Goa's heritage is a fusion of Hindu and Portuguese influences. It is this cultural richness that makes this destination a historical paradise.
It is no wonder that there are many UNESCO designated World Heritage sites in India. The masterpiece of Taj Mahal, the Fort of Agra, the temples of Khajuraho are just a few of the examples. The churches and convents of Goa were inscribed by UNESCO under the World Heritage List in 1986 as cultural property.
A visit to Old Goa will reveal the archaic flavour of Christianity. Here, one can visit St. Francis Tomb at the venerable Basilica de Bom Jesu. Across the Terreiro de Sabaio square one can reach Se Cathedral, dedicated to St. Catherine and at the western end of Old Goa stands the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, one of Goa's oldest churches. Keeping her company are the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony and the Convent of St. John of God. These sites display an impressive array of medieval European architecture, a beautiful amalgamation of Portuguese-Gothic style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior.
HERITAGE OLD GOA
Goa, the world famous tourist place of India is mostly known for its spectacular beaches, but this is the high time to explore Goan heritage as well. There is no need to think that Goa is only about old churches and monuments. Goa actually has a lot of ancient temples in the heart of the city as well as various parts of the state. Even Goa Tourism has a' Pilgrim Tour - Temples', where you can visit Shri Mahalakshmi Temple at Panaji, Gomanteshwar Temple at Bramhapuri,
Shantadurga Temple at Kunkoliem, Mangesh Temple at Pirol, Mahalsa Temple at Mardol, Ananta Temple at Savoi, Ramnath Temple at Ramnathi, ShantadurgaTemple at Kavie, Naguesh Temple at Bandora and Gopal Ganapati Temple at Farmagudi.
On the other hand, for Pilgrim Tour - Churches', you have to visit old Goa for the Pilar Seminary at Pilar, Basilica of Born Jesus, St. Cajetan, Se Cathedral, St. Francis of Assisi, Museum of Christian Art and St. Jerome's Church (Milagres) at Mapusa, Mae de Dues Church at Saligao and Reis Magos Church at Verem.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus or Basilica of Good Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier The church is located in Old Goa, which was the capital of Goa in the early days of Portuguese rule. Born Jesus', which literally means 'Good or Holy Jesus' is the name used for the infant Jesus. The Jesuit church is India's first Minor Basilica, and is considered to be one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. Construction work on the church began in 1594 and the church was consecrated in May of 1605 by the archbishop, Dom Fr Aleixo de Menezes. This World Heritage monument has emerged as a landmark in the history of Christianity. It contains the body of St. Francis Xavier, a very close friend of St. Ignatius Loyola with whom he founded the Society of Jesus. Francis Xavier died on Sancian Island enroute to continental China on December 2, 1552. The body of Francis Xavier was first taken to Malacca and two years later shipped back to Goa. It is said that the saint's body was as fresh as the day it was buried. The remains of the saint still attract a huge number of devotees, Christian and non-Christian alike, from all over the world, especially during the public viewing of his body every ten years (last held in 2004).The saint is said to have miraculous powers of healing.
St. Francis of Assisi displays superb architectural grandeur - the exterior of the Church is of Tuscan order while the main entrance is in Manuline style. The main altar is Baroque with Corinthian features. There are no aisles but only a nave, which is rib-vaulted. The internal buttress walls, separating the chapels and supporting the gallery on top, have frescoes showing intricate floral designs.
To the west of the Se Cathedral is the former palace of the Archbishop that connects the Se Cathedral to the Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The structure is built of late rite blocks and is lime-plastered. The church faces west and has a nave with three chapels on either side, a choir two altars in the transept and a main altar. To the north of the main altar is a belfry and a sacristy. The convent, which forms an annexure to the church, now houses the Archaeological Museum.
Archaeological Museum, Velha Goa, is one of the most significant site museum of the Archaeological Survey of India which has been functioning since 1964 from the convent of St. Francis of Assisi. The antiquities displayed in the gallery include sculptures of Brahmanical deities like seated Uma - Maheshvara with Kartikeya, Bhringi, Kala Bhairava, Lakshmi, torso of a warrior, Shiva Linga, of the early Chalukyan period followed by the Silharas and Kadambas of Goa. The objects showed here are various Shikharas of temples replicas of pillar Nandi, Ganesha, Mahishasuramardini and a standing Vishnu with Garuda. Hero and Sati stone of early and medieval periods, portraits of Governors and Viceroys of Goa, currency, revenue and court fees stamps, wooden and bronze sculptures and armory of the Portuguese period. There is an old drawing of the city of old Goa dated back to 1509 AD, a 2.2 metre high stone statue of Afonso de Albuquerque and another 3 metre high bronze statue of Luize de Camoes (1524- 1580), the national poet of Portugal. The one eyed poet holds in his hand scrolls of his poem, the Lusiads, which describes the voyage of Vasco da Gama from Portugal to India and return. The conjectural site plan of Chandor the ancient and medieval capital city on the river bank of Kushavati, is on display here.
The Museum of Christian Art at old Goa is Asia's first museum of Christian Art, reputed to be the only one of its kind, was inaugurated in I 994 by the then President of India, Late Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma. The museum, which has enriched the cultural heritage and history of Goa, was originally set up with technical and financial assistance from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi, and located within the precinct of the Convent of Santa Monica at old Goa. The central theme in the selection of objects for display apart from their antiquity is the Indian, predominantly Hindu, contribution to Christian art. It represents the symbiosis of East-West art and culture and is consequently of interest to research scholars and visitors.
The Convent of Santa Monica is the famous chapel of the Weeping Cross. Many miracles have been said to have been wrought through veneration of the 'miraculous' cross which is placed above one of the side altars. In the Holy Hill, on the way to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, is a huge three-storeyed building of late rite which was originally lime- plastered but is now plastered with cement. It is square on plan with a large inner courtyard around which is a cloistered verandah and numerous cells and halls. The vaulted ceilings in some of the halls are tastefully painted with floral decorations and scenes from the Holy bible.
St. Augustine's tower is basically the ruins of the once famous and important 5-storeyed church. Built in 1602,the only ruin of the Church of St. Augustine on the Holy Hill at Old Goa near the Nunnery, this is a lofty 46-metre high tower defying the torrential rains. The tower is one of the four of St. Augustine Church that once stood there. There were eight richly adorned chapels and four altars, and a convent with numerous cells and artistic columns attached to the church. The Church when intact was perhaps the biggest in Goa. With the religious suppression in 1835, the Augustinians deserted the church and the convent The latter was used for some time by the charitable institution of the Misericordia. The buildings fell into neglect resulting in the collapse of the vault on 8 September I 842.The Government appropriated the property selling the materials the following year The façade and half of the tower fell in 193 I and some more parts of it collapsed in 1938.