Old Goa is a UNESCO world heritage site and is famed for its opulent buildings and churches reminiscent of the glory days of "Golden Goa". It was abandoned by the Portuguese officially in 1843 when the capital was moved to Panjim or Panaji. Today, most of the remaining buildings and churches are maintained by the Archeological Survey of India and the church services are maintained by the Archdiocese of Goa. Click on for more....
HistoryThis is the largest church in Goa, India and reportedly all Asia. The original building was constructed of mud and stones and straw and was erected in 1510 and was dedicated to St. Catherine for it was on St. Catherine's day -Nov 25th that Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa. It underwent modifications subsequently and a second church was constructed in 1515.
In 1538 the church status was elevated to that of a Cathedral with the establishment of the Diocese of Goa. This structure located in front of the present structure was also subsequently demolished to make way for the final structure. The Cathedral as it stands today took over three fourths of a century to be completed, beginning in 1562. The Portuguese viceroy, Dom Francisco Coutinho, the Count of Redondo (1561-1564) commissioned its construction. The building work was begun in 1562 and completed in 1652. He wanted it 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". The money for its construction was to be obtained out of the proceeds of property sold , belonging to Hindus or Muslims who died intestate or without heirs.. It is said to have been built on either a Hindu temple or a muslim mosque. In its final stages of construction, it was supervised by the eminent architects Antonio Argueiros and Julio Simao, Chief engineer to the state of India. The body of the Cathedral was completed in 1619 when the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the Altar on the feast of the Guardian Angel amidst great solemnities and rejoicings. It stood on the main square of the old city, alongside the main road or the Rua Direita, the principal thoroughfare of the city of Old Goa . To its left stood the Senate building and to its right the Palace of the Inquisition, both of which have since completely disappeared.
It has its facade facing east. Its beautiful courtyard is approached by a flight of stairs. The building does not seem very imposing in its outward appearance, the height of its front piece including the cross is 115 2/3 feet and the breadth 100 4/3 feet.; its total length is 250 feet and breadth 181 1/3 feet. It is externally built in half Tuscan and half Doric style, internally it is built in the Mosaic-Corinthian style. It has three large portals. It initially had two bell towers but the one towards the north collapsed on July 25th 1776. The remaining tower houses five bells including the "Golden bell", named so because of the gold rumored to be mixed in its creation accounting for its wonderful sound. During the Inquisition its tolling announced the start of the gruesome " auto da fes " that were held on the square outside.
The interior of the Cathedral is majestic and it has a high vaulted ceiling. Its body excluding the four chapels on each side is 142 3/5 feet long and 69 1/5 feet wide and is divided into a nave and two isles, the nave being 72 feet and the aisles each being 57 1/2 feet. At the entrance besides the two marble basins for holy water inserted in the columns , is a baptismal font made of black stone with an inscription dated 1532 that belonged to the old cathedral. Apart form the main altar, there are four chapels to either side. To the right are Chapels dedicated as follows from the first to St Anthony, the second to St. Bernard, the third to the Cruz dos Milagres or the Miraculous Cross, and the fourth to the Holy Ghost. The Miraculous Cross deserves special mention because it is thought to have grown in size. It was transferred from the hill of Boa Vista on 23rd February 1845 to the Chapel. Of the four Chapels on the left, the first is dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Necessidades, the second to St. Sebastian, the third to the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth to Nossa Senhora de Boa Vida. Of these the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is the most spacious and beautiful. Further into the interior one finds the transept 36 feet by 90 4/3 feet. It has six altars, three on each side. To the right dedicated to St Joseph, Nossa Senhora das Dores, and St. Peter. To the left dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Augusta, St. George, and Nossa Senhora d'Esperanza. Near the altar of St. Joseph is a slab covering the bones of Dom Gaspar de Leao Pereira, First Archbishop of Goa.
The Cathedral-Principal Chapel
The principal chapel with its high altar has an imposing
appearance, and is 38 feet long and 34 4/5 feet broad. The altar piece is richly
adorned with engravings. It has three niches in the center, one above the other,
in which stand three images, one of St. Catherine, another of Nossa Senhora d'Assumptio, and the third of Christ crucified. On both sides of the altar piece
stand images of St. Peter and St. Paul., besides these there are four engravings
depicting the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria (died AD 307). In the
nave near the altar are seats for the Canon and a throne for the Archbishop. To
the right is a projecting gallery on which is kept an eighteenth century organ.
