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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
This little town was once the capital and main city of the colony, but was abandoned in the XVIIth century, after some malary epidemic. All that’s left to visit are a few magnificient churches, that I wouldn’t have waited to find in south India.
You can see some more pics of the many churches at one of the travelogues…
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.
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 museum is located outside the Church of St Francis of Assisi in a section of the churches convent. It houses fragments of sculpture from Hindu temple sites in Goa, two large bronze statues: one of the Portuguese poet Luis Vaz de Camoes which once stood in the area between the Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus, and one of Afonso de Albuquerque, the first governor. Upstairs are a series of portraits of the Portuguese viceroys. Photos are not allowed inside.
This wonderful church lies just to the west of the Se Cathedral and is one of the most interesting in Old Goa. A small chapel was built on this site by eight Franciscan friars on their arrival in 1517. This was then replaced, in 1521 by a church consecrated to the Holy Ghost. This church was then rebuilt in 1661 into the present structure which features a glorious three-tied facade and octagonal towers. However, it’s the interior of this church that makes it a big draw. It's dominated by a huge altar that stretches to the ceiling which, itself, along with the walls, are heavily gilded and covered with carved wood panels. The altar features a large statue of St Francis of Assisi and Jesus on the cross plus statues of St Peter and St Paul. There are also several large paintings on the walls of the chancel that depict scenes from the life of St Francis of Assisi.
This basilica is famous throughout the Roman Catholic world as it contains the tomb and mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, the so-called Apostle of the Indies, who started the Jesuit order in 1534. He arrived in Goa in May 1542 and in 1552 persuaded the viceroy to allow him to plan an embassy to China, a mission that his death cut short. His body was returned to Goa where people declared its preservation to be a miracle. A medical examination was performed in 1556 to establish that the body had not been embalmed. This was carried out by the viceroy's physician who declared that all the internal organs were still intact and that no preservation agents had been used.
Construction of this church began in 1594 and it was completed in 1605. The church is the only one in Old Goa that is not plastered on the outside as the lime plaster was removed in 1950. The facade has elements of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian design and features the Jesuit emblem 'IHS', which is the abbreviation of the words for Jesus the Saviour in Greek.
The interior features a statue of St Francis Xavier to the left of the entrance. There is a huge floor to ceiling altar that takes pride of place. It shows St Ignatius Loyola protecting a tiny figure of the Christ child. To the right of this is the main highlight within the church - the tomb of St Francis Xavier. His body was moved here in 1622 and this marble construction was built in the 1680s. It features four bronze plaques depicting scenes from the saint's life and is surmounted by a cross with two angels.
This church lies across the road from the ruins of the Church of St Augustine. The church, which is dedicated to the patron saint of the Portuguese army and navy, was one of the earliest to be built in Old Goa. It was abandoned in 1835 but was brought back into use at the end of the 19th century.