Enchanting Churches of Goa
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As the Portuguese marched into the Goan hinterlands, Catholicism emerged as a religion and the churches that were erected then prevail as mighty religious structures.
1. The last empire to rule Goa was the Portuguese. They brought with them different orders of missionaries who built magnificent churches to cater to the new Christians. Some of the most spectacular churches can be found in their old capital, Old Goa. The Se Cathedral is the most imposing of all the churches in Old Goa and measures 35.36 meters on the façade, is 76.2 meters long and 55.16 meters wide. These mammoth proportions took almost a century to complete as it was built during 1562-1651, during the reign of six kings. The church has two isles, along which are eight chapels and a transept housing six altars. The tower on the northern side of the façade collapsed in 1776, leaving it only one tower. The magnificent retable depicts the life and the triumph of the patroness of the Cathedral, St. Catherine of Alexandria, using Gilded wooden panels.
2. Perhaps the most popular church in Old Goa is the Jesuit built Basilica of Bom Jesus, the holiest site in catholic South and East Asia. Built between the years 1594 – 1605, its three storied façade faces west and shows Iconic, Doric and Corinthian orders. Dominating the interior is the high altar that fills the back wall of the barrel-vaulted sanctuary. A small statue of Bom Jesus to whom the church is dedicated occupies a place on the base of the pedestal bearing a giant figure of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order. The mausoleum of St. Francis Xavier is housed in a chapel in the right transept of Bom Jesus Basilica. It was designed in Florence by Giovanni Battista Foggini and gifted by a devotee of the saint, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III. On this marble mausoleum is set the silver casket, designed by the Italian Jesuit Marcello Mastrilli and executed by Goan goldsmiths there within the silver casket in a crystal urn lie the relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier, who died on December 3, 1552 at Sanchuan.
3. Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panaji is perhaps the most photographed church, having such a lofty location in the heart of the city. Somewhere in 1541, the first chapel outside Old Goa was constructed at the site where the church stands. This chapel was dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, which was converted onto a parish church thirteen years later. The whole structure was rebuilt right from the foundation in 1619. The many flights of steps one has to ascend to reach the church were added in 1870. These are arranged in a symmetrical fashion on either side in front, giving it a rather unique appearance. The huge bell at the apex weighs 2.25 tones and belonged to the monastery of St. Augustine, Old Goa till its collapse. The feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is celebrated on the 8th of December and attracts many devotees. Being lit, it looks fabulous at night.
4. The Holy Spirit Church Margao is the fifth edition, the previous three versions destroyed in arson and the fourth having been reconstructed by the local ganvkari (comunidade) in 1675. The façade, which is four storeys high, is adorned with a festooned niche which depicts the Pentecostal scene of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples. The high altar of the church is richly gilded and holds paintings which show the appearance of the Holy Spirit at different times in the life of Jesus.
5. Church of St. Anna at Telaulim is one of the largest and finest of Goa’s churches with five storeys, measuring 110 feet tall, 147 feet long and 105 feet broad. The striking feature of its façade is its Corinthianized coupled columns. It is said to be built on the model of the beautiful church of Our Lady of Grace in Old Goa which collapsed in the year 1842. The ceiling is vaulted with the ribs showing intricate floral designs. It began as a small chapel in 1577, dedicated to St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. The rebuilding of the present church was completed in the year 1695. The feast of St. Anne is celebrated here attracts people of all religious St. Anna Church in Telaulim affiliations.
Text & Pics: Pantaleao Fernandes