Goa is one of the most visited holiday destinations in India. This beautiful state is visited not just by Indians but also by foreign tourists. And no matter how often you may have visited it or anyone else may have visited it, Goa remains an eternal favourite among millions. The party capital of India is well known for its hip parties, stunning beaches and a chilled-out attitude. But unlike the image Goa has built for itself; this beautiful place is beyond just beaches and parties. There is a lot more you can explore here. So the next time you visit Goa, take a break from the usual suspects and instead explore these beautiful churches.
Goa’s tryst with heritage and history cannot be ignored. The churches in Goa display Portuguese architecture which is breathtaking. Each of these churches has historical and cultural significance. It is also a reminder of the Portuguese ruling in Goa, while the rest of the country was being ruled by the British. The Portuguese reign in Goa remained undisturbed and in fact peaceful too and thus they ruled Goa for 451 years. And on December 19, 1961, the Portuguese were kicked out of Goa by the Indian army in a war that lasted for just one day. And today the only memory left of colonialism and the Portuguese ruling is the stunning churches Goa is home to.
Apart from being a place of worship, these churches are also architectural wonders that display the enthusiasm of the Portuguese during their reign. Let us take you through the beautiful churches of Goa that you mustn’t miss on your next trip.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bom Jesus Basilica is one of the oldest churches of Goa located in old Goa. Old Goa used to be this place’s capital during the Portuguese ruling. The beautiful church is considered to be one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture which is a style of building that had begun in the late 16th century. The interiors of Bom Jesus Basilica are very simple yet beautiful and the floor is made with marble and precious stones. You will find a mausoleum at the top that has the body of St Francis Xavier in a silver casket. This mausoleum was designed by Giovanni Battista who was a sculptor of the 17th century. And it took almost ten years to complete the construction of this mausoleum.
This church also has a stunning art gallery called the Bom Jesus Basilica Art Gallery that exhibits the works of Dom Martin, a Goan painter. This beautiful church of Goa, which is 108 years old, is open to the public every day. Thousands of visitors come to this church to witness a miracle that still exists. It is said that the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier are well preserved even today.
You can take a tour around the church and even click some brilliant photographs of the paintings and interiors. The best time to visit Bom Jesus Basilica is anywhere between 10.30 am and 6.30 pm.
2. Se Cathedral
Se Cathedral de Santa Catarina which is also known as Se Cathedral is located in Old Goa. This church is one of the largest in India and is also the most popular church of Goa. This Cathedral was built with a purpose. And the purpose was to celebrate the victory of Afonso, who was a Portuguese ruler after he captured a Goan city in 1510. The day of the victory was also the feat of Saint Catherine and the Cathedral was thus dedicated to her.
This Church had originally two towers, out of which one was destroyed never to be built again. Se Cathedral was also gifted a Golden Rose which the Popes of Churches have always blessed and considered as a token of respect and devotion. This gold ornament is placed on the tomb of Francis Xavier.
Se Cathedral has a magnificent Portuguese-Manueline architectural style. The interiors have a Corinthian-style while the exteriors display a perfect Tuscan style of architecture. Se cathedral stands tall at 250 feet and the front structure itself if 115 feet high. The biggest attraction point of this church is the Golden Bell which is also the largest in the state. Located in Velha, this church is open every day of the week and they do not have any restrictions on photography. You can click all you want and also take a walking tour of this church.
On your walking tour you will also find numerous ancient paintings, especially in the altar that was made in dedication to Catherine of Alexandria. And if the stories are anything to go by, it is also said that a version of Christ had appeared in the Chapel that is situated on the right of this church. This occurred in 1919. You can take a walking tour that is arranged by locals too. Do not miss out on visiting this one.
3. Church of St Francis of Assisi
Church of St Francis Assisi is one of the most respected Roman Catholic churches in Goa. Built in 1661 by the Portuguese, this beautiful church displays a Barque and Corinthian architecture with intricately laid out ornaments in the interiors. The interiors that have been done so beautifully is sure to leave you impressed. Another impressive thing about this church is the museum inside. The museum displays many artifacts, paintings and also stunning sculptures. If you want to experience the rich lifestyle that existed in Goa many centuries ago, this is where you should be.
Located in North Goa in Velho, the neatly designed frescos with floral designs and intricately carved woodwork are also another attraction that you must watch out for. If you also carefully look at the walls you will also see many paintings that depict the life of St Francis Assisi.
Take a walking tour of this church on your next visit to Goa. There are many tour operators who conduct these tours. The church is open every day except Sunday from 7.30 am to 6.30 pm.
4. Church of Our Lady of Miracles
The Church of Our Lady of Miracles was founded in 1594 and was started as a military chapel, but was rebuilt numerous times after that. The church was built by the Portuguese on the site where once there was an old Hindu temple. And thus, this site is considered sacred not just by Christians but also by Hindus. This is the greatest example of Hindus and Christians coexisting happily and in peace. Situated approximately 600 metre east of the famous Municipal Gardens in Sanguem most people visit this church for their annual festival. It undoubtedly has beautiful architecture, but the festival is what attracts people in large numbers.
Every year, 16 days after Easter, they host a feast day which is celebrated by both Hindus and Christians. You must be a part of it to experience the merriment they share. You can also carry candles or garlands as offerings if you are a believer. If not just visit the Church of Our Lady of Miracles for the charming architecture and the vibe of their festivals. That is the only best time to visit this church.
The church is open between 7 and 10 in the morning and 4 and 11 in the latter part of the day. The Cholta Cholta is one of the most popular groups offering walking tours of churches. You can contact them if you wish to do a walking tour of this beautiful church along with the other beautiful churches of Goa. A visit is sure to inspire and amaze you.
