Old Goa or Velha Goa ("Velha" means old in Portuguese), is located 9km (5 miles) east of the state capital, Panaji. It's famous for the number of fine Portuguese churches that were built here between the 16th and 18th centuries which now form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before they were built, the area was occupied in the 15th century by the rulers of the Bijapur Sultanate who used it as their second capital ruled by Ali Adil Shah. It was then captured by the Portuguese, and was under their rule from 1510 as the administrative seat of Portuguese India. By 1543, the city had a population of some 200,000 and this population helped build a dozen churches, chapels and a cathedral before being largely abandoned due to malaria and cholera in the 17th century, leaving a population of just 1,500 in 1775. The viceroy then moved to Panaji and the city was then virtually deserted following religious suppression in 1835 but continued to be the Goan capital until 1843.
Strangely, nothing of the city remains, but instead, all of the churches except one remain intact to this day and are breathtaking. Standouts include the Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus which holds the remains of St Francis Xavier, who started the Jesuit order. The churches are a huge attraction and, as I love religious architecture, were a great sight for me to visit whilst in Goa. Even if you're not into this sort of thing, you should just come along off the beach for a morning or afternoon in order to witness some great history and architecture.
This is the town of Goa where the Portuguese first landed. It was the early capital of Portuguese Goa, but later, due to the frequent outbreak of epidemic, the capital was shifted from here to Panjim. This town is 10 kms away from Panjim. Most of the historical monuments built by the Portuguese are located here and it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main attractions in this town are the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church, Se Cathedral, Chappel of St. Francis Assisi, St. Augustine Church, Church and convent of Santa Monica, Velha Goa Church, St. Cajetan Church, Adil Shah's palace gate, Viceroy's Arch etc. It is situated on the bank of river Mondovi. The town is very beautiful.
A little inland from Panjim, the present-day capital of Goa, is the complex of historic buildings known as Old Goa. This is a UNESCO world heritage site, famous for its opulent buildings and churches, regarded as some of the best examples of Portuguese colonial architecture in India. We took a taxi from Baga in order to explore.
The main building we went to was the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the most revered of all the old churches here. It contains the relics of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa, and is a focus for Christian pilgrims from all over India and beyond. It was built between 1594 and 1605. It is fairly simply in style but impressively large. The focus of attention is of course the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, and on top of it the silver casket which contains his relics. This dates from the mid 17th century and is ornately carved. Some panels though have been removed to allow pilgrims (and tourists) to view the relics inside. My photo (no 2) is very dark but may give you an idea of how it looks.
When we were in the Basilica some workmen were carrying out repairs to the side walls so there was some scaffolding on place, but this didn’t mar our appreciation of the structure. On the contrary; we enjoyed watching them at work and admiring their craftsmanship.
Opposite the Basilica, on the other side of the main road, is the Cathedral, an impressive colonial style building whose pale walls seemed to gleam in the hot sun. This is the largest church in Goa, India and reportedly all of Asia. It took about 90 years to build, being completed in 1652, and is the third cathedral on this site. Prior to that, it is thought that a Hindu temple or perhaps a mosque occupied this spot.
Apart from the churches little remains of Old Goa, which lost its position as capital of the state in 1843. Since then many of the buildings have sadly been allowed to fall into disrepair, but the grandeur and sheer number of the churches gives the visitor at least a sense of how important a city this once was.
Old Goa lies about half an hour’s drive from Panjim. The St. Catherine Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus are particularly striking with Tuscan style interiors, Corinthian exterior and stunning carved pillars and old, heavy doors. The Basilica of Bom Jesus holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and is ornately covered in all gold
This World Heritage Monument was constructed in 1695. It has surfaced as a milestone in the history of Christianity. The name Bom Jesus basically means "good Jesus" or "infant Jesus". The Bom Jesus Church contains the body of St. Francis Xavier, a member of the Society of Jesus, who came to India with the Portuguese to spread Christianity in India. He is often credited for baptizing various people in Goa and he also preached the teachings of Jesus. While on a sea voyage to China, St. Francis Xavier died, on December 2, 1552.
