Goa - History and Churches of Old Goa
Chapel of Our Lady of Rosary
Goa;History of Old Goa
Goa is a land of beautiful beaches and centuries old churches. The name “Goa” is believed to be derived from “Gomanta” as per the Hindu scriptures.
It is believed that this part of land was submerged in the sea and Parasurama, the Hindu deity reclaimed the land from the sea to settle the Aryans along the banks of the rivers of Mandovi and Zuari. Later it was ruled by Mauryan emperors , followed by Bhoja dynasty, Silaharas and Kadambas and Mughals
Following the landing of Vasco de Gama in 1748, in Calicut, the Portuguese tried to make Cochin (now part of kerala) as their trading centre. Following opposition from the local leaders, they had to move to another location, and they found old Goa the most appropriate place for their trade with its rivers and proximity to sea. Old Goa was an important trade route between the different parts of the world.
In 1510. Afonso de Albuquerque invaded old Goa and succeeded in chasing away the then ruler, Ismail Adil Shah. In seventeenth century, they further expanded their kingdom. The Portuguese built many churches in Goa and transformed the locals in such a way that we can still see a mixed culture in Goa which is not purely Indian. Churches of Goa stand testimony to the blending of Indo-Portugeese culture and architecture.
Places to visit in Goa
The Mughals and the Portuguese erected many grand edifices on the land of Goa to prove their majestic dynasties. The buildings erected by the previous rulers were destroyed when the new rulers took the reign. Some of the buildings in old Goa are very old; some are half broken and many are protected by the archaeological society of India. The tourists’ attractions in Goa are its beaches, temples and churches. In this hub I will try to give description about churches in Old Goa.
The present tourist cannot fully appreciate the ancient grandeur of Old Goa as most of those palatial buildings are destroyed or demolished and only remnants of some of them remain now.
Casino in the waters of Mandovi
Se Cathedral - Old Goa
Se Cathedral is the largest among the churches of Goa and measures 35.36 m high on the façade, 76.2 m long and 55.16 m wide. The church has eight chapels along the aisles, six altars in the transept besides the main altar. A bell tower is located to the southern side of the façade and the bell in this tower is called “Golden bell” on account of its rich sound resonating Old Goa. A latin inscription inside this one of the oldest churches of Goa, records that the Cathedral was ordered to be erected in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastiao.
The main altar of Se Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter are kept in niches on either side. This church of Goa remained under construction for nearly three fourths of a century beginning from 1562. The main body of the church was completed in 1619 and the altars in 1652.
Se cathedral has a beautiful exterior and a courtyard. The building looks majestic with high vaulted ceiling and a magnificent appearance. This building speaks volumes of its glorious past and is a blend of Indo Portugese art.
Church & Convent of St Francis of Assisi, Old Goa
Former palace of the Archbishop connects Se Cathedral to the Church & Convent of St Francis of Assisi. It is situated west of Se Cathedral. Eight Franciscan friars constructed a small chapel with three altars and a choir on their arrival in old Goa in 1517 which is now known as the church of St Francis of Assisi. A church consecrated to the Holy Ghost was built in 1521, which was pulled down later. The present church was built in 1661. The church is built on laterile blocks and is lime – plastered. The church has a nave with three chapels on side, a choir, two altars in the transcept and a main altar. One of the chapels had the statue of ‘our Lady of miracles’ brought from Jaffna, in Sri Lanka. A wooden statue of St. Francis of Assissi still can be seen adorning the chapel. The convent adjacent to the church houses the Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1964.
Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa
Professed House of the Jesuits and Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa
Immediately to the south of the main road is the professed house which was completed in 1585 in spite of opposition from the locals. The church of Bom Jesus is connected to the professed house. Both buildings are made of laterite.
The church has two chapels, a main altar and a sacristy and a choir at the entrance. The church is called the Bom Jesus which means that the ‘Good Jesus” or ‘Infant Jesus’. This is the most revered churches of old Goa as it contains the relics of St. Francis Xavier. On the southern side in the transept is a chapel where the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier are kept. The silver casket, which serves as a reliquary containing the sacred relics of the saint is exquisitely carved and was once studded with precious stones. St. Francis Xavier is known as the patron saint of Goa. St. Francis Xavier then a student in Paris University reached Goa on 6th May 1542, to spread the ‘love of Christ for all men’. He travelled extensively to spread this message and gave up his body in Sancian, near China in 1552. After his death, his body was found to be fresh and miraculously preserved. It is said that the body continued to be fresh for at least 125 years after the saint’s death. Now the casket contains the ‘relics’ of the saint.
The saint’s finger is displayed to the public on dec 3rd , the feast of St. francis Xavier. The relics including the body is exposed to the public once in ten years , the last being in 2004.
Church of St. Cajetan, Old Goa
Convent and Church of St. Cajetan, Old Goa
Large and beautiful church of St. Cajetan is built of laterite blocks which are lime plastered. The main altar of the church is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence. The altar has carvings of beautiful figures of angels. There is a well in the middle of the church building which is reported to have been a Hindu temple tank. Church of St. Cajetan is modelled on the original design of St. Peter’s church in Rome. The church was built by Italian friars of the Order of Theatines who were sent by Pope Urban III to preach Christianity in Golkonda. As they were not permitted entry in Golkonda, they settled in Goa.
Church of St. Cajetan, Old Goa- Altar
Chapel of St. Catherine, Old Goa
The chapel was built in 1510 by Alfonso de Albuquerque to commemorate his entry into the city of Goa on St. Catherine’s day. It is situated further to the west of St. Francis of Assissi. The chapel was renovated in 1550 by Governor George Cabral. This chapel was raised to the state of cathedral by Pope Paul III in 1534 and it remained so till the new cathedral was constructed.
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Old Goa
Holyhill is situated to the west of Basilica of Bom Jesus, at the extremity of which is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. There are two chapels and three altars. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. The church overlooks the Mandovi River and it is has high reverence from the public as it is believed that St. Francis Xavier used to take religious classes here where the church exists now.
Mandovi River, Old Goa
Tower of the Church of St. Augustine, Old Goa
This tower also on the holy hill has four storeys with an arch in each. There were eight richly adorned chapels and four altars and a convent with numerous cells and artistic columns attached to the church. The tower and the church were built by Augustinian friars who arrived Goa in 1587. The church was deserted in 1835 following the religious suppression and the buildings fell into neglect and ruin. The archeological survey of India excavated the site and exposed tanks for holy water, a tunnel with number of unidentified human bones, staircase, dormitories, Chinese pottery, iron nails, coins of Portuguese origin, tiles of different colours etc.
Tower of the Church of St. Augustine, Old Goa
There are also other churches like Church and Convent of St. Monica, Church of the Carmelites, Convent and the Church of St. John of the God, Royal Chapel of St. Anthony, Convent and Church of the Cross of Miracles, Chapel of Our lady of the Mount etc. in the vicinity. Beaches, temples, casinos and water sports are the other tourist attractions in Goa.