5. Chapel of St Catherine
The Chapel of St Catherine is probably one of its kinds built in Goa. Though it is small in size, the beauty and elegance of this church will leave you in awe. Built by the Portuguese governor in 1510, it underwent a lot of modifications and finally was rebuilt in 1952. The designs used for interiors are simple yet elegant and the rectangular windows add beauty to the church. This church was built in commemoration of St Catherine and as a memory of the conquest done by Alburquerque over Goa. In the church premises, you will see that there are inscriptions on stone slabs which are proof enough to substantiate the belief that this church has a rich historical significance. The Cathedral status of this chapel is owed to Pope Paul III, and it now stands on what used to be the main gate of Ela that was a Muslim city. Open all days of the week, the next time when you plan a trip to Goa, get away from the usual places and take out time to explore churches like this one. It is sure to feel like a breath of fresh air.
6. Church of St Cajetan
The huge and stunning St Cajetan is situated very close to the Viceregal Palace and also the Se Cathedral. The architecture of this church is breathtaking and has minor influences of the Corinthian style of architecture. The interiors are divided into two different sections that have both aisles and huge pillars. The model of this church is said to have been greatly inspired by the original design of Basilica in Rome. The Church of St Cajetan was built by Italian friars of the order of Theatines and the name was derived from the name of a Theatine founder, St Cajetan, who was also a close friend of St Xavier.
In 1643, however, they were asked to leave Goa. But the leader of the Italian friar traveled all the way to Portugal to convince him that working in Goa along with the Portuguese will work in the interest of the Christian religion. Impressed by his passion and dedication, the King gave him permission to be in Goa and then went on to build the church and also a beautiful convent. In 1666, the construction of this church was completed and today is considered one of the most beautiful churches of Goa.
There are a total of six altars that are carved and constructed with brilliant interiors. The altars have shafts that have pictures of angels on them and this adds to the beauty of this already beautiful church. An absolute visual delight, you can visit this church on all days of the week between 9 am and 12 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm.
7. Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca
Yet another architectural marvel is the Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca which is also among the most visited churches of Goa. If you love alluring interiors with high ceilings and stained glass windows, this church is sure to leave you awestruck. This church was built in dedication to Saint Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca who is said to have averted a dangerous scenario. It is said that the Portuguese sailors on their journey to India would have been caught in a dangerous situation but Saint Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca did his best to avert this and saved the sailors. This parish church is located at the confluence of Mapusa and Mandovi rivers that overlooks the Chorao Island and the also the Ribandar causeway. You will find many churches that are dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca and this church is one among them. Located exactly in Panjim Goa, this church is open every day of the week from 8 in the morning till 11.30 at night. Churches are best explored when you do a walking tour.
So when in Goa, you know where to go and what to explore.
8. Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
Located in Panjim, the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is one of those churches in Goa that conducts mass every day in English, Portuguese and Konkani. Like most of the other churches, this one too is the greatest example of Baroque style and was first built in 1541. It was built as a chapel first and then made a church by enlarging the premises and building. The chapel was built to serve the religious needs of the sailors in India at that time. However, in 1609, the chapel was enlarged which is now the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The stairways of this church hat are in a zigzag form were added later to the church.
As you walk inside the church you will also see a big bell tower which is the second largest church bell and was made in 1871. The interiors of the church are not lavishly done but the colors give it a lively feel. Well adorned altars that are also gold plated and marble statues of St Paul and St Peter are some of the other attractions of this place. And if you happen to visit this church during the festive period, you will be in for a visual treat. The ceiling is decorated with flowers of blue and white that are the colours used for the church as well. The festival of this church is held on December 8 every year and this is when the church is perfectly illuminated.
9. Church of Lady of Rosary
Church of Lady of Rosary is one of the earliest churches of Goa located on the west of Basilica of Bom Jesus. You will find two beautiful chapels and also altars inside the church and the main altar is dedicated to the Holy Mother. The moment you lay your eyes on this church you will be left stunned by the magnificent interiors and also exteriors that look similar to a fortress church. Manueline in style and simplistically designed, this church also has a touch of Gothic. Located in Gawli Wada, Margao, the best time to explore this church is from 9.30 to 5.30 in the evening and it is open on all days.
It is believed that St Francis Xavier had given his very first sermon here when he arrived in Goa. The church was restored after it was first set up and that is why it looks so beautiful today. The only decorative pieces that you will find outside the church is the rope twist devices and a roof that is build of tiles layers. On the floor of the altar is also the tombstone of Goa’s early governors called Garcia de Sa. To enjoy the beauty of this church you do not have to be a believer. If you are looking for some quiet moments, this church is where you should be.
10. St. Alex Church
If you are church hopping in Goa, you shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the St Alex Church. Even before you reach the church, you will feel certain positivity; such are the vibes that it sends out. Built in 1597, St Alex Church is one of the oldest in the state. Situated in the small village of Calangute, the population is Christian dominated and hence it is no surprise that this church is a favorite and one of the major attractions. It is said that the site where this church now stands used to be a Hindu temple with the deity of a form of Shiva-Ravalnath.
The church is famous not just for its architectural beauty but also because of the scenic location. The alluring and small lake in the backdrop amidst the village’s scenery and serenity, a visit to this church will treat you to peaceful moments. There is nothing unique or over the top about the exteriors of this church. It has simple whitewashed walls, however as you enter, you will be in for a surprise. The interiors are rich and elegant with its podium area beautifully decked.