The Churches and Convents at Velha (Old) Goa owe their existence to the Portuguese rule in this part of the western coast of India. The most comprehensive group of churches and cathedrals built during 16th to 17th century AD at Old Goa comprise of the following: Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se' Cathedral, Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of Lady of Rosary, Church of St. Augustine and Chapel of St. Catherine. These Churches and Convents declared as World Heritage Sites in 1986.
Facts at a Glance about the Churches and Convents at Velha (Old):
The beauty of Goa is doubled by presence of numerous ancient master pieces displayed on churches. Convents and churches in Goa have a great influence of Portuguese culture. Their architecture is a combination of Baroque and Renaissance styles. Materials used for construction of these churches are mainly lime plaster and laterite.
Majority of paintings of these Churches are carried out on wooden borders. These are placed similar to floral designs which are used for decorating tomb and chapel of St. Xavier. Baring a few statues which are in stone, rest all are made of wood and have excellent carvings on them. There are also some excellent paintings of Jesus, Mother Mary and Saints which are used for adorning the altars.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus:
The literary meaning of Bom Jesus is “infant Jesus” or "good Jesus". The Bom Jesu Basilica or Bom Jesus Basilica is situated in Old Goa which was Portuguese capital during initial days of their rule. There is a church is located at a distance of ten km from Goa’s capital city of Panjim.
A place which is located close to the convent of St Francis is popular for mortal remains and tomb of St Francis Xavier. St Francis Xavier is believed to have come to India along with Portuguese convoy to spread Christianity in India. He was associated with Society of Jesus.
Se Cathedral is most popular and ancient religious place in Goa. Se cathedral is tagged as a biggest church in entire Asian region. The available statistics show that this church was completed in 80 years. The Church is devoted to Catherine of Alexandria. The site is part of old Goa. The Portuguese art, sculpture and their royalty can be clearly experienced by a visit to this important church which is placed at high respect and sacredness by Christian community across the world. Se cathedral tagged as World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi-
Towards west side of the Se cathedral lies Church of St. Francis of Assisi in convent. The structure was initially constructed for a chapel and it was renovated to form the full functioning church in year 1521. This church was dedicated to Holy Spirit on 2nd Aug 1602. The Franciscan mendicants made use of convents as their residence and these convents were subjected to renovations in year 1559. However, the convent was closed by Portuguese administration in year 1835. Archaeological Survey of India transformed church into a museum in year 1964. This church has enormous wealth of sculpture, paintings and artifacts.
Art work of this church is combination of both Mosaic-Corinthian style and Tuscan culture. The former style is used on interior while the latter is used on exterior part of church. The inside walls of church is decorated with important situations of Bible and Complex floral designs. The position of facade has a statue of St Michael. Further the pedestal in one chapel is adorned by a wooden statue of St Francis Assisi.
Church of Lady of Rosary-
The Lady of Rosary Church is ideally situated towards western side of Monte Santo or Holy Hill. Many Historical evidences state that this was the site where Alfonso de Albuquerque organized his army and emerged victorious in year 1510. The site has a plaque with some inscriptions of 1950`s period. This region was renovated and transformed into a Church in year 1543 and handed over to Franciscans for its upkeep. The Church is held with high respect and esteem by people as it was center for teaching by St. Francis Xavier. He commenced teaching catechism to local flocks who used to assemble at site on hearing sound of a small bell.
The interior and exterior designs of this site are very simple. Garcia de Sa was one of the first Governor of Goa. His tombstone is placed in front of altar. The tombstone shows classical example of "Manueline" architecture style followed by Portuguese. The interior design is very simple and comprises five altars. Image of Lady of Rosary or Nossa Senhora de Rozario is found on main altar.
Church of St. Augustine
The church of St. Augustine was constructed by 12 Augustian friars in year 1572 after they reached Goa on 3rd Sep 1572. This church gets completed in 1962. As per present status both convent and church are in damaged condition. The condition of church was very strong till 1835 before it was neglected after a religious order passed by Portuguese administration. The church severely damaged when its vault collapsed in 1842. The only remain of this ancient monument is a bell tower which stands without a bell today. The bell of bell tower was removed and placed at Fort Aguada Light House between years 1841 to 1871. It was then transferred to church of Lady of Immaculate Conception located at Panaji. It is still properly functioning there.