After the Portuguese settled Panjim as a suburb of Old Goa in 1510, they built several churches in Goa as a sign of their religious faith. The one and only church of importance in Panjim is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church.


Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church

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Overlooking Largo da Igreja or “Church Square”, Panaji’s main square, is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, the town’s most important landmark. Portuguese sailors used to come to the original chapel, consecrated in 1541, to offer thanksgiving prayers after their long and treacherous voyage from Lisbon.

The present church, with its Baroque façade framed by twin towers, was built in 1619. Its most striking feature, the double flight of stairs leading up to the church, was added in 1871. The central pediment was built at the same time, as was the belfry to accommodate the huge bell brought from Old Goa’s Augustinian monastery. The chapel in the south transept has fine reredos (altar panels) retrieved from the viceroy’s chapel in the Secretariat. The Baroque splendour of the main altar and the two transept altars is in sharp contrast to the otherwise simple interior.


Old Goa

A walk through Old Goa, the Portuguese capital until the mid-18th century, will take you to a magnificent complex of cathedrals, churches and monasteries spread along a 1.5-km (1-mile) stretch. The walk through this area, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, takes in two of Goa’s most important religious monuments, the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the grand Se Cathedral, and ends on Holy Hill, where some of Goa’s oldest churches are located. Most of these buildings, designed by Italian or Portuguese architects, encompass a range of European styles, from sober Renaissance to exuberant Baroque and Portuguese Manueline.


St Cajetan Church

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In the 17th century, Pope Urban III sent Italian priests from the Theatine Order to Golconda. When refused entry, they settled in Old Goa. Here, in 1651, they erected a church dedicated to their founder, St Cajetan, and designed along the lines of St Peter’s in Rome. The distinctive dome and interior, laid out in the shape of a Greek cross, embody the majesty of Italian Baroque. The exuberant woodcarvings on its high altar and pulpit are particularly noteworthy. The adjacent monastery is today a college of theology.


Se Cathedral

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The largest church in India and Asia, Se Cathedral is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. As many as 15 altars grace the interior, but the pièce-de-résistance is the gilded high altar dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria, with panel paintings depicting scenes from her life.


St Francis of Assisi Church

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Built by the Franciscan friars in 1521, and rebuilt in 1661, St Francis of Assisi Church is one of Old Goa’s most important churches. This gorgeous church is filled with gilded and carved woodwork, murals depicting the life of St Francis, frescoes of decorative flowers and various angels, 16th century Portuguese tombstones, and another stunning reredos.


Archaeological Museum

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Once Goa’s largest monastery, the Convent of St Francis of Assisi (built in 1517) now houses the Archaeological Museum. A huge bronze statue of Alfonso de Albuquerque, moved from Panaji, dominates the entrance hall. Among the objects of interest are a finely carved image of Vishnu and a Surya statue, dating to the Kadamba period (11th-12th centuries), and stone inscriptions in Marathi and Persian relics of earlier ruling dynasties. Other exhibits include Hindu sati stones, a model of Sao Gabriel (the ship in which Vasco da Gama sailed to India in 1498), and a bronze statue of St Catherine in the courtyard. The Portrait Gallery on the first floor has 60 paintings of Goa’s viceroys and governors.


The Chapel of St Catherine

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The Chapel of St Catherine, like Our Lady of the Rosary, was built to celebrate Albuquerque’s victory in 1510, and served as Goa’s only cathedral until the Se Cathedral was built.


Basilica of Bom Jesus

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The Basilica of Bom Jesus is revered by Roman Catholics all over the world since it houses the mortal remains of Goa’s patron saint, Francis Xavier. It was the first church in South Asia to be granted the status of Minor Basilica in 1946. Built by the Jesuits in 1594, this grand Baroque structure blends Corinthian, Doric, Ionic and composite styles in its magnificent three-tiered façade.


St John of God Church and Convent

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This convent was built in 1685 by the Order of the Hospitallers of St John of God, to tend to the sick. It was rebuilt in 1953.


St Monica Convent

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The Convent of St Monica, dating to the mid-17th century, will house Asia’s first museum of Christian Art, currently being relocated from Rachol.


Church and Monastery of St Augustine

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Once the largest church in India, with a grand five-storeyed façade, St Augustine Church and Monastery now lies in ruins. Erected by the Augustinian order in 1512, the Gothic-style church was abandoned in 1835, and its roof caved in seven years later. Excavations began in 1989 revealed eight chapels, four altars, wall sculptures and more than 100 splendid granite tombstones. According to contemporary desciptions, the church also had grand staircases and galleries, and a library that rivalled the one at Oxford (England), in the 17th century. Today, all that remains of St Augustine’s is its soaring 46-m (151-ft) high laterite bell tower.


Royal Chapel of St Anthony

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To the west of the tower of St Augustine is the Royal Chapel of St Anthony, dedicated to St Anthony, Portugal’s national saint, who was considered the Captain of the army and held in great veneration by the Portuguese. It was built in the beginning of the 17th century. In 1835, the chapel was closed but opened again in 1894 when it was also renovated. It was inaugurated again in 1961 after complete restoration done by the Portuguese Government.


Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary was built on top of Holy Hill in 1526 by Alfonso de Albuquerque. He had watched Yusuf Adil Shah’s defeat in 1510 from this very spot and vowed to build a church here. With its castle-like turrets and simple altar painted with baskets of flowers, this is one of Goa’s earliest Manueline-style churches. The tomb of Dona Catarina, wife of Garcia de Sá (viceroy from 1548-49) and the first Portuguese woman to migrate to Goa, also lies here.


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