Famous for being the first Minor Basilica in India, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is located 10 km east of Panaji, in Old Goa (Velha Goa). It is perhaps Goa’s most famous church and among the most revered by Christians worldwide. Dedicated to Infant Jesus, the church has been declared a World Heritage Monument. Bom Jesus literally means ‘Infant Jesus’ or ‘Good Jesus.’ The structure boasts of pristine white marble flooring and beautifully gilded altars decorated with frescoes and inlay work. The facade has the letters ‘HIS’ displayed on the top, which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek.
The church is believed to be one of the oldest churches in India and is partially in ruins. The Bom Jesus Church has been designed along the lines of Gesu, a fine example of Jesuit architecture. Built in 1695, it is characterized by Baroque architecture and scores for its pillars and fine detailing, carved from basalt embellishments making it one of the richest facades in Goa.
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The Basilica of Bom Jesus is most famous for holding the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. St Francis is considered the patron saint of Goa and the Apostle of the Indies. The relics of the saint still attract a huge number of devotees from all around the world. The saint is believed to have miraculous powers of healing. St Francis Xavier, in 1541, was given the task of spreading Christianity among the subjects of the Portuguese colonies in the East. Hence the church is widely famous throughout the Roman Catholic world. His body is also displayed for public viewing every ten years (last held in 2004). On December 3, Goans celebrate the Feast of St Francis Xavier. The next exposition is in 2014. St Francis Xavier is popularly known as Goencho Sahib, as he holds a special place in the hearts of Goans.
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The foundation stone of the remarkably large church was laid on November 24, 1594 and the church was consecrated by Father Alexia de Menezes – who was the Archbishop of Goa. In 1946 it was raised to the status of a minor Basilica. The roof of the church was originally tiled. There are two chapels, a main altar and a sacristy besides a choir inside the Church itself. The flying buttresses on the northern side of the church are recent additions. A single-storey structure adjoining the church on its southern wing connects it with the Professed House.
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