To the right also is a door leading to the Sacristy, which is a barrel shaped
structure with a gilded altar showing a church modeled after St. Peter's in
The Church and the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi was created by the Franciscan friars, eight of whom came to Old Goa in 1517. The future Church and Convent began as a chapel built after the Governor made available to them some houses belonging to a deceased Thanedar Joao Machado. This was subsequently modified to a church in 1521 consecrated to the Holy Spirit on August 2nd 1602. The Convent was initially some cells that the friars built in the garden as their residence. It underwent a renovation in 1529. Around that time it housed some forty friars. In 1835 this Convent was closed by the Portuguese government, its 27 inmates were expelled ,never to return and its property appropriated. Since 1964 the convent houses the Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India. Among the collections in the museum are artifacts, paintings and sculptures . For more details check out the Archaeological Survey of India Museum page.
The Church contiguous to the Convent was demolished in
1661 and rebuilt retaining its old gate made of black stone and exquisitely
carved. It has a courtyard and an old large cross made of black stone. Its
external architecture belongs to the Tuscan order and its interior to the
mosaic-Corinthian style. Its length is about 190 feet and its breadth about 60
feet. the great organ that stood on its side altars was removed and today adorns
the church at Margao. The interior is heavily gilded with scenes from the
bible and the walls have frescoes showing intricate floral designs. In the niche
on the facade stands a statue of St. Michael. A wooden statue of St. Francis of
Assisi adorns a pedestal in one of its chapels. Of the nine altars and six
chapels that this church once possessed, only three now remain. The main altar
has a richly carved niche with a tabernacle supported by four evangelists. Above
the tabernacle is a large statue of St. Francis of Assisi and an equally large
statue of Jesus on the Cross, about 6 1/2 feet in height. The church presently
is not used for religious functions.
Also known as the Casa Professa, it was constructed by the Jesuits after some local opposition in 1594. It was built in the center of the city on a square known as Terreiro dos Gallos. The house has no particular founder but owed its creation to the efforts of the Jesuit fathers of Goa. It was a magnificent building in its time. The building that stands today is a part of the original edifice, some of its long corridors and spacious apartments having been destroyed by fire and some by time. After the expulsion of the Jesuits on September 26th 1759 from Goa, the house was placed under the care of the Archbishop of Goa. The Marquis of Pombal, architect of the expulsion decreed that the House be used as the Archbishop's Palace and had it named House of Bom Jesus. The subsequent move of the capital to Panjim meant that this never materialized. Of note is that in one of the halls on the third floor, the Relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier was kept for 13 years. On April 3 1956, the then Patriarch of Goa, Dom Jose Alvarez appointed Fr. Estanislau Martins S.J. as the administrator and rector of the Church of Bom Jesus. He actually began living in the Professed house from April 3oth 1956.The Jesuits finally returned to their house. Even today, they are only the administrators of the house, the ownership still lies with the Archdiocese of Goa.
The Professed House plays host to the Retreat Movement today. The second floor of the residence functions as the Retreat House for thousands of students both Christians and non-Christians across the nation, its mission being to help people to grow as "Lights of the World".
HistoryThis is the most revered and famous of all the churches in Old Goa. It contains the relics of St. Francis Xavier, Patron saint of Goa, Apostle of the Indies and for most Goans " Goencho Saib ". Its construction was begun on the 24th November 1594 out of the funds bequeathed for the purposes by Dom Jeronimos Mascarenhas and was consecrated by the Archbishop Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes, on the 15th of May 1605. In 1946 it became the first church in India to be elevated to the status of a minor basilica.
The three storey facade facing west that is a combination of Doric, Corinthian and composite style architecture. It is built of black laterite stone and is 78 1/2 feet high and 75 3/5 feet broad. Its facade may be divided into four parts; the lowest containing three elegant portals, the part immediately above having three large windows corresponding to the three portals, the third part above with the three circular windows and the fourth part that forms a quadrangle richly embellished with arabesques. All these portions are adorned with pillars and carvings. The pillars and detail are carved from basalt brought in from Bassein, another Portuguese enclave north of Goa.
