Imagine Goa and you will see either the beaches or its churches. Goa is defined by its churches.
The Goan population is 25% Christian. Though there are some proofs of Christianity in Goa before the Portuguese came here but building grand churches and Christian practices started only after the Portuguese conquest of Goa in 1510 AD. Majority of the then, Hindu population of Goa was converted by the Portuguese.
The Portuguese are gone, but the majestic churches remain and are still functional. Apart from the interesting (sometimes not so pleasant) history of Goa, you will also be fascinated by the art and architecture of the renaissance period displayed in the churches.
Here is list of the most famous churches of Goa. Click here for a link to this list on Google Maps.
1. Our Lady of Immaculate Conception , Panjim
Everyone who has watched Hindi movies like Josh, Zeher, Ashiqui 2, Murder 2 knows Goa by this church. Located in Panjim, the capital of Goa, this church is one of the most famous places to visit in Goa and is also sometimes known as the Panjim church.
It was built as a chapel in 1541 for the newly arrived Portuguese sailors and was converted into a church later, in the 1600s.
Another interesting thing about this church is its bell. It is the second largest bell in Goa. It was removed from the ruins of the Church Of Our Lady of Grace in Old Goa. The largest bell is still in the Se Cathedral Church in Old Goa which is also in my list below.
English masses are held here at 8 am on weekdays and 8:15 am on Sundays. There is a special mass for kids at 9:30 am on Sundays. Apart from this, they also have masses in Konkani and Portuguese. For more details, visit their website here or call them at (0832)2426939. The annual Feast Day of this Church is on 8th December.
Next in list are two famous churches of North Goa, very close to our Calangute apartments.
2. St. Alex Church, Calangute, North Goa
Going towards Calangute, as the Saligaon road meets the Calangute-Mapusa road, you can see the imposing white structure of St. Alex Church, from a distance. This church is dedicated to St. Alex and was built in 1741.
A beautiful and peaceful church, it also has a small and well maintained cemetery.
If you have reached Calangute well before your check in time, this is one place where you can make a halt and pay a visit.
Masses here are mostly held in Konkani. English masses are held on Sundays 8:45 am. The church office can be contacted on (0832) 227 7378.
The annual feast for this church is held on 17th July.
3. Mae De Deus Church, Saligao, North Goa
A beautiful white church, with a uniquely different exterior, that strikes out in the lush green background, Mae De Deus or Mother of God Church is a sight to behold. It is equally captivating at night when it is beautifully lit up. Take a seat on the road side benches in the evening, take a walk down the road, enjoy the street food around and take-in the beauty. The church is clearly visible from the main road and has ample parking.
Inside the church is just as pretty with beautiful gilded ornamentation.
Saligao Village Walk Tours start from this church.
Mae de Deus church, also sometimes known as Saligaon Church, was commissioned in 1873. It is a functioning church with feast on the first Sunday of May every year. The Church can be visited everyday form 9 am to 12:30 pm and 3 pm to 5 pm. For more details, call on their number (0832) 2278246.
How can this list be complete without Old Goa Churches? Old Goa was the seat of Christianity in whole of South East Asia and also the capital of the Portuguese colony in India from 1530 to 1843. It was called the “Rome of the East”.
4. Basilica of Bom Jesus , Old Goa
Completed in 1605 Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO and contains the mummy of St Francis Xavier.
Though colloquially known as St Francis Church, St Francis Xavier Church or St Xavier Church of Goa, this is not St Francis Church. There are many St Francis churches all over Goa. In fact, there is a St Francis of Assisi Church located in the same complex named after an Italian Saint, St Francis of Assisi who lived in the thirteenth century.
Coming back to St Francis Xavier, many of us will relate to him as the person after whom the famous St Xavier’s Colleges and Schools are named. St Francis Xavier was initially buried in Malacca in 1552. A few years later, his remains were dug up and were found to be fresh and intact. After being moved to many places, it was finally placed in this church. Over the past, 400 years, the body has dried instead of decomposing, shrunk to about 4 ft, lost 2 toes and had one toe bitten off by an overzealous follower. The right arm has been removed and tours the world.
The mummy is placed in an air tight glass casket and is taken out once in 10 years for public viewing (last in 2014) . All three coffins that have been used to house the mummy over the past 400 years and photos of the mummy are also on display in the Basilica.
There are many theories (including some conspiracy theories) about why the body does not decompose, whether you believe them or not, this church is definitely worth a visit.
Everyday from 9 am to 4 pm (except Tuesdays), you can also visit the sound and light gallery for a charge of ₹20 per head. It has moving statues depicting the life and teachings of Jesus. Shows are conducted in English as well as Hindi.
You will get tour guides outside the church for ₹100. There is ample parking outside the complex and some roadside shopping options like any other tourist place. Photography is allowed inside the church but not using stands or with people. Like all religious places, you are expected to dress decently.
The Basilica is open from 9 am to 5 pm and masses are mostly held in Konkani. English mass is held on Sunday at 10:15 am. The church office can be contacted on (0832) 2285790. 4th Dec is the Feast day of this Church.
5. Se Cathedral , Old Goa
Se Cathedral is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria because it was on her feast day in 1510, that the Portuguese defeated the Muslim army. It was built from 1562 to 1619. This huge church had two towers, one on each side of the facade but the one on the southern side collapsed in 1776 and was never rebuilt. It also has a huge bell called “The Golden Bell” which is believed to be the largest in Goa.
The main alter is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria with 8 chapels along the sides.
There are these mysterious rectangular slabs on the floors in most of the Old Goa churches. Apparently, these are underground vaults that were used earlier.
It is a functioning church and you are expected to dress and behave appropriately. Though photography is allowed but not using stands or with people.
The Cathedral is open from 9 am to 5 pm and all the masses held here are in Konkani.
6. Church of St Cajetan, Old Goa
My personal favorite because of its beauty and peace!
St Cajetan Church is also a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the most beautiful churches of Goa. Also known as the Church of Divine Providence, this Church is modeled on the original design of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city. It was built by three Italian priests who had come to India to spread Christianity in the year 1661.
The main altar of the Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Providence. The altar of St. Cajetan is to the right.
There is a well beneath the square raised platform, which serves as a pulpit. Though it is covered now but it has led to the belief that this site was once a Hindu Temple.
The complex of this church also has the gate of the palace of Adil Shah. After the Portuguese captured Old Goa, initially this palace became the residence of the Portuguese governors till 1695, then it was used by them only on festive occasions. In 1820, it was demolished by the order of the government.
The Church is open from 9 am to 5 pm and 7th August is its feast day.
To sum up
The peace and serenity, the connect with history and the beauty of architecture that you find in these churches make them a must visit when you come to Goa. What’s more, the two churches of North Goa are very close to our property Fun Holidays Goa.
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