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 /
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
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 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.