Where the ruins reign

Where the ruins reign

Where the ruins reign
Popularly known as Velha Goa (‘velha’ means ‘old’ in Portuguese), Old Goa houses some of the most magnificent churches, which are centuries old and were built during the Portuguese colonial times. If you are visiting Goa for its beaches, you cannot afford to miss this quaint little town for its historical and archeological importance. One needs a full day in Old Goa to cover all the important churches.

We decided to make a quick visit to Goa for a holiday. As we left from Bengaluru, our excitement grew by leaps and bounds at the thought of spending time at the exotic beaches while at the same time, we were thinking of Velha Goa. So on a weekday, we decided to visit it.

Old Goa is about 12 km from Panaji, the capital of Goa. As we drove into the town in our self-driven hired car, the magnificent church of Bom Jesus sprang up in view. By then, we had learnt that among the many churches, there were at least five important churches that are a ‘must-see’ in Old Goa with one of them being Bom Jesus or Infant Jesus Church.

As we entered it, we were stunned by the architectural beauty of its interiors and sculptures. The ceilings are beautifully decorated and one can see the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, who died in 1552. The church also has paintings depicting scenes from St Francis Xavier’s life. The holy relics of St Francis are on public display every 10 years.

The other important churches here are Se Cathedral, St Francis of Assisi, St Cajetan Church, Church Of Our Lady Rosary, Santa Monica and the ruins of St Augustine’s Church. The Archeological Museum is in the convent portion of the Church of St Francis of Assisi and has paintings of governors and viceroys, wooden sculptures, pillars, capitals, postal stamps among many other objects which belong to the Portuguese period in Goa.

And then there is the Chapel of St Catherine built in 1510 AD by Afonso De Albuquerque to commemorate his entry into Goa. Also one shouldn’t miss the Church of Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception in Panaji, whose bell is supposed to be the second largest in the world. The sculptures and paintings in the church are so resplendent that the ambience has an overwhelming effect on the visitor.

At Church Of St Augustine, we were astounded by the imposing 46 metre high tower standing majestically amidst the ruins. This was possibly the largest church in Goa once upon a time. As the inscription read, the church was built in 1602 but abandoned in the 1840s. It’s a somber place that brings about a melancholic feeling in the visitor. 

It was late afternoon by the time we finished and managed to grab some lunch. Overall, the grandeur of the Portuguese style buildings, churches and the ambience of the town bereft of commercial activity took us back to the Portuguese colonial times. As we drove back to our resort in South Goa, we were overjoyed at the intimate encounter we had had with the rich heritage and history of Goa.

(The author can be reached at mvsub2k7@gmail.com)