Home to the Saint Francis Xavier, the priest responsible of bringing Christianity to the region, this church in Goa attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to experience what can only be termed as divine intervention itself. It is said that the great Saint Francis Xavier had immense powers of healing which is still reflected in the remains of his mortal self.
Testimony to this claim is a public viewing of the Saint’s body that happens once a decade. It last took place in 2004. Bom Jesus translates to Good Jesus or Infant Jesus to whom it is essentially dedicated.
Having been inaugurated in 1605 by Father Aleixo De Menezes, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is over 400 years old and is open to tourists and pilgrims every day. Inside the church, pilgrims can worship and browse through the intricate artwork that speak volumes about the life and time of Saint Francis Xavier. The remains of Saint Francis are kept in a well-clad casket. Most of the mausoleum has been designed by Giovanni Battista Foggini, a 17th century sculptor. The entire church has been built on the principles of Jesuit architecture.
There has been talk that the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church is soon on its way to going green with a galvanised roof for a better experience for Church inhabitants, pilgrims and tourists. The galvanised roof will replace the current asbestos roof. This is a first of a kind move in India to preserve a 400-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Widely Opposed Professed House
The Professed house is a separate structure within the church compound and predates the church itself by around twenty years, having been built in 1585. Jesuit missionaries made this place their base for activities pertaining to the far east since back then. The Jesuits faced tough opposition from the Senate for which they were not permitted to build the church.
One night, against the opposition, the Jesuits threw open a small church on the doors of which was inscribed the work Jesus and invited the commons in to celebrate mass. Ever since the Senate was helpless but to let them go about with their activities. The Professed house, a separate building is still on the campus and a hot favourite amongst tourists.
How To Get There?
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is just a stone throw away from the capital of Goa, Panjim. One can easily hail a cab in the city or get on from Vasco da Gama city or Margao city. For pilgrims who are put up in North Goa, namely Baga, Calangute and Candolim, cabs are available, although if you’re doing a day-long tour, visiting various churches in Panjim and the south, it is best to be mobile with your own vehicle or a self-driven hired one.
Arguably one of the largest churches of its time, St. Augustine Church today is in partial ruins, no thanks to the religious bans imposed by an ever-so-fragile Portuguese social hold back in the 1600s. St. Augustine Church today is no more than a 46 m tall tower situated in old Goa on a hill aptly named Holy Hill.
St. Augustine Church is and has always been a pilgrim’s favourite owing to its rich historical and architectural qualities.
The Church of St. Augustine was built by twelve Augustinians against oppressive bans and opposition. Along with the church they also built a separate convent building. The 46 m tall tower was clad with a magnificent church bell which was subsequently removed and moved to the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception where it still continues to remain active today!
In the early days, the church boasted of four altars, eight chapels and a convent. What’s left of the St. Augustine Church today is the tower and the forward façade; the rear end of the church is in ruins.
Despite this, the Church of St. Augustine attracts thousands of visitors each year and the magnificence of its hay days is hardly lost. Most of the church’s physical deterioration has happened in the 1900s which has sparked an outcry among various religious groups off late.
How To Get There?
The church of St. Augustine is located in south Goa and can be accessed via bus, cab or rickshaw from cities like Panjim, Vasco Da Gama and Margao. For tourists based in north Goa, Candolim, Baga or Calangute, its best to hire a vehicle and ride down, or use your own car to avoid a steep cab fare.
The St. Cajetan Church is undisputedly the most beautiful looking church Goa has ever housed. One can’t help but revive memories of other churches visited in European countries owing to its Corinthian and Goth inspired architecture. Everything from its pristine white appearance to the two rectangular towers on either side above the façade reminds us of its European architectural origins.
St. Cajetan Church has essentially been created on the basis of St. Peter Church in Italy and has been constructed using laterite blocks. For the well-travelled tourist or pilgrim, a very familiar connection can be made between the city of St. Petersburg in Russia and its churches including the Fortress of Paul and Peter and the St. Cajetan Church in Goa owing to their strikingly similar architectural principles.
The interior of the church is as massive as the exterior makes it out to be. Inspired by Corinthian and Baroque architecture there are multiple altars on the left and right with the aisle divided by huge pillars. To the left, the altars are dedicated to the Holy family of Our Lade of Piety and St. Clare.
To the right you can see the altars dedicated to St. Cajetan, St. John and St. Agnes, the one dedicated to St. Cajetan being the largest with a massive, well decorated wooden podium. The Italian paintings in the altars depict the life and time of Saint Cajetan. One can’t help but marvel at the huge dome, both from the outside and the inside of the church.
The Well Within The Church
Within the premises of the church, there exists a well which has lead historians and archaeologists to point at the possible existence of an ancient Hindu temple which was lost during Portuguese occupation. An opposing group of historians believe that the well was intentionally created to offer structural stability.
More controversy is added to the equation with the existence of carvings of Hindu deities on the Basalt doorway. This is the only remaining part of what once used to be a palace of Emperor Adil Shah.
How To Get There?
The St. Cajetan Church is located in Old Goa around 10 km from the capital city of Goa in the midst of other prominent churches like the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the ruins of St. Augustine. It's best to plan a day out at all these churches since the distance one has to travel from the city or from North Goa is quite a lot.
Cab services to old Goa are available from all over including the cities of Vasco Da Gama and Margao. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to hire a two-wheeler and see all these marvellous architectural creations in your own time and pace.