at Old Goa, it is well maintained and a splendid example of Christian architecture. It was built by Italian friars of the Order of Theatines who were sent by the Pope Urban III, now known as the Church of the Divine Providence. A pastoral college for newly ordained priests is adjacent to it.
Procession of All Saints is the only such procession besides Rome, where 31 statues of the saints are taken in a procession on the 5th Monday of Lent around the whole village covering some 2-km distance. In the beginning, the number of statues was 65. The statues were taken from the Monastery of the Capuchos at Pilar in 1835 after the extinction of this religious order.
Church of the Carmelites in Goa
Nothing remains of the Church of the Carmelites excepting the fa硤e and a raised pavement, which served as an altar. Its location is to the southeast of the Church of St. Cajetan and is on a hill more or less contiguous to the hill on which the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount stands. The church was built in 1621. The Carmelites, on their refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the king, were expelled from Goa in 1707. The church fell into disuse and ruins soon after.
The Church of St. Francis Xavier in Goa
Behind the gate of St. Paul's college is a Kuchcha road branching off the main road, leading to the chapel of St. Francis Xavier. It is built of laterite plastered with lime mortar, with tiled roof supported by wooden rafters is a plain chapel with only one altar.
Architecturally, it is of the Doric order. The Chapel was within the enclosure of the College of St. Paul and was dedicated either to St. Anthony or to St. Jerome. As the chapel was used by St. Francis Xavier, it was re-dedicated to him after his canonization in 1622. The original chapel was in existence in 1545. With the outbreak of the epidemic and the consequent abandoning of the college of St. Paul in 1570, the chapel fell into ruins and the present chapel was built in 1884.
Cathedral Church in Goa
The Portuguese Viceroy Redondo commissioned the Se, or St. Catherine's' Cathedral, southwest of St. Cajetan's, to be "a grandiose church worthy of the wealth, power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic to the Pacific". Largest church in Asia, Se Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine as it was on St. Catherine's day, November 25, that Alfonso de Albuquerque, Portuguese Naval General conquered Goa. Along came the first missionaries, the Dominicans sent by the Portuguese. The original church erected was that of mud, stones and straw. Subsequent modifications were made and a second church came up in 1515. Later the status of church was elevated to a cathedral and the structure demolished to make way for the subsequent building. Viceroy Dom Francisco Coutinho, Count of Redondo (1561-1564) was instructed by the Portuguese government to build "a grandiose church worthy of the wealth, power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic to the pacific". The church was designed by engineers Julio Simao and Ambrosio Arguero and it took almost three-fourth of a century (1562-1619) to complete. No church in Portugal today can beat Se Cathedral in terms of its size. This west facing church is made in shape of a cross. Construction of body of Cathedral was completed by 1619 and then the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar on the feast day of the Guardian Angel amidst great solemnities.
Portuguese Gothic in style, the exterior of the building is Tuscan while the interior is Corinthian. The 98 ft high facade was flanked by two Manueline style square towers on the northern and southern side. However, the northern tower collapsed in 1776. The remaining tower has a 'Golden bell' referred so because of its rich sound. Earlier, relics of St. Francis Xavier were shown to public here. The largest church in Asia also has the prestige of being the seat of Archdiocese of Goa. The church is one of the most sacred buildings for the Christians and has been declared a heritage site by UNESCO. Located opposite the Basilica de Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral is open seven days week 7:30 am to 6:30 pm except during mass.
The cathedral has fifteen altars and eight chapels. The grand altar being dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. On either side of the altar stand images of St. Peter and St. Paul. Beautifying are engravings depicting Matyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria (307 A.D.). The altar has frames carved depicting scenes from the life of St. Catherine and a majestic crucifix. Close to the altar is placed the throne of Archbishop of Goa. In a gallery close to nave is placed an eighteenth century organ. To the right is a door leading to the barrel vault structured sacristy which has a model of St. Peter's church in Rome.
Inside the cathedral, which is 69 1/5 feet wide and 142 3/5 feet long, are placed four altars on each side. The inside of the Cathedral being divided into a nave (72 feet) and two aisles (57 ½ feet). On the right in the order of placing are the Chapels of St. Anthony, St. Bernard, Cruz Dos Milagres or the Miraculous Cross and The Holy Ghost. It is said that a vision of Christ had emerged on the Miraculous cross in 1919 and that the cross is growing in size. On the left side are the chapels dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Necessidades, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and the last to Nossa Senhora de Boa Vida. Among these, Chapels of Blessed Sacrament and The Miraculous cross are noteworthy. They are adorned with some outstanding filigree work (delicate and intricate ornamental work made from gold, silver, or other fine twisted wire).
Further, in the interiors are placed six altars in the transverse part of the Cruciform of the church, three on either side of the main altar. To the right are those of St.Anna, Our Lady of Doloures and St.Peter and on left are those of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our lady of Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope. The arches of four of these chapels are adorned with paintings depicting scenes from the life of saints. The neighbouring convent is now an Archeological Museum for public viewing and behind the cathedral is the two storeyed Palace of Archbishop. However, this is not in use anymore.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount in Goa
As one proceeds, about 2-km on the main road towards Ponda, a Kuchcha road branches off towards north at a place where a cross is fixed. The road leads to a hill on which, commanding a picturesque view, is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount. A series of steps leads to the Chapel, which is built of laterite plastered with lime mortar. It has three main altars dedicated respectively to our lady of the mount, St. Anthony and St. Andrew.
The chapel was built under the orders of Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510 and is referred to as in existence in 1519. It was reconstructed twice.
The Church And Convent Of St. Monica, Goa
In the Holy Hill, on the way to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary , is a huge three-storeyed building of laterite which was originally lime-plastered but is now plastered with cement. It is square on plan with a large inner courtyard, around which is a cloistered verandah and numerous cells and halls. The vaulted ceilings in some of the halls are tastefully painted with floral decorations and scenes from the Holy bible.
The construction of the convent and the church of St. Monica was commenced in 1606 and completed in 1627. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1636 and re-built the following year.