Churches and Monasteries of Goa

The churches and monasteries are evidence of the proselytizing of the Indian subcontinent during the Portuguese colonial period. The most important sacred buildings include the Bom Jesus basilica, the Jesuit church, the cathedral of St. Cajetan, the Sé cathedral and the convent of St. Monika.

Churches and Monasteries of Goa: Facts

Official title: Churches and Monasteries of Goa
Cultural monument: i.a. Churches such as Bom Jesus (reconstruction after fire in 1783), a cruciform, brick-built Jesuit church with the grave of St. Francisco de Jassu y Xavier (1506-52), the Church of St. Cajetan (1650-61), named after the founder of the order Cajetano da Thiene, the Sé Cathedral, which was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, the St. Francis Church (1661), the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and monasteries such as the fortress-like convent of St. Monika (1606-27) and that of the Miraculous Cross
Continent: Asia
Country: India, Goa
Location: Velha Goa / Old Goa (“Old Goa”), east of Panaji
Appointment: 1986
Meaning: Evidence of proselytizing on the Indian subcontinent and the spread of Mannerism and Baroque in Asia

Churches and Monasteries of Goa: History

11th century Established as a Brahmin settlement
1342 Visit of the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta
1469 Annexation by the Bahmani sultans
1510 Conquest by Portuguese troops
1540 Destruction of all Hindu temples
1562-1619 Construction of the Sé Cathedral, an 80 m long Renaissance building
1622 Canonization of Francisco de Jassu y Xavier, who died on Shangchuan (near Canton)
1635 Plague epidemic
1774 Abolition of the Inquisition
1961 Invasion of Indian troops
1987 Goa becomes the 25th state of the Indian Union

The mistress of the Orient

Not far from Panaji, the modern capital of Goa, the heart of the “Golden Goa” beat four and a half centuries ago. In the busy port of Old Goa, the focal point of the entire oriental trade, hundreds of ships moored every year, loaded with immeasurable riches, with spices, the finest fabrics, magnificent gemstones and slaves.

Of the boulevard that led from the river to the center of the city, only the triumphal arch remained, which the Portuguese had built in honor of Vasco da Gama a century after the discovery of the direct sea route to India. According to dentistrymyth, with a view of the river, a statue of the famous seafarer stands in a niche above the archway, while on the back, St. Catherine of Alexandria triumphs over her Roman tormentor. This is depicted as “Mohr”, which refers to the Sultan of Bijapur, Yusuf Adil Shah, whose troops on the name day of St. Catherine in 1510 were commanded by a Portuguese army under the command of Afonsos de Albuquerque from the city of Ela, the later Old Goa, were displaced.

Shortly after the Portuguese conquest, the city began to grow rapidly into a metropolis. The number of residents rose at times to over 300,000 – more people than Lisbon and London populated at that time. Goa became the seat of the viceroy and archbishopric; Even religious orders – such as the Franciscans and the Jesuits – were drawn to the emerging colony, to the “Golden Goa”, which was equated with Lisbon and Rome. Portugal’s national poet Luís Vaz de Camões sang it as »la Senhora de todo o Oriente« – »the mistress of the whole Orient«.

The Manueline-style entrance portal of the simple church of St. Francis of Assisi is reminiscent of the first Franciscan church in Goa. Inside, visitors are surprised by the baroque splendor: the gilded high altar is dominated by an artfully carved paten, which is modeled on the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; Paintings on either side of the altar tell of the life of the saint. In addition, the Franciscans built the bishop’s palace and, of course, a convent, which is now a museum and provides an insight into Goa’s Hindu prehistory. Even if the neighboring Sé Cathedral was financed from the crown treasure, it took a good half a century until the gilded high altar, which glorifies the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

As a result of the destruction of the neighboring Vijayanagar empire, among other things, the foundations of Goa’s economy were shaken: The lucrative intermediate trade in Arab horses collapsed. Not only cholera and plague epidemics, but also the Inquisition accelerated the decline in the 17th century. When the viceroy also moved his residence, the orders lost their possessions and had to leave Goa, the city was completely deserted and from then on served as a quarry.

As a reminder of happier days, the magnificent churches and some monasteries have been preserved, which stand like an island in a wide sea of ​​coconut trees. The most famous of all the churches is the Bom Jesus basilica built by the Jesuits. In a precious sarcophagus it contains the bones of the highly revered Francisco de Jassu y Xavier, St. Francis Xavier. This co-founder of the Society of Jesus taught in Goa and successfully proselytized in South India and the Far East, where he also died. Months later, a friend had the grave opened and saw the deceased as if he were just asleep. The body was transferred to Goa, and a growing number of believers came from far and wide to see the miracle with their own eyes and to bid farewell. Then the remains were taken to the Bom Jesus basilica, where they have since been kept in a silver shrine. Every ten years the miraculously well-preserved body of the saint, even if it is no longer completely complete due to the once urgent demand for relics, is laid out, and hundreds of thousands of believers then populate the city as before.

Churches and Monasteries of Goa