The interior of the Basilica built in the mosaic-Corinthian style is remarkable for its simplicity. Its length is 182 4/5 feet, its breadth 55 1/2 feet and its height 61 1/3 feet. On each side there are three rows of windows rising one over another, besides those of the choir and corresponding circular ones. Those in the second row have a projecting gallery skillfully attached to them. Its interior is entered beneath the choir and is supported by columns. The body of the Basilica is spacious. The transept of the Basilica ends on each side in a chapel. To the left one sees the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament guarded by a huge arch with pillars. From 1623-1655, the relics of St. Francis Xavier were kept in this chapel. The altar is meant for the tabernacle only. Now the Blessed Sacrament is preserved in a small gold tabernacle which was first kept on the main altar below the huge statue of St. Ignatius. On the northern wall near to the side door is a cenotaph in gilded bronze to Dom Jeronimos Mascarenhas, Captain of Cochin and Ormuz and the benefactor of the church. The main altar is 54 feet high and 30 1/5 feet broad and is dedicated to the Infant Jesus. It is exquisitely decorated in gold and depicts the infant Jesus under the protection of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, whose eyes are raised to a huge gilded sun above his head on which the Jesuit symbol " IHS " is emblazoned. Above the sun is a depiction of Trinity . The statue of St. Ignatius is almost three meters high. To each side are altars to Our Lady of Mercy and St. Michael. There is also the Liturgical altar that was set up in the transept by assembling parts of the old discarded altars. It was inaugurated on March 12th 1965.
St. Xavier's Mausoleum
To the south of the church on the right lies a lavishly and exquisitely decorated chapel and tomb of St. Francis Xavier. Following the Canonization of St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuits decided to move his body to the Basilica from the College of St. Paul. The body of the saint was moved with great fanfare and ceremonies in 1624 to the Chapel in the Basilica on the north side . It was moved to its present site in 1655. The Chapel is entered by three doors, looking to the east, west and and South respectively. Over the last door is hung a beautiful picture 5 7/10 feet by 4 1/3 feet which is said to bear a faithful likeness to the saint. The interior of the chapel is richly gilded and embellished with twenty seven pictures choice pictures representing the life and the miracles of the saint.
The mausoleum is a three tiered catafalque structure that was financed by the Duke of Tuscany (1670-1737) in return for the pillow on which the head of St. Francis Xavier rested for many years after his death. The famed Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini designed and executed the structure ( taking about ten years to do that) and it was consecrated in 1698.The tomb is constructed of rich marble of variegated colors. The mausoleum packed in 65 cases arrived at Goa on September 16 1698 from Florence, Italy. It was erected between October 14th to November 9th 1698.
The first or lowest stage is of jasper. Its bottom is of reddish and purple colors marked with white stripes and the borders are of white stone with yellow stripes. This is sculpted with figures of eight large cherubs. This stage is 4 1/3 feet high, 19 1/10 feet long and 9 2/3 feet broad and resembles an urn.
The second stage is 5 2/3 feet high, 11 1/3 feet long and 5 1/3 feet wide and is a regular quadrangle. It is also made of jasper and in its center on each side is a bronze plate depicting the various incidents in the life of the saint. There is also a corresponding emblematic figure with a motto below each plate.
The third and the highest stage is exquisite. It is 9 2/5 feet long and 3 2/3 feet broad and 2 1/5 feet high. It is surrounded by a beautiful railing of red jasper marked with white spots. It is adorned with pretty figures of angels, and its middle portion is graced with columns carved and standing at equal intervals. The intervening spaces are surmounted with arches and have several incidents in the life of the saint represented on them. On the top of this stage lies the Silver casket in which the relics of the saint are deposited.
The Silver Casket
The inspiration for the design of the plates on the silver casket came from the Flemish artist Valerian Regnart who had painted and exhibited in Rome , many of the Saint's pictures in 1622. The casket was constructed entirely by local Goan silversmiths under the watchful supervision of European Jesuits especially Fr. Marcelo Mastrilli S.J. who was in Goa at that time. It is also known as the Mastrillian casket. The cost of its creation was defrayed by donations collected in Goa and elsewhere. Though Fr. Mastrilli left for Japan on April 29th 1636 and subsequently died there, the work on creating the casket continued at Goa and it was completed the following year in time for the feast of the Saint on December 2 1637.The casket measures 6 4/5 feet in length, 2 9/10 feet in breadth and 3 3/10 feet in height, exclusive of the lid which bulges out about 1 1/2 feet on each side. It is crowned by a beautiful cross which is 2 1/2 feet high. The cross stands on a pedestal graced with the figures of two angels on either side, one near the head holding a heart with a halo and the other near his feet bearing the motto
"Satis est, Domine, Satis est" " It is enough , O Lord, it is enough!" believed to be his favored and most famous utterances.
