Expedition Goa (Part 1): The Churches

BASILICA OF BOM JESUS

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The church is located in Old Goa, which was the capital of Goa in the early days of Portuguese rule.

‘Bom Jesus’ (literally, ‘Good (or Holy) Jesus’) is the name used for the Ecce Homo in the countries of Portuguese colonization. The Jesuit church is India’s first minor basilica, and is considered to be one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India.

Construction work on the church began in 1594 and the church was consecrated in May 1605 by the archbishop, Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes. This world heritage monument has emerged as a landmark in the history of Christianity. It contains the body of St. Francis Xavier, a very close friend of St. Ignatius Loyola with whom he founded the Society of Jesus, the (Jesuits). Francis Xavier died on Sancian Island while en route to continental China on (December 2, 1552).

The remains of St. Francis Xavier can be clearly seen in the coffin placed at the top of a pedestal. It has 24 windows, 6 along each of the 4 sides, that depict the 24 good deeds he performed in his life time. The lighting in this part of the church is rather dim either by design or on purpose to prevent people from photographing the area. Hence, I had to shoot this at 6400 ISO to see any detail.

The body of Francis Xavier was first taken to Portuguese Malacca and two years later shipped back to Goa. It is said that the saint’s body was as fresh as the day it was buried. The remains of the saint still attract a huge number of devotees (Christian and non-Christian alike) from all over the world, especially during the public viewing of his body every ten years (last held in 2014). The saint is said to have miraculous powers of healing.

This is one of the oldest churches in Goa and in India. The floor is of marble inlaid with precious stones. Apart from the elaborate gilded altars, the interior of the church is simple. The church also holds paintings of scenes taken from the life of St. Francis Xavier. The mausoleum, on the top of which is placed the silver casket with the body of St. Francis Xavier (1696), was the gift of the last of the Medicis, Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.


SE CATHEDRAL

The Se Cathedral was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque over a Muslim army, leading to the capture of the city of Goa in 1510. Since the day of the victory happened to be on the feast of Saint Catherine, the cathedral was dedicated to her.

It was commissioned by Governor George Cabral to be enlarged in 1552 on the remains of an earlier structure. Construction of the church began in 1562 in the reign of King Dom Sebastian. The cathedral was completed in 1619 and was consecrated in 1640.

It had two towers, but one collapsed in 1776 and was never rebuilt.

In 1953, the Cathedral was presented with “The Golden Rose” by Venerable Pope Pius XII. The Golden Rose is a gold ornament, which the Popes of the Catholic Church have traditionally blessed and conferred as a token of reverence or affection. It is placed on the tomb of St. Francis Xavier.


THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is located in the city of Panjim. The colonial Portuguese Baroque style church was first built in 1541 as a chapel by the Portuguese, was replaced by a larger church in the 1600s, then in colonial Portuguese Goa.

It was a chapel first built in 1541, to serve the religious needs of Portuguese sailors at their first port of call in colonial Portuguese India. At that time the settlement was a small fishing village. It became a Parish in 1600, and in 1609 the small chapel was replaced by the present day large church to serve the religious activities of the residents and sailors. In the 18th century the the stairways, in a symmetrical zigzag form, were added to the church. The second largest church bell in Goa was installed in a bell tower in 1871. It was formerly at the Augustinian Monastery on Holy Hill, and was retrieved after the monastery was damaged.


MAE DE DEUS CHURCH

One of Goa’s finest creations is the Mae De Deus Church in Saligao, Bardez. Its illuminated view in the evenings and the nights has a paradisical charm. That is the best time to view this exquisite piece of Gothic architecture in Goa.

Originally situated at Daujim, a tiny suburb of Old Goa in the 16th century, of which today only the tallest cross on a pedestal is seen amongst shrubs and coconut groves. The church dedicated to the Mother of God or Our Lady came to be built at Bardez in the 19th century. The Saligao Church was inaugurated on November 26, 1873 and its foundation stone was laid on February 7,1867.


OUR LADY OF MERCES CHURCH

Our Lady of Merces Church is situated in Colva part of South Goa. The Church of Our Lady of Merces is also known as Nossa Senhora de Merces. Dedicated to our Lady Mercy, this hallowed Church was built in 1630 and later rebuilt in 18th century. It is one of the foremost testimonies of the hamlet of Colva erected in Colonial era. This white washed church is a little gem of a masterpiece and is steeped in centuries of history.

The highlighting feature of the Church is the infant (Menion) Jesus statue. This miraculous statue of the infant Jesus is known to grant the wishes of childless couples, answering their prayers. This statue was found by Fr. Bento Ferreira, a Jesuit priest on the Mozambique coast. He brought the statue to Goa in 1648 and placed it in the church.

 

 

 

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