Goa is known as much for its majestic churches as for its scenic beaches. The Goan landscape is speckled with pristine white facades of opulent churches that embody the religious associations of the Portuguese colonizers. Apart from being religious institutions of pre-eminence, the churches of Goa are architectural wonders renowned for their aesthetic appeal. With a substantial Christian population, the churches of Goa play an important role in the state’s social fabric. Following are some of the most prominent churches in Goa:
Basilica of Bom Jesus
The town of Old Goa has some of Goa’s most prominent churches and the Basilica of Bom Jesus church stands out for its magnificent Baroque architecture and sacred legacy. Built in 1695, the Bom Jesus Church has been designed along the lines of Gesu, the Jesuit headquarters in Rome. In 1946, the church was declared a Minor Basilica, the first church of India to be accorded such a status.
Church of Mary Immaculate Conception
Established in 1541, the Church of Mary Immaculate Conception is one of the earliest churches built in Goa. Located at the heart of Panaji, this majestic church is a prominent landmark of the city. A silhouette of the Mary Immaculate Church illuminated with thousand of bulbs shimmering against an inky dark sky is one of the most enduring images of the Panaji city.
Church of St. Monica
Located adjacent to the Chapel of St. Anthony on the Holy Hill or Monte Santo, the Church and the Convent of St. Monica was Goa’s only convent for nuns. Construction of this massive nunnery started in 1606 and reached completion in 1627. The Church and the Convent of St Monica is acclaimed as the first nunnery of the East.
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary
Located atop the Monte Santo or the Holy Hill, the Church of Our Lady of Rosary is the oldest surviving Church in Goa. The church stands on the site of Portuguese leader Alfonso de Albuquerque’s victory over the armies of Bijapur Sultan in 1510. In fact the Lady of Rosary church is believed to be built by de Albuquerque as a sign of gratitude for his victory.
Church of St. Cajetan
Built along the lines of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome, the Church of St. Cajetan is one of the visually appealing structures in Old Goa. The St Cajetan church was built by Italian friars of the order of Theatines, who were sent by Pope Urban VIII to preach Christianity.
Church of St Francis of Assisi
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi stands contiguous to the Se Cathedral but is less impressive in appearance. The Church and the nearby Convent was built by eight members of the Franciscan friars, a religious order within the Catholic Church which seeks to live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Acclaimed as one of the largest churches in Asia, the Se Cathedral church is a manifestation of the opulence of the Portuguese era in Goa. The church was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria as the Portuguese led by Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa on the St. Catherine’s day (November 25) in 1510.