The silver casket is attached to a velvet lining on the inside. The casket on each side had a total of seven panels each of which had two plates one over the other. These plates with those at both ends form a total of 32 panels, each representing an important event in the life of the Saint. The plates on the sides have since been removed to make the relics visible through the inner glass/ crystal urn into which the relics were placed in 1955.
The Crystal Urn
After the Exposition in 1952, D. Jose da Costa Nunes, Patriarch of Goa, decided that the sacred relics should no longer be touched directly and therefore had the Crystal case/urn ordered. The crystal urn was made in the "Casa Brandizzi " at Rome and was brought to Goa on January 30th 1955. The relics were placed in the crystal urn and then into the silver casket on February 13th 1955 and sealed. The silver frame of the urn would not fit in the casket and was discarded. The old wooden coffin with its three keys is now kept in the museum at the Professed House of the Jesuits.
The Relics of the Saint placed in the crystal urn show him to be clad in rich vestments with the coat of arms of the queen of Portugal, Maria Francisca de Sabeia. By the side is a gold medal declaring the Saint as the Defender of the East, and a staff covered in gold and 160 emeralds, both of which were placed on the orders of the King of Portugal Pedro II ( 1683-1706) on October 23 1699.
December 3, the day of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the saint's finger is
displayed to the public. The exposition of the body of St. Francis Xavier is
held once every ten years and the last being in 1994 and the next being 2004.
The Church and the Convent of St. Monica is situated contiguous to the Chapel of St. Anthony and facing north on Monte Santo. The Convent was sanctioned in 1598 and its foundation was laid by the Archbishop Dom Frei Alexio de Menezes who was also the then Governor of Portuguese India on July 2nd 1606. Its work was completed in 1627. The rules of the monastery compiled by the Archbishop, were modeled on those of St. Augustine, and was approved by Pope Paul V, vide his Papal brief dated 27th November, 1613 and received the sanction of the king of Portugal who, by royal decree dated the 26th March 1636, accepted its patronage. The convent was subsequently called the Royal Monastery of Santa Monica. It was the first nunnery of the East.
convent was large enough to accommodate some hundred nuns, known as daughters of
St. Monica, as well as the widows willing to devote themselves to the service of
Goa. The nunnery was also used to
give shelter to ladies during the absence of their husbands, when on service in
other parts of the Empire. This
convent was open to all nuns, European, Eurasian and also to those of local
vast three-storied building, which was circled at the back and sides by a huge
enclosure, was provided with everything necessary for the comforts and
convenience of the inmates. The
gardens of the convent covered a vast area and were full of aromatic plants and
beautiful flowers, with which the nuns used to adorn the altars.
In the adjoining orchards grew some of the best fruits of India, and the
kitchen garden produced all kinds of vegetables which were used for their daily
requirements. Twelve walls provided the best water for the irrigation of their
cultivated plot and a water tank embellished that haven of peace.
The church was attached to the convent to the south. Its external architecture is a combination of the Tuscan, Corinthian and composite style, Its interior belongs to the Doric and composite style. Its greatest length is 175 feet and breadth 36 feet. The façade of the church presents on the top a statue of Santa Monica and the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Three solid buttresses support the façade and through their arches runs the road that lead to the priority of the Rosary. The nave is divided into two parts. The first makes up the principal part of the church with two side altars, the one on the right dedicated to Divine Jesus and the one on the left to Virgins Africanas. The main altar contains the image of Santa Monica, mother of St. Augustine, to whom the convent and the church is dedicated.
In the tribune, which surmounts to the altar, rises the famous “Miraculous Cross”, 108” high. On February 8th 1636, this image opened its eyes and was seen moving, while from its wounds, blood appeared to flow. This miracle occurred again on the 12th of that month in the presence of the viceroy and other officials. On August 24, 1636, a statement was written at the Archbishop’s palace mentioning these events and after investigations was concluded as miraculous. The image has since been held in great veneration.
