Spiritual Hearts of Portuguese Goa

On the outskirts of Panaji is Velha Goa, the l6th century capital of the Portuguese and a study in splendor then. Today it is almost a ghost city. Old Goa was abandoned after the great plague of 1738 struck it a deathly blow, killing more than 2 lakhs people. But the once great city lives on in its churches. Amazingly numerous in number, majestic and grand though they are, what is most appealing about the churches of Velha Goa is their aura, peculiarly Indain, starting from the face of Christ depcited as that of a Hindu saint. Boom Jesus Basilica, partially in ruins but awesome still, is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. Built in I 594, the interior of this Church is perhaps the richest in Old Goa.

The church's most precious relic is the emblamed body of St. Francis Xavier entombed in a marbIe mausoleum in the Florentine styIe presented by the Duke of Tuscany, who received the Saint's pillow in exchange. Once every ten years, the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are exposed for public veneration. On those occasions, the first week of January. During the intervening years, the festival is celebrated on December 3rd. The body of the Saint was last exposed in 1994. Se Cathedral impresses with its vaulted interiors and lofty belfry from where a huge Golden Bell, the biggest in the world, spreads its thunderous peals across the sornbre ruins of the former golden city The Church has 14 side chapels, each built in a different style. The last chapel, in Mauresque style, preserves across upon which a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, handsome in its simplicity. Built in pure Manueline style, the interior is adorned with a profusion of carvings and exquisite paintings. Outside this church is the Chapel of St Catherine, one of the earliest churches built in Goa. It was constructed in 1510 on the very spot where Alfonse Albuquerque defeated Adil Shah. St. Cajetan Church is built in the Coriinthian style, on the lines of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Interesting to note are the interior decorated in pure, unrestrained baroque, the intricately carved pulpit and a interesting church in Old Goa is the Convent and Church of St. Monica. Built in Doric style, this refreshingly simple church was once a nunnery housing more than a hundred nuns, the last of whom died in 1885 St. Augustine Tower is the only remaining tower of the Augustinian Church, which is now in ruins. It was once the largest church in Goa. The Chapel of St. Anthony, the Convent of St. John of god, and the Church of the Rosary have also managed to survive the ravages of time and man.