Old Goa Reminiscent of Roman Glory

On the 25th of November 1510, Goa was conquered by the Portuguese while it was under the rule of the Bijapur Sultan, Ismail Adil Shah (1510 – 1534). The day of the battle is significant as it happened to be the commemorative day of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria. While battle raged between the forces of the Bijapur Sultan and the Portuguese soldiers, Portuguese Governor, Afonse de Albuquerque watched the armies from a hill on which stands the church of Our Lady of Rosary.

This edifice with the appearance of a fortress church was built in 1544 – 49, in fulfilment of the vow taken by Albuquerque during the battle. The church architecture conforms to Manueline style which was dominant in Portugal at the beginning of the 16th century during the reign of King Manuel. The Chapel of St. Catherine is a small chapel but its importance can be gauged by reading an inscribed slab there: ‘Here in this place was the doorway through which Governor Afonse de Albuquerque entered and took this city from the Mohammedans on the day of St. Catherine in the year 1510 in whose honour and memory the Governor George Cabral, ordered this chapel to be built in the year 1550 at the expenses of His Highness.’ Albuquerque had built an earlier structure in 1510 to commemorate his entry into the city and dedicated it to the saint to whom he ascribed his victory. It was demolished to make way for this chapel. Pope Paul III issued a Bull in 1534 raising this chapel to the state of cathedral and it remained so till the new cathedral was constructed.

The Se was built to replace the tiny chapel and hence designed on mammoth proportions. It measures 35.36 metres on the façade, is 76.2 metres long and 55.16 metres wide. Being so large, it took six kings and almost a century to be completed (1562-1651). The church has two isles, along which are eight chapels and a transept housing six altars. The altars in the chapels along the right are dedicated to Our Lady of Virtues, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and our Lady of Life. To the right, the four chapels are dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Bernard, the Cross of Miracles and the Holy Ghost.

The altars to the right of the transept are dedicated to St. Anna, Our Lady of Dolores and St. Peter and to our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope on the left. The bell tower which is located at the southern side of the façade houses five bells, the largest of them being called the golden bell on account of its rich sound. It is also the largest bell amongst all the bells in the belfries of Goa. There was a tower on the northern side of the façade too but it collapsed in 1776. The magnificent retable depicts the life and the triumph of the patroness of the Cathedral, St. Catherine of Alexandria, using gilded wooden panels. When the Portuguese arrived in Goa, they also backed Christianity officially so the religion established itself firmly in Goa. Religious orders from different European nations were given a free hand to further this ideal. Earnest missionary work began with the Franciscans who arrived in Goa in 1517 followed by the Carmelites, Augustinians, Dominicans, Jesuits and others. While establishing convents and churches, architectural styles prevalent in their mother countries were imitated. These magnificent monuments were taken to a grand scale in order to inspire awe and reverence in the minds of the new followers of Christianity.

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Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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