Old Goa was he site of the Portuguese capitl until the mid 18th century. Today is it a magnificent complex of churches, monasteries, and cathedrals that cover a 1.5 km stretch. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Two of Goa's most important religious monuments, the Basilica de Bom Jesus and the Se Cathedral, are located in the complex. Some of the other buildings within the complex include: Our Lady of the Rosary, Royal Chapel of St. Anthony, Church and Convent of St. John the God, the Church and Monastery of St. Augustine, and the Archaelogical Museum.
The feast of St. Francis Xavier is held each year on December 3rd.
Come early in the day as the sun becomes very hot. Wear sunscreen, bring water, sunglasses, and a hat.
See my other Old Goa tips for further information about specific churches.
The Basilica of Bom (the good) Jesus is a World Heritage Site that contains the remains of St. Francis Xavier and is revered by Christians around the world. Built by the Jesuits in 1594, it is a mixture of various architectural styles including Baroque and Corinthian. In 1946 it became the first church in South Asia granted the status of Minor Basilica (by Pope Pius XII).
The gilded altar and wooden pulpit are quite elaborate but the rest of the interior is very simple. But it is the marble and jasper tomb of St. Francis that draws people from all over the world. Francis Xavier was sent to Goa in 1542 by Dom Joao III, the Portuguese King. Over the next few years he converted 30,000 people. When he died on a voyage off the coast of China in 1552, he was buried on an island. Three months later his body was dug up and showed no signs of decay. His body was prinstine a year later when his body was enshrined in the Basilica. This was delcared a miracle and he was caononized in 1622.
Every ten years (usually starting in December), an exposition of St. Francis' relics takes place for 10-12 days and draws thousands of pilgrims. The next one is set for 2014.
Masses in Konkani: 7 a.m. & 8 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. & 9:15 a.m. Sunday.
No photography allowed during mass.
Please dress properly.
At one time a byword for splendour, with a population of several hundred thousand sand, Goa's erstwhile capital, OLD GOA (Velha Goa), was virtually abandoned following malaria and cholera epidemics that plagued the city from the seventeenth century onwards. Today you need considerable imagination to picture the once-great capital as it used to be. The maze of twisting streets, piazzas and ochre-washed villas has gone, and all that remains are a score of extraordinarily grandiose churches and convents. Granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO, Old Goa today attracts bus-loads of foreign tourists from the coast and Christian pilgrims from around India, in roughly equal numbers. While the former conic to admire the gigantic facades and gilt altars of the beautifully preserved churches, the main attraction for the latter is the tomb of St Francis Xavier, the renowned sixteenth-century missionary, whose remains are enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus
These are the excellent views over the Mandovi River from the hill where the Church of Our Lady of the Mount is located. You can see the large ships going up and down the river plus a bridge that takes the main railway line up to Mumbai.
These are the excellent views from the hill where the Church of Our Lady of the Mount is located. From here you can see the churches of Old Goa in amongst the tropical trees and the views over the Mandovi River. It's best to come here in the morning so that the sun shines towards the west.
This church is located about 2km to the east of the main group of churches in Old Goa on the top of a small hill. This is reputedly where Yussuf Adil Shah placed his artillery during the assault to recapture the city in May 1510. This church was built shortly after the attempted attack in 1519. The views from here over the churches of Old Goa in amongst the tropical trees and the views over the Mandovi River (see next couple of tips) are excellent. It's best to come here in the morning so that the sun shines towards the west.
Visitors used to arrive along the Mandovi River and pass through this arch on their way into the city. It was erected by Vasco da Gama's grandson, who became viceroy in 1597. On the side facing the river, the arch features the deer emblem of Vasco da Gama's coat of arms. High up on the other side is a sculpture of a European woman wielding a sword over an Indian, who is lying under her feet. No prizes for guessing what the message is here then!
This church seemed to be closed to the public when I visited. It's located a little further down from the Church and Convent of St Monica. It is one of the earliest in Old Goa, built in 1526, and legend has it that Afonso de Albuquerque surveyed the attack on the Muslim city from here and vowed to build a church here in thanks for his victory.
This museum is held in a building adjacent to the Church and Convent of St Monica. It exhibits many Portuguese Goan religious artefacts plus some produced by local Hindu artists.
Open: 9:30am-5pm. Admission: Rs15.
This convent was constructed between 1606 and 1627 only for it to be burnt down 9 years later. Reconstruction started the following year where it was known as the Royal Monastery because of the royal patronage that it enjoyed. It was the first nunnery in the east but it was forbidden to recruit any further when many religious institutions were banned in 1835. It was finally abandoned in 1885 when the last sister died. During the 1950s and 60s the buildings housed first Portuguese and then Indian troops, before returning to the church in 1968. A building adjacent to it houses the Museum of Christian Art (see next tip).
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