Church hopping at Old Goa

Church Hopping In Old Goa: UNESCO Sites

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Situated about 10 Km from Goa’s capital city, Panaji resides Old Goa or Velha Goa. The place has 7 majestic monuments which had great significance in the 16th and 18th centuries. The catholic missions were established in these places and as a result, Goa is known as the “Rome of the East.” The monuments also represent the cultural exchange and legacy of the Indo-Portuguese heritage. 

In 1961, when the Republic of India invaded and annexed Goa, they ended over 451 years of Portuguese rule in the state. However, to this day, the influence of the original colonizers can be seen and felt in the churches and convents of Goa. As a result, the churches of Old Goa or Velha Goa were declared world heritage sites by UNESCO in 1986.

The Churches & Convents In Goa

1. The Chapel Of St. Catherine (1510)

The Chapel Of St. Catherine

Located in the same compound as Sé Cathedral and the Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, the Chapel of St. Catherine is built in the Baroque style of architecture. Unlike the other white churches, this small chapel uses white and brown colors quite fascinatingly.

The Chapel of St. Catherine was built by Alfonso De Albuquerque in 1510 to mark his defeat against the local Muslim ruler Adil Shah on St. Catherine’s Day, 25th November 1510. A few years later, it was raised to the status of a cathedral by Pope Paul III in 1534. Once you enter the Church, you can find Our Lady and an altar dedicated to St. Catherine and Our Lady of Peity.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM 
  • Entry fee: Free

2. The Church And Convent Of St. Francis Of Assisi (1517)

The Church And Convent Of St. Francis Of Assisi - archaeological museum

On the West of Sé Cathedral is The Church And Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, built with lime-plastered white Laterite blocks in Portuguese-Manueline style. The main entrance is decorated with circular pilasters and a rosette band. The three-tier facade has an octagonal tower on each side and in the central niche is a statue of St. Michael.

Rebuilt in the years 1521 and 1661, the adjoining convent is now converted into an archeological museum. Valuable sculptures, icons, portraits of viceroys, governors-general, and more are displayed here.

On the main altar, is a large statue of St. Francis of Assisi and an equally large crucifix. Beneath the two figures are inscribed the three vows of the Saint – poverty, humility, and obedience. The adjoining walls of the nave retain painted panels depicting the scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM 
  • Entry fee: Free for the church. You have to pay to enter the museum.

3. The Church Of Our Lady Of Rosary (1549)

On top of a holy hill named “Monte Santo” is the Church of Our Lady of Rosary. Amongst several other churches in Goa, this is one of the earliest which exists today. To keep the church from decaying and becoming a part of nature, it was renovated in 1897 and 1899.

The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary. The nave now has a partly open roof, after parts of the roof collapsed in 1897. The side chapels and the altar are arranged by a leaf-vein vault in the shape of a star. There is a tombstone of a Portuguese woman Dona Catarina in the apse. Below is the tomb of her husband Garcia de Sá (who died in June 1549), a Governor of Portuguese India.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 5:30 PM 
  • Entry fee: Free

4. The Church Of St. Augustine (1602)

St. Augustine tower

The remains of St. Augustine church include ruins in the form of broken pillars and a 46 m high colossal – four storied arched belfry tower. The tower is built of Laterine which stood the test of time. This is the only surviving tower of the four which were once part of the Church of St. Augustine. Once perhaps the biggest and the grandest church in Goa with a seminary, convent, library, dormitories, galleries, and cells is now a crumbling ruin, largely deserted with its glory days behind it.

The huge vault collapsed in 1842 and the church complex fell into ruins after being abandoned by the Portuguese in 1835. The church is also known as “the Church of Our Lady of Grace”.

Recent studies and excavations in the 1900s led to the discovery of the remains of the lost martyr, Queen St. Ketevan of Georgia. The bell found in the last standing tower was later moved to “Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church” where it remains to date.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Entry fee: Free

5. The Basilica Of Bom Jesus (1605)

The Basilica of Bom Jesus

The most iconic monument of all the churches in Goa which holds relics of St Francis Xavier is the Basilica of Bom Jesus. It is one of the seven wonders of Portuguese origin in the World.

More than 408 years old, the design of this three-storied church is simple, but the floor is laid with the finest marble and was inlaid with precious stones.

The richly gilded main altar exhibits a large statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, the founding members of the Society of Jesus, and below it is the Bom (child) Jesus. Over the emblem is the Holy Trinity – the father, the son, and the holy spirit – the ultimate muse and focus of a pious Christian on the left while on the right are the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier.

 

The Basilica also contains a modern art gallery with paintings depicting various Biblical scenes, the life of St. Francis Xavier, photographs by Benoy K Behl, and old wooden statues from different churches of Goa. The most notable paintings are “The Last Judgement” and “Genesis”.

Before you go to this place, you ought to dress accordingly or you will not be allowed inside. Furthermore, you are not allowed to click pictures inside the church or the gallery. 

  • Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM, closed on Tuesdays and public holidays
  • Timings for the sound and light gallery and art gallery: 9 AM – 2:15 PM, closed on Tuesdays and public holidays.
  • Cost: Free to enter the church, Rs. 20 for adults, Rs. 10 for children for the sound and light gallery, and Rs. 10 per person for the art gallery.
  • Languages for the sound & art gallery: English, Hindi, and Konkani.

6. The Chapel Of St. Cajetan (1661)

The Chapel Of St. Cajetan

Modeled after the original design of St. Peter’s Church in Rome, the tall columnar pillar reflects Italian architecture. Four statues of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Matthew wrought in basalt are niched within the Corinthian-style facade of the church. 

The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence and its three subsidiaries. Altars with twister shafts on each side of the hall have figures of the holy family, Our Lady of Piety, and other saints including St. Cajetan are exclusively carved in Baroque style. The paintings depict scenes from the life of St. Cajetan among others.

Historians suggest that three Italian priests of the Theatine order arrived in India to preach Christianity in 1639. In 1643, they began work on a hospital but were banished by the Portuguese viceroy. They went back to Portugal and after convincing the king, the construction of the hospital was permitted, and in 1655, they also managed to obtain permission to set up the church and a small convent near it.

Within the compound of the church is an even more ancient arch with pillars covered in Hindu carvings. These are believed to be the only remaining part of the Palace of Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur. The presence of the well also leads to the belief that it once has a Hindu temple.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 7 PM
  • Entry Fee: Free
The arch of Viceroy

Did you notice the Arch of Viceroy just outside? Erected in 1599 by Francisco Da Gama (the grandson of Vasco Da Gama) is a protected monument. One side of the arch has a deer emblem on Vasco da Gama’s coat of arms. One side has a statue of Vasco da Gama with a deer emblem on his coat of arms while the other side has a sculpture of a European woman wearing a crown and a robe, holding a sword in one hand and an open book in the other.

7. Sé Cathedral (1652)

Sé Cathedral

The Sé Catedral de Santa Catarina, known as Sé Cathedral is Asia’s largest church measuring 250 feet, 76 m in length, and 55 m in breadth. The architectural style is Portuguese-Manueline with Tuscan style exterior and Corinthian interiors. The church had two towers at the front facade, but one collapsed in 1776 and was never rebuilt. 

The Sé Cathedral’s tower houses a large bell known as the “Golden Bell” because of its rich tone. Besides this, there’s also The Chapel of the Cross of Miracles. It is said that a vision of Christ appeared on the cross in 1919.

The main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patroness of Christian philosophers, and the city of Ola Goa aka Goa Velha. On either side of the nave are the wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter. Besides the large painting of St. Christopher hung beneath the choir, there are several paintings and gilded episodes over the walls which draw attention.

  • Timings: 7 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Entry Fee: Free

Other Churches

Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception Church

Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception Church

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception was built on a hillside overlooking the city of Panjim in 1541 as a chapel and was eventually replaced by a larger church during Portuguese expansion. The church is known for the distinct double flight of stairs at the entrance.

This church houses the ancient bell that was removed from the Augustinian ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Grace. The bell is considered to be the second largest of its kind in Goa after the Golden Bell in Sé Cathedral.

The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, known as Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceicao in Portuguese. The altar on the right is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary while the one on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion of Christ.

  • Timings: 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 3 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Entry Fee: Free

Convent Of Santa Monica And The Chapel Of Weeping Cross

Located just a stone’s throw away from the St. Augustine Tower, completed in 1627 is the first nunnery in the east. The church is named after St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. It was a sanctuary not only for nuns, but also for widows willing to devote themselves to the service of God, and for the temporary protection of women whose husbands had traveled to far-off lands on military conquests or expeditions. The nunnery which is now the Museum Of Christian Art is open to the public every day.

The Church of the Weeping Cross is attached to the south of the convent. It has four altars; the main one is dedicated to St. Monica, the others to St. Augustine, the Bom Jesus, and the Miraculous Cross. See the 360° view of the Buttress of The Church of Santa Monica here.

  • Timings: 9:30 AM – 5 PM
  • Entry Fee: Free

Guided Tours

If you are interested in history and architecture, and curious to learn in detail, we highly recommend the guided walking tour to these world heritage churches. The tours are affordable and you get to meet other travelers as well. Also, make a note of the churches they cover before confirming the payment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any dress code for visiting the churches of Goa?

Yes. A few churches, for instance, the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception, deny entry to people who wear shorts and sleeveless tops. You have to cover your body from your shoulders to your ankles. Since churches are places of worship, we advise you to dress conservatively.

Is photography allowed?

You can click pictures of the building itself. Although you can carry one inside, most churches don’t allow you to take pictures or capture videography inside the premises. Tripods are not allowed as well. Make sure to abide by the rules and regulations of each church.

How many of these churches have you visited? And which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

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