Old Goa - Today

Afonso de Albuquerque, O Terribil, reconquered Goa on 25 November, 1510, with a navy of 28 vessels and 1700 men, and with the help of Timoja and Raja Gersopa. Soon after the victory, Albuquerque knelt down in thanksgiving and the dominican Frei Domingos de Souza sang the Te Deum. Albuquerque dedicated the city to Sta. Catarina and ordered that a Chapel be built immediately in her honour. A small shed was erected, but he was not satisfied with this small Chapel (casa de taipa e paha); before sailing to Malacca in 1511, he left instructions to his friend, fidalgo Diogo Fernandes, to build a Church. When Albuquerque returned triumphantly after the conquest of Malacca in 1512, he ran to this' Church of Sta. Catarina for thanksgiving, which was built in another place.

This Church was rebuilt in 1514 and enlarged in 1532. On November 3, 1534, Pope Paul Ill raised it to the rank of Cathedral by the bull Aequum Reputamus. Subsequently, the canons and other functionaries were appointed. This Cathedral was the only parish Church in the city up to 1542. Pope Paul IV raised it to the rank of Archiepiscopal Metropolitan See on February 4,1557. At this time, the number of its parishioners was about 80,000. Referring to this Cathedral, St. Francis Xavier wrote the following, in one of his letters: "... la Iglesia Cathedral es mui magnifica, assi par sua arquitectura, como par e gran numero de canonicos"(the Cathedral Church is magnificent on account of its architecture as well as for the great number of Canons). There are not even ruins of this church.

In 1562, when the Portuguese power in India reached its apogee, the Vice-Roy, Dom Francisco Coutinho, ordered that a new, sumptuous and splendid Cathedral - the best among all other Churches in Goa be built to replace the old Cathedral. The new Cathedral which we see today was built in a different place, and it took 70 years to be completed. The eminent architects, Ambrosio Argueiro and Julio Simão ,were appointed by the royal order of February 8, 1591. Julio Simão was very famous. He was also the architect of the Arch of Vice-Roy and of the Collegio de S Paulo, O Velho. He was born in India; his grave is in the Cathedral, in the transept below the steps of the sanctuary; it carries the following epitaph: SEPVL TVRA DE IVLIO SIMAO QUALEIRO FIDALGO DA CAZA / DEL REI NOSSO SENHOR F. SEV ENGEN-HEIRO MOR DESTE ESTADO I MESTRE ARQVITECTO DAS OBRAS/DESTA SE E SVA MOLHER CATERINA DE BVSTA-MANTE / E HERDEIROS, (The grave of Julio Simão,fidalgo (knight) of the Royal house of our Lord the King and his Chief Engineer of this State, Master Architect of this See; and of his wife Caterina de Bustamante and heirs). According to Rafael Moreira, Julio Simâo was apparently a native of Goa educated in Portugal and perhaps in Italy or Spain. He was married to Catarine de Bustamante.

Notwithstanding many difficulties, the body of the Church was ready in 1619 and the Blessed Sacrament was placed there in this year. This enormous edifice covering an area of nearly 200ft. x 180 ft. had two beautiful towers. The left side tower was destroyed by lightning in 1776 and was never rebuilt.

This great architectural feat of the Portuguese is a 'hall' Church with three porticos and three naves; its frontispiece is a blend of Tuscan and Doric styles while the interior belongs to the Mosaic -Corinthian order. Above the main portico, there is an inscription in two columns with the Papal insignia viz, the Tiara and the Keys between them.

The niche above the window has the image of Sta. Catarina.

This Church has a vaulted ceiling with square panels. At the entrance there are two Carrara marble basins for holy water. They belonged formerly to the S. Caetano's Convent; they were offered by Grand duke of Tuscany Cosimo III together with the mausoleum of St. Francis Xavier. On the right side, there is an octagonal baptismal font made of a single granite block, with the following Gothic inscription around it:
ESTA PIA MANDOU FAZERJORGE GOMEZ E/ A DEO A ESTA SE EM ONRA E LOUUOR DO SE / NHOR DEOS EM 1532. (George Gomez ordered that this font be made and offered it to this Church in honour and praise of the Lord God in 1532.) It is most probable that St. Francis Xavier baptized at this font. This Cathedral possesses many paintings and images shifted from the abandoned religious Convents. In this Baptistery there is a grey granite statue of St. Thomas of Aquinas which was formerly on the frontispiece of the Dominican Church.

