One of Goa’s important institutions, Goa’s famous and magnificent churches are largely a legacy of Portuguese colonization.
Church building was one of the main occupations of the early Portuguese and in fact one of Vasco da Gama’s main missions for finding the sea route to India was to “seek Christians and spices”.
Christianity was forced upon with religious fervor by the Portuguese during the period of the “Inquisition” with wide scale destruction of temples and this continued till the official end of the “Inquisition” in Goa in 1812. Most of Goa’s churches were built on the very site of former temples. The confiscated lands of the temples were handed over to the church and the communidades. In fact, the first Hindu temple allowed to be constructed by the Portuguese in 300 years was in 1818 at Panaji.
With a significant population of Goans being Christians for many generations today, the Church is an important factor in Goa’s social, cultural and religious life. For example, the contribution of the Church to education in Goa is immense. Today the churches are all part of the Archdiocese of Goa and function with its help, many are also protected sites.
The architecture of Goa’s churches has undergone notable changes with the passage of time and the fashion of the era that they were built in. The church architecture can be broadly broken down to the following periods.
Once the administrative capital of the Portuguese empire in the East, Old Goa is blessed with churches, chapels and convents of unsurpassed architectural beauty, befitting its label as ‘Golden Goa’ or ‘Rome of the East’. The conquest of Goa by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510 saw the advent of several religious orders like the Franciscans, Jesuits, Augustinians, Dominicans and Carmelites, who left their stamp with the many monuments they built in Old Goa.
This period coincides with the Renaissance period in Europe and also coincides with the period of "Golden Goa" and the influx of Missionaries to Goa including St Francis Xavier. Church building during this time reached a fever pitch with styles and plans that are totally European.
The great churches of Old Goa including the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the Se Cathedral, and the Church of St Cajetan and the largest of them all, the Augustine Church of Our Lady of Grace, now in ruins, belong to this time period and style.
The other notable churches outside of Old Goa built in this period include the Rachol Seminary, and the then newly rebuilt Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, at Panaji. The architecture of this period was a mixture of Tuscan, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles.
The Rococo period
From 1760 - 1899 AD
The churches of this period are characterized by their rather small size but with an accent on exquisite and ornate finishing on the inside with local motifs and paintings. Another element was the use of Stucco on the exterior facade. The style reflected to a large extent the relaxation of the religious fervor of the Portuguese. This was also the period of the New Conquests. One of the classical examples of this style is the Church of St. Stephen's at San Estevan near Panaji. Others include the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate conception at Moira, the Church of St Alex at Calangute and the Church of Our Lady of Rosary at Margao.
The Indian baroque period
From 1660 - 1760 AD
The churches of this period represent the local contribution to church building in terms of style and design. The most important being the design of the outer facade and the ceiling with inclusion of flowers, tropical motifs, etc.
The prominent churches of this period include the Church of St Francis of Assisi at Old Goa, The Church of Holy Spirit at Margao and the Church of St Ana at Talaulim and The Church of Our Lady of Compassion at Divar.
The Modern Period
From 1900 onwards
This period dates from the early nineteenth century onwards. There is a multitude of different styles and represents the freeing of the rigid structure of the past. Some examