The Christian Art Museum, the first and only one of its kind in Asia, was earlier located at the famous Rachol Seminary at Rachol near the town on Margao. However its relatively remote location had prevented it from being a popular destination for the tourists.
The museum which has enriched cultural heritage and history of Goa was originally set up in 1994 with technical and financial assistance from Calouste Gulbentian foundation of Portugal and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) New Delhi.
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This fabulous museum is now relocated within the precincts of the convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa, in the vicinity of the Old Goa world heritage monuments.
The museum houses some of the best specimens of Goa’s distinctive and exquisitely crafted church art. In the early days of Portuguese colonization, most statues to be installed in churches were brought by ship from Portugal.
These were supplemented by images, furnishings and decorations crafted by local Hindu artisans who were roped in to keep up with the demand as church building activity of the Portuguese accelerated.
The ground floor of the museum has an area of 350 sq. mts. It also has an upper floor gallery with an area of 150 sq. mts. The museum has in its collection beautiful artifacts like the Pelican monstrance based on the legend that in times of famine, the mother pelican plucks open her breast and feeds her young on her own blood. The artistic iconography explicitly suggests that the holy sacrament is the food for man’s salvation.
The collection also includes rosaries and other items made of gold and precious stone. St. Francis Xavier a popular theme is shown in silver plaques and on the panels of a silver casket. Image crowns and other rituals objects were also made in silver.
The museum also possesses some beautiful ivory images. The Good Shepherd depicts Jesus as an allegorical shepherd watching his flock. He sits in a pensive posture on an elaborately carved rocky mountain.
Beneath him are frolicking lambs, a fountain and St Mary Magdalene lies in the front grotto, in what is described as a pose of Indian influence, studying the scriptures.