The following year, while relocating Francis Xavier's remains to Goa, in agreement with his wishes, it is said that the body was as fresh as the day it was buried. The news reached the Vatican where the title of Saint was bestowed upon the priest. The remnant attracts a huge number of devotees and believers from all over the world, especially during the "Exposition" public viewing of his body every ten years on the 2nd of December, which is the death-anniversary of Saint. The saint is said to have miraculous powers of healing, and pilgrims come from all over the country. The body of the saint has been kept in a beautiful silver casket.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is one of the richest churches in Goa. It is carpeted with marble flooring and inlaid with valuable and rare gems and stones. The interior of the Church is simple except for the highly structured gilded altars. The Church also has kept paintings of St. Francis Xavier. The Tomb of St. Francis Xavier was the gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscan.
The Church of St Augustine was built in 1602. Twelve Augustan Friars combined their efforts and resources built the church on the Holy Hill at Old Goa in September 1572, which was completed by 1602. The Portuguese government later issued a ban against them. So they abandoned the church and the convent besides it. The church and the convent both are ruined now. However, the soaring 46-metre high Bell Tower still remains and forms a major segment of the ruins.
The bell was removed and was put in the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Panaji in 1871. Quite amazingly, it is in working condition even today. The bell tower that remains amid the ruins belongs to one of the four of the St. Augustine Church's that once stood there. In the former days there used to be four altars, eight chapels and a convent attached to the church. The Church of St Augustine, when it was undamaged, was considered to be the largest in Goa.
The facade and half of the tower fell in 1931 and in 1938 some more parts gave way. After being uninhabited by the founders, the convent was used for charity work by the institution of the Misericordia for quite a while. The vault collapsed on 8 September 1842 due to prolonged neglect. The Government then sold the materials of the remains of the church in 1843 and has maintained the few ruins till today.
St Xavier's Chruch. This is most amazing & peaceful chruch in goa. This is very important church in old goa to visit. You can see St Xavier's body placed on the top which is nearly 500 years old.
If you're going for the first time to st Xavier's Chruch i would like to suggest to take the information from the guide in the chruch. And don't miss to see the Art Gallary .
Old Goa was said once to rival Lisbon as it was so powerful. What remains now are a number of old churches and grand cathedrals. The Basilica of Bom Jesus was my favourite as it was in it's original form - red brick. Inside you will find the mummified remains of Saint Frances Xavier. It was built in 1695. It contains the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier; a pupil of the soldier-turned-saint, Ignatius Loyola (the founder of the Order of Jesuits).
On the way in you will bombarded by sellers trying by locals trying to sell you flowers and candles in order for you to go inside. Don't be fooled, you do not need these to get in, although we bought some anyway for next to nothing.
Old Goa was the capital of the Portuguese colony. It is situated 9km east of the current capital city of Panaji. This is a MUST see when you come to Goa and one of Goa's prime historical sites. Dotted with churches from the 1500's most are museums but some are still in use for services.
Here, a Portuguese port began making use of the Mondovi River. Goa Velha was the original site of a Portuguese settlement but was vulnerable to attack and the port silted up making it unusable. Goa had become a Muslim sultan named Yussuf Adil Shah. He built a palace and the city began to thrive. He was also the resistive force to Portuguese settlers under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque. This began the religious conversion and building of much of the infrastructure, all based on European models. The city began to expand and the old city walls were removed. Over the next few centuries disease and the decline of Portuguese supremecy caused the city to fall in population and importance. The viceroy of Goa began building a new capital city in Panaji in 1759. The city was ordered rebuilt but the project was abandoned when missionaries were called back to Lisbon and the death toll amongst the workers was too great.
Most of the remaining buildings were restored, which could be, and their former uses were also restarted.
