Next morning, post breakfast, I took a cab to Old Goa. The driver wanted to drop me at the main SE Cathedral, but since I had planned to do the entire circuit, I got off at Rua Direita instead. It used to be the ceremonial entrance to Velha Goa.
This is the site of the Viceroy’s Arch, built as a tribute to Vasco Da Gama by his grandson, Francisco Da Gama, Viceroy of Goa, 1597-1600. Although the arch had collapsed and had to be rebuilt, it still shows the Da Gama family crest and a statue of Vasco Da Gama in uniform. Behind the arch is a statue of a crowned woman standing over a native symbolising “Christian victory over paganism.”
The original three-storey structure also had a statue of St. Catherine at the top but the third level was omitted at the time of restoration for stability. It was called the Viceroy’s Arch because all Viceroys of Goa had to pass under it before being given the key to the city and lordship over the state.
On the left was the Church of St. Cajetan and Adil Shah’s Palace Gateway.
Modelled after the St. Peter’s Church in Rome, this church has its main altar dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence holding a chalice with host and with two angels at her feet and six other chapels.
The church grounds have the only remaining parts of Adil Shah’s Palace – two decorated pillars on a plinth as well as a doorway with carved Hindu deities, thought to have belonged to a Kadamba-era Ganesha Temple in Divar Island. A covered well inside the church reflecting the oculus on top is also said to have been part of a Hindu temple. The church and the gate are located at what was once called the Celebration Square.
From Celebration Square I turned left and before me was imposing façade of the Se Cathedral. Built to commemorate a massive victory over the Muslims on St. Catherine’s day, the Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina is one of Goa’s most revered and one of Asia’s largest churches.
Built in the Corinthian-Manueline style, the church contains a main altar dedicated to St. Catherine, the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles and a baptismal font used by St. Xavier, chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Virtues, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady of Life, St. Anthony, St. Bernard and the Holy Ghost. In the transept are six altars, three on either side of the main altar. The convent next to the Cathedral is now an Archeological Museum open to the public.
Right across the road is the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica is known in the Christian world as the church that houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier.
Regarded as one of Christendom’s holiest, the church is built in the Doric, Corinthian and composite styles. The heavily ornamented main altar has a statue of the Infant Jesus and a statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, looking up at a medallion depicting IHS and the Holy Trinity.
The church also has another chapel with a silver casket containing the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier. Adjacent to the Basilica is the Casa Professa or The Professed House that holds the Retreat Movement now.
Further is one of the most iconic monuments in Goa – the belfry tower of what used to be Nossa Senhora da Graca Church of the Augustinian Friars. Built over 400 years ago, the church eventually fell into neglect once repressive religious policies of the Portuguese government came into place and collapsed in 1842.
Part of the tower collapsed in 1931 and all that remains of the grand church today are arched apses where the altars used to be, half the belfry tower and a few crumbling structures inside. The mortal remains of the pious Queen Ketevan of Mukhrani, Georgia are said to be interred here.
There were a few more churches in the area, but I was done! Literally! Walking around the area and the huge churches took more effort than I had imagined. But anyway, it was lovely. And lovelier was getting back to Panjim via Ribander with the Mandovi flowing by its side.