Why would I want to see churches in Goa ?! I’ve already seen the ones in Europe!
This was a few years ago, I had just returned from a trip to Paris where I had seen the beautiful Sacre Coeur and the Cathedral of Notre Dam and I didn’t really see how a bunch of old churches in Goa could possibly top that.
Also for me Goa was all about sun and sand, cocktails on the beach and lazy swims in the ocean and I wasn’t ‘wasting’ a day of beach chill time to trudge around seeing Churches.
Cut to 2017 and Ambika and I were here reDiscovering the other side of Goa and whilst Old Goas really does not qualify as unknown or under visited, neither of us (and we suspect many others) who have been to Goa countless times, had ever spent time in this part of the state.
And I have to say I’m so glad we did! The churches in Europe might be spectacular but I would contest that the ones in Old Goa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (we have now seen most of the historical UNESCO sites in India) are no less.
Erected through the 16th and 17th Century when Old Goa was the capital of Portuguese India, these churches were built on a grand scale and designed to inspire a sense of awe in the natives of Goa, perhaps with a view to aid conversions.
Infact such was the profligacy of Church building here that, sitting serenely on the banks of the Mandovi hundreds of miles from Rome, Velha Goa grew to be the center of Christianization in the East and was considered to be amongst the most beautiful cities in the world.
It is said that at one point there were so many Churches in Velha Goa that the priests of the various competing orders complained that the sound of so many choirs singing and so many bells ringing created confusion and cacophony! Today, there is a lot more peace and serenity inside.
Only a handful of these stunning churches remain (we visited 6 and it took us over half a day), and its not difficult to see why these Churches and this lovely little corner of Goa was once considered the pride of the Portuguese Empire.
Hover over the picture or click on them to scroll through and read the captions which tell you more about the Churches and Cathedrals of Goa.
Some Useful Information:
How to get there: Old Goa or Velha Goa is located about 9 km from Panjim and buses ply regularly from Panji. If you have a car, we suggest traveling one way by the river road and one way by the main highway, both of which have lovely views and photo opportunities.
What to See: The most popular churches in old Goa are the Bom Jesus, the Se Cathedral and ruins of St Augustine’s Church but we would definitely recommend checking out both the Church of St Francis of Assisi and St Cajetan’s Church which most people don’t make their way to. Also, take a few minutes to pop into the ASI museum for interesting relics and old photographs and paintings.
How much time do you need: The main few churches can probably be seen in a couple of hours, but we would suggest keeping aside half a day to explore all of Old Goa peacefully on foot, grab a bite and enjoy the beautiful drive up and down from Panjim.
Dont Miss: The view of old Goa from the small chapel of Our Lady of the Mount located on a little hill behind St Cajetan’s Church, is simply stunning.
Also if you want another interesting perspective of Old Goa, hop on to the ferry to Divar Island (the ferry can be caught just ahead of the Viceroy’s arch, on the left of St Cajetans Church). As you reach Divar Island across the Mandovi a whole 5 minutes later, look back and you will be treated to a beautiful view of the St Cajetan’s Church and the Se Cathedral over the river and coconut trees (It’s the same view as the cover picture on this post)
PS: The ferry runs pretty much continuously and the ride is free unless you take your car, in which case the ferry costs a grand sum of Rs 7/-. If you go have your car you also drive around Divar Island which is absolutely lovely.