At the entrance on the left side there is a large canvas representing St. Christopher while crossing the river with the Child Jesus on his shoulders. On the feast day of this Saint, on July 25, the Chapter comes processionally near this picture and the oldest Canon conducts the Salve, in order to thank the Saint for having saved through his intercession the rest of the Cathedral from destruction when one of its towers fell down. This canvas was brought from Rome by Patriarch Valente.

Opposite to the Baptistery there is a staircase leading to the choir and to the tower which has five bells. The largest bell called S. Pedro was cast in Cuncolim (Salcete); it was also called Sino de Ouro (golden bell) due to its mellow tones. This bell tolled five times a day and on the occasion of the death of the Pope, the King, the Governor, the Archbishop or a Canon. It has the following inscription: TU ES CHRISTUS FILIUS DEl VIVI/TU ES PETRUS ET SUPER HANG PE/ TRAM A EDIFICABO ECCLESIAM MEAM (Pontificial emblem) INNOCENCIO X SUMMO PONTIFICE / (Archiepiscopal emblem) ARC. PRIM. FA. FRANC. DE MART. /(Royalemblem)JOANNES REX LUSITANIAE / GOVERNANDO ESTE ESTADO / DA INDIA ARCEBISPO PRII MAS D. FR. FRANCISCO DOS MARTI RES MANDOU FAZER/ESTE SINO PARA ESTA SE / ANNO 1652.

The second bell called Santissimo or Dignidade has the following inscription: (prayer of blessed Sacrament and P DIZ BOCARO 0 FEZ ANNO / 1648. The third bell called Nossa Senhora de Esperança has the following inscription: AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA DO / MINUS TECUM / 1648. The fourth bell called S. Tome has the following inscription: QUIA VIDISTI ME THOME CREDIDISTI / BE ATI QUI NON VIDERUNT ET CREDIDERUNT / RAMACRISNA CHATIM 1719. The fifth one called Sino do Coro (choir bell) has this short inscription: IHS. On the occasion of the main festivities all the five bells are rung. Every day, two of them are rung to summon the Canons for the Choir prayers. Most probably, four of these bells belonged to the old Cathedral. The 5 bells give notes from do to sol.

There are eight vaulted Chapels in the body of the church, four on each side, with beautiful altars. On the right side, we see the Chapel of St. Anthony, St. Bernard, Cruz dos Milagres (Miraculous Cross) and Holy Spirit. In the Chapel of Cruz dos Milagres there is a wooden cross enclosed in a thin wooden case with a small opening for kissing the cross. It was covered because people removed the pieces from this Cross. It belonged formerly to the Church of Cruz dos Milagres standing on the hill called Monte de Boa Vista, and it was brought here in 1543.It is said that this is a miraculous cross made of stalks of palm leaves by shepherds; that it grew miraculously to nearly twice its size and Christ appeared on it.

On the left side, there are another four Chapels: Nossa Senhora das NecessidadeS, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacra-ment and Nossa Senhora de Boa Vida.

The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is most spacious and has its own vestry. The entire Chapel is decorated with frescoes and sculptures related to the episodes of Old Testament and the Eucharist.

The main altar is a real marvel. The altar piece is richly carved and gilt and adorned with engravings, pillars, pillasters and other ornamentation. It is the best altar piece in India. It has three niches in the centre, one above the other, with the images of Sta. Catarina, Our Lady of Assumption and Christ Crucified. Formerly Sta. Catarina was represented with an open book in left hand and a sword in the right, crushing a Muslim king under her feet. But the image of the Muslim king was removed in 1952. It represented the victory of Albuquerque over Adil Shah. The base of this altar piece has a gallery of sculptures of Apostles, Evangelists, Patriarchs and Doctors with Christ in the centre. On both the sides of the altar there are statues of St. Peter and St. Paul on high pedestals.

There are six altars in the transept, three on each side. Those on the right, are dedicated to St. Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Peter; those on the left to Nossa Senhora de Angustias, St. George and Nossa Senhora de Esperança. All these altars have been exquisitely carved and adorned.

On the right side, in the main chapel there is an ebony stand which belonged once to the Convent of St. Francis of Assis. There are chairs for the Canons on either side of the choir, which rises three steps high.

Beautiful murals and canvasses decorate the sacristy (Cf, the chapter on paintings). The door of the sacristy leads to the former Archiepiscopal palace where there was a gallery of portraits of Bishops and Archbishops; at present this gallery of portraits is in the Bishop's palace, (Paço Patriarcal) Panjim. This Cathedral has many rich vestments as well as chalices.