This is the old capital of Goa...nowadays its a relatively small town...but its many churches gives away how important it once was. Its been cleaned up in recent years and the areas around the main churches are much better layed out. Other than the churches main things to look out for are the Viceroys Gate, and the Gate of Adil Shahs Palace.
Old Goa is on the south bank of the Mandovi river just a few miles from Panjim.
Many Goans are catholic due to the Portugese influence and Old Goa is probably the spiritual capital.
There are two major churches here, Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus-both of which are worth a look at.
A taxi drive to Old Goa will provide a unique experience if you enjoy seeing old religious buildings. religious relics etc.
There are two main churches including the Church of Bom Jesus, (Baby Jesus), which contains the apparantly non-decomposed body of Francis Xavier, which is jut visible through glass panels in the coffin above an altar area. The coffin is opened every 10 years for worshippers to view the body! Apparantly Francis has only one arm as one was chopped off to be taken to Rome as the Catholic "HQ".
Across the road are more church areas and an interesting museum which contains a number of historical items.
SEE TRAVELOGUE FOR MORE OLD GOA
This is the most revered and famous of all the churches in Old Goa. It contains the relics of St. Francis Xavier, Patron saint of Goa, Apostle of the Indies and for most Goans " Goencho Saib ". Its construction was begun on the 24th November 1594 out of the funds bequeathed for the purposes by Dom Jeronimos Mascarenhas and was consecrated by the Archbishop Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes, on the 15th of May 1605. In 1946 it became the first church in India to be elevated to the status of a minor basilica.
The three storey facade facing west that is a combination of Doric, Corinthian and composite style architecture. It is built of black laterite stone and is 78 1/2 feet high and 75 3/5 feet broad. Its facade may be divided into four parts; the lowest containing three elegant portals, the part immediately above having three large windows corresponding to the three portals, the third part above with the three circular windows and the fourth part that forms a quadrangle richly embellished with arabesques. All these portions are adorned with pillars and carvings. The pillars and detail are carved from basalt brought in from Bassein, another Portuguese enclave north of Goa.
This is the largest church in Goa, India and reportedly all Asia. The original building was constructed of mud and stones and straw and was erected in 1510 and was dedicated to St. Catherine for it was on St. Catherine's day -Nov 25th that Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa. It underwent modifications subsequently and a second church was constructed in 1515.
In 1538 the church status was elevated to that of a Cathedral with the establishment of the Diocese of Goa. This structure located in front of the present structure was also subsequently demolished to make way for the final structure. The Cathedral as it stands today took over three fourths of a century to be completed, beginning in 1562. The Portuguese viceroy, Dom Francisco Coutinho, the Count of Redondo (1561-1564) commissioned its construction. The building work was begun in 1562 and completed in 1652. He wanted it to be " a grandiose church worthy of the wealth, power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic to the pacific". The money for its construction was to be obtained out of the proceeds of property sold , belonging to Hindus or Muslims who died intestate or without heirs.. It is said to have been built on either a Hindu temple or a muslim mosque. In its final stages of construction, it was supervised by the eminent architects Antonio Argueiros and Julio Simao, Chief engineer to the state of India. The body of the Cathedral was completed in 1619 when the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the Altar on the feast of the Guardian Angel amidst great solemnities and rejoicings. It stood on the main square of the old city, alongside the main road or the Rua Direita, the principal thoroughfare of the city of Old Goa . To its left stood the Senate building and to its right the Palace of the Inquisition, both of which have since completely disappeared.
The Christian churches and cathedrals of Old Goa are very interesting and are obviously in stark contrast to the religious sites in the rest of India. The history behind old Goa is fascinating - but Im sure you can find this in your guide book or site. The saintly remains of Francis Xavier were on display - which was strange.
When we arrived though - tourists were scattered everywhere closely followed by swarms of bees! Thankfully our taxi driver stepped in again to save us from the chaos!
Se cathedral and everything else is in the same vicinity and a couple of hours and a return taxi journey should be enough I think.
It is worth seeing - but only if you have time spare and are interested in religious monuments.