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World Heritage Site - Churches and Convents of Goa

Churchess and convents of Old Goa refers to the name given by the UNESCO to a set of religious monuments located in Goa Velha (Old Goa), in the state of Goa, India, and which have been declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
The Southern Indian State, Goa has some world famous churches and convents, particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St. Francis-Xavier and Se' Cathedral. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, located 10 km east Panaji (Capital of Goa) was built in 16th Century. 'Bom Jesus' means 'Infant Jesus' or 'Good Jesus'. Renowned throughout the Catholic world, this cathedral is India's first Minor Basilica, and is considered as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. The layout follows simple Renaissance norms while the detailing and decoration is unabashed Baroque. It's an opulent structure, which incorporates white marble and has beautifully gilded altars decorated with frescoes and inlay work.
The Basilica houses the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa who died in 1552. Cosimo de Medici III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, gifted the mortal remains of the saint to the church. Today, the embalmed body lies in an airtight glass coffin positioned in a silver casket crafted by a 17th century Florentine sculptor, Giovanni Batista Foggini. In accordance with his wishes, his remains were transferred to Goa the following year after his death. It is said that, while transferring, the saint's body was found to be as fresh as the day it was buried.
The mausoleum of St. Xavier is a marvel of Italian art (the marble base) and Hindu craftsmanship (the silver casket). The elaborately gilded altars are fine examples of sculptures and carvings in wood, stone, gold and granite. Columns are covered with marble and inlaid with precious stones. The church also houses paintings depicting the life of St. Francis Xavier.
Se' Cathedral, another celebrated religious buildings of Goa was constructed in 16th century the Roman Catholics under the Portuguese rule. The Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria on whose feast day in 1510, Alfonso Albuquerque defeated the Muslim army and took possession of the city of Goa. Hence, it is also known as St. Catherine's' Cathedral.
The construction of this imposing edifice began in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastião (1557-78) and substantially completed by 1619. It was consecrated in 1640.
The church is 250 ft in length and 181 ft in breath. The frontispiece stands 115 ft high. The building is Portuguese-Gothic in style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its plainness of style whereas, its vaulted interior overwhelms the visitors by sheer grandeur.
The main altar of the Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, and old paintings on either side of it, depict scenes from her life and martyrdom. On the right of the nave, is the screened Chapel of the Cross of Miracles.
Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of Lady of Rosary; Church of St. Augustine are among some other famous Churches and Convents of Goa.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus
The literary meaning of Bom Jesus is “infant Jesus” or "good Jesus". The Bom Jesu Basilica or Bom Jesus Basilica is situated in Old Goa which was Portuguese capital during initial days of their rule. There is a church is located at a distance of ten km from Goa’s capital city of Panjim.
A place which is located close to the convent of St Francis is popular for mortal remains and tomb of St Francis Xavier. St Francis Xavier is believed to have come to India along with Portuguese convoy to spread Christianity in India. He was associated with Society of Jesus.

Se Cathedral
Se Cathedral is most popular and ancient religious place in Goa. Se cathedral is considered as a biggest church in entire Asian region. The available statistics indicate that construction of this Church took 80 years. The Church which has an excellent tradition is devoted to Catherine of Alexandria. The site is part of old Goa. The Portuguese art, sculpture and their royalty can be clearly experienced by a visit to this important church which is placed at high respect and sacredness by Christian community across the world. Se cathedral features in list of Heritage site declared by UNESCO.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Towards west side of the Se cathedral lies Church of St. Francis of Assisi in convent. The structure was initially constructed for a chapel and it was renovated to form the full functioning church in year 1521. On 2nd Aug 1602 this church was dedicated to Holy Spirit. The Franciscan mendicants made use of convents as their residence and these convents were subjected to renovations in year 1559. However, the convent was closed by Portuguese administration in year 1835. This church was transformed into a museum by Archaeological Survey of India in year 1964. The church has enormous wealth of paintings, sculpture and artifacts.
Art work of this church is an amalgamation of both Mosaic-Corinthian style and Tuscan culture. The former style is used on interior while the latter is used on exterior part of church. The inside walls of church is decorated with important situations of Bible and Complex floral designs. The position of facade has a statue of St Michael. Further the pedestal in one chapel is adorned by a wooden statue of St Francis Assisi. The main altar is decorated with a well carved niche and tabernacle which is supported by 4 evangelists. Tabernacle is ornamented with two large statues of Jesus on the cross and St Francis Assisi.

Church of Lady of Rosary
The Lady of Rosary Church is ideally located towards western side of Monte Santo or Holy Hill. One can have an excellent view of Divar Island and Mandovi River from the Church. Many Historical evidences state that this was the site where Alfonso de Albuquerque organized his army and emerged victorious in year 1510. The site has a plaque with some inscriptions of 1950`s period. This region was renovated and transformed into a Church in year 1543 and handed over to Franciscans for its upkeep. The Church is held with high respect and esteem by people as it was center for teaching by St. Francis Xavier. He commenced teaching catechism to local flocks who used to assemble at site on hearing sound of a small bell.
The Church was majestic and it appeared like a giant gate opening to counter invaders. The interior and exterior designs of this site are very simple. Garcia de Sa was one of the first Governor’s of Goa. His tombstone is placed in front of altar. The tombstone depict classical example of "Manueline" architecture style followed by Portuguese. The interior design is very simple and consists of five altars. Image of Lady of Rosary or Nossa Senhora de Rozario is found on main altar.

Church of St. Augustine
The church of St. Augustine was built by 12 Augustian friars in year 1572 after they reached Goa on 3rd Sep 1572. The complete construction work of church was finished in year 1602. As per present status both convent and church are in ruins. The condition of church was excellent till 1835 before it was neglected after a religious order passed by Portuguese administration. The church underwent serious deterioration with vault collapsing in 1842 and facade on 8th of Aug 1931. The only remain of this ancient monument is a bell tower which stands without a bell today. The bell of bell tower was removed and placed at Fort Aguada Light House between years 1841 to 1871. It was then transferred to church of Lady of Immaculate Conception located at Panaji. It is still properly functioning there.

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