It closed as
a nunnery after its last
sister died in 1885. It was reinstated to church status in 1968. It currently
houses the Theological Center of the Matar Dei institute. This is a center of
higher education for nuns and draws a varied international group. It was
inaugurated on June 5th 1964.
Its facade has the appearance of a fortress, having openings
in its wall to visualize invaders. Its design is simple, in front of its altar lies
the tombstone of Garcia de Sa, one of the early governors of Goa. It is a fine
example of true "Manueline" style architecture of the early
Portuguese. Its interior is simple and has five altars the main altar of which
bears the image of Nossa Senhora de Rozario or Our Lady of the Rosary.
HistoryOpposite the Se Cathedral, lying beyond the Rua Direita across the road is the large Church and Convent of St. Cajetan. It was build by Italian friars of the order of Theatines in 1640. The friars were missionaries appointed by the then Pope Urban VIII to preach Christianity to the Kingdom of Golconda , but when they did not get permission to work in Golconda, they settled in Goa in 1640. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence but is popularly called St. Cajetan, the founder of the Order of Theatines. The convent can be seen standing in front of the church. Today the convent houses the a functioning theological college, the Pius X Pastoral institute and was inaugurated on October 29th 1962. The whole convent is now renovated and a new western wing added.
The Church of St. Cajetan has been modeled after the Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome. Its length is 121 feet and breadth 81 feet. It is built of laterite stone and is lime plastered. The external architecture is Corinthian and the interior mosaic-Corinthian. Its beautiful facade facing west has towering Corinthian columns supporting a central pediment above which the twin belfry towers arise. A spiral staircase of about 50 steps lead to its towers. The church is vaulted. The body is divided into a nave and two aisles. Ther is one main altar and each side also has three altars. The three altars on the left side are dedicated to the Holy Family, Our Lady of Piety and St. Clare. The altars to the left are dedicated to St. John, St. Cajetan and St. Agnes. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence. In the middle of the nave directly underneath the dome is a well or a tank with a small opening in its covering closed with a square slab. This is reported to have been a Hindu temple tank or tirtha before the construction of the Church over it and its origin is a s yet unclear. This is the only surviving domed church in Goa.
Below the main altar inside lies the catacombs,
originally the burial place of priests and later of the early Portuguese
Situated on an elevation, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount was built in 1557 many years after the conquest of Goa to mark the place where Adil Shah took position with his artillery. The Portuguese archaeological committee placed in 1931 the following inscription in marble: “ Here the Mohammedan artillery stood against Alfonso de Albuquerque to retake Goa in May, 1510”. The retable of the main altar presents eight panels. In the central niche is the statue of Our Lady of the Mount with the child Jesus, above it the picture of the coronation of the virgin, and below, that of our Lady of Assumption. The pictures on the side and those seen on the walls of the main altar represent several acts of Our Lady’s life. At the base of the retable are the busts of St. Vincent with a ship and that of St. Lawrence with a gridiron, the symbol of his martyrdom. The collateral altars are dedicated to St. Anthony and St. Anthony, at the angle of the panel of this Saint are miniature pictures of the devil with the following caption: “Peccatum meum contra me est. sempre” (My sin is always before me, PS. 50,4)
the area of the now extinct college of St. Paul at Old Goa, stands the small
traditional chapel of St. Francis Xavier. Some say it was built by the Saint
himself and he conducted his mass there, passing hours in meditation, others
presume it was built after his death. It is even opined that it is one of the
two Chapels of the garden of St. Paul’s College, dedicated respectively to St.
Anthony and St. Jerome. The
dedication may have been changed in commemoration to the pious exclamations of
the saint “Satis est Domine, Satis est.”
On the way from Panaji to Old Goa, one sees a dome across the parish church of St. Peter. It is very old, and appears to have been erected about the year 1542 or 1543 at the expense of the public treasury by the Portuguese architects, as is learnt from an official document. Many believe it to have been erected on the orders of the Archbishop Dom Fr. Alexio de Menezes, but this is erroneous as the Archbishop commenced to govern the diocese only in 1595. The church now wears an antique appearance and has nothing remarkable about it. It is small in size and on one of its altars is seen an image of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, to whom it is dedicated. On the floor are seen a few inscriptions almost effaced; that at the entrance bears the name of Joao Rodríguez Machado. In the background of the main altar can still be seen, the old wooden frame grafted with thin marine shells, through which a bluish light
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