- November 29, 2019
- Posted by: Planet Goa Team
- Category: See Goa
More than one hundred and fifty-nine churches and hundreds of chapels are scattered throughout the Goan landscape. A cluster of churches and chapels dotting the erstwhile capital city of Goa, now Old Goa has been enlisted in the UNESCO list of World Heritage. One can visit the Goan churches due to their grandeur, antiquity, history and devotion; though many times all these attributes merge.
The Church of ‘Bom Jesus’- the Holiest Of Places in Catholic Asia
One of Goa’s best known churches at Old Goa is the Basilica of ‘Bom Jesus’. The Basilica is very popular due to the mausoleum of St. Francis Xavier located within the church. This also makes it the holiest of places in Catholic Asia. Pilgrims throng here throughout the year, though it reaches frenzied proportions during the feast and novena days of St. Francis Xavier beginning in the end of November and culminating on the 3rd of December.
It also stands out in sharp contrast to all the other white churches of Goa, as it is the only brown church of Goa due to the exposed laterite masonry walls and granite facade. Incidentally, this church too was plastered but the walls were subsequently denuded of plaster due to maintenance. The church is named after ‘Bom Jesus’ whose diminutive image can be seen on the main altar. This church construction began on the 24th November 1594, out of the funds bequeathed for the purpose by Dom Jeronimo Mascarenhas and was consecrated by the Archbishop, Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes on the 15th May 1605.
The Church Of Reis Magos – the First Church in Bardez
Though all the churches of Old Goa boast of antiquity, the first church in Bardez is the church of Reis Magos located in a riverside village of the same name. A magnificent flight of steps lead to the church, from where one gets a breathtaking view of the river Mandovi. At the pinnacle of its facade, sits a crown. The church is a treasure house of exquisite wood carvings especially that of the three Magi visiting the crib after the birth of Child Jesus at Bethlehem. The church walls are lined with old paintings on wood, depicting biblical themes.
Church historian Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas, notes that the Franciscan Fr. Joao Noé entered Bardez in 1550, erected the first altar in Verem and celebrated the holy sacrifice of the mass. But the evangelization of the Province of Bardez by the Religious Observants of Saint Francis of Assisi began only in 1555 by founding the first Church in Bardez dedicated to Saint Magi kings as well as the Royal College.
The feast of The Magi Kings or the Reis Magos is celebrated here on the 6th of January with great pomp, befitting kings. Three young boys are dressed in rich robes representing each of the kings or wise men from the east – Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar who visited the newborn child Jesus, bearing rich gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Church of Mapusa – the Church of Miracles
The name of this church located at Mapusa gives away the fact that people flock here for the miraculous attributes of the image of Our Lady of Miracles. During the feast of Our Lady of Miracles celebrated on Monday after the second Sunday of Easter, an unusual ritual found in Hinduism is practiced here by the devotees. A special image of Our Lady of Miracles is kept in a stall outside the church that devotees bathe with oil. Religion is not a bar here as one can spot more Hindu people enacting this ritual which is carried out in thanksgiving for favours granted. The Hindus believe that she is Mirabai, one of the seven Matricas, converted to Milagres. Historians state that a temple belonging to a Hindu Devi was once located where the church of Mapusa now stands.
Though this church is officially named after St Jerome, it is popularly known as the Church of Our Lady of Miracles, a name given by the people. Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas, church historian informs: “The Franciscan priest Custos Jeronimo do Espirito Santo built the church in the late sixteenth century. To supplement the funds contributed by the Communidades of Mapusa, Corlim and Cunchelim Fr. Jeronimo collected alms for the construction of the church and he named it after Saint Jeronimo (Jerome).
On the night of 28.04.1838, the church which was rebuilt in 1674 caught fire, burning all its altars. The new ones were acquired through an auction from the demolished church of ‘Mother of God’ at Daugim. They were transported by canoes via the Mapusa river. Since the main altar was too large for the doors, the front portion was cut open. However, instead of placing the statue of the patron saint on the main altar, the statue of Nossa Senhora de Todos Os Bens (Our Lady of All Goods) took its place. The Hindus probably saw this as the return of their devi to her temple and flocked to her. The Catholics too prayed at her feet for petitions. This statue began performing miracles, attracting more and more devotees at her feet. Due to these miracles, the people began addressing her as Milagres Saibinn meaning Our Lady of Miracles.
Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception – the Church with the Most Visible Bell In Goa
Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panaji sits loftily on a hillock, ruling over the capital city of Panjim. At first glance, the eye is led to its bell which crowns the pinnacle of the impressive facade. The most visible bell the huge 2250 kg bell is second in size only to the ‘Golden Bell’ of the Sé Cathedral, once belonged to the Monastery of St. Augustine, Old Goa which is now in ruins. Before claiming its majestic perch on the Panjim church, it was housed at the old lighthouse at Sinquerim and rang the hours.
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. A wide arrangement of steps lead to the many flights of steps which were added in 1870. These are arranged in a symmetrical fashion on either side in front, giving it a rather unique appearance. 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.