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.
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 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
Visit old Goa, if you love old churches, or beautiful buildings this is the place to be, I did find the stalls here more expensive than in some other parts of Goa, But its really nice to spend a day roaming around old Goa. I have included some pic of old Goa that are of the river area, think many ppl have pics of all the churches so wanted to show you something different, old goa lies next to this river, and you drive all along it till you reach panjim.( the road sort of looks as though its built on the river) right on the edge.
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.
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.
Visiting the Hindu Temples in and around Goa is interesting. You should respect the local custom and remove your shoes before entering the Temples. We visited a number of Temples and were given conducted tours at each and made to feel very welcome at each one. Women were outside the Temples selling flowers which you could then offer to the Gods. Whilst cooling down outside a group of Indian men asked to take our photo which we found to be quite strange but happily obliged and several conversations then took place.