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Goa Churches


God-Fearing Goa
Of the many Portuguese legacies that echo from every nook and lane of Goa and its denizens, the legion of imposing, white-dyed Churches are most vivid to the curious tourist. Catholics and Christians from across the globe has Goa as one of their revered pilgrimage destinations.

A quote from a travel magazine was arresting and summed up the feature best:

“If Goa’s conscience is compromised by the revelry on its beaches, it’s redeemed by the millions of prayers offered up each year for its mortal soul.”


The major Churches
Let’s begin from what is locally called Old Goa or Velha Goa. Here was once the first Portugal colony and surprisingly a welcome one at that because the white men resembled St Francis Xavier - a missionary who lived, preached and died in Goa. The 401-year old St Francis’s Tomb at the Basilica of Bom Jesus still has the remains of the saint’s body. The walls about the casket have rare murals depicting the saint's life. Do visit the art gallery flanking the Basilica. Its singular laterite facade, the exquisite murals on the walls surrounding the casket and the intricate carvings on the tomb by Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini has befittingly got it branded as a World Heritage Site.
Cathedral Church
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Next on the hallowed list of Old Goa is the Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi, distinguishable for its paintwork, woodcarving and floors inlaid with elaborately engraved tombstones depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. The convent at the back of this church is now the Archaeological Museum.

Standing nearby is Se Cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in Goa with Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. In one chapel is kept the Cross of Miracles, said to grow in size & have healing properties.

In the Capital, Panjim (Panaji), the lovely Mary of Immaculate Conception Church dazzles up with lights every evening. Another grand colonial church is the Chapel of St Sebastian.

The 17th century Portuguese Church of the Holy Spirit at Margao, resonating Baroque architecture is another must-visit.

The Church of our Lady of the Rosary represents a fusion of European and Indian elements; while the wall frescos reveal Hindu designs, those on the alabaster tomb of Dona Catherina, wife of the first Portuguese woman to hazard the long & arduous voyage to the Indies, demonstrate the impact of the Muslim-Bijapur style.

Church and Convent of St. Monica is a huge, three-storied laterite building once known as the Royal Monastery on account of the royal patronage, which it enjoyed. The building is now used by the Mater dei Institute as a nunnery.

Festivals
Easter Celebration in Panjim: It is believed that Lord Jesus, crucified on Good Friday, rose from his grave three days later on the Easter Sunday. The Goans gather in the Church of Mary Immaculate Conception to celebrate the Easter and the end of the month of Lent. The ceremony is very similar to the Easter celebrations across the globe, just that the Goan gaiety makes it somewhat more special. Distribution of sweets and chocolates, stalls of local cuisine, Easter parties at every household make it quiet a grand affair.

Goa of Believers
The power of Latin Catholicism is felt poignantly throughout Goa. Over the years the Portuguese zeal for propagating their religion became rigid & intolerant. Consequently temples were demolished & churches built in their place. It was not until 18th century, when the conqueror’s religious zeal had diminished, that Hindu temples began to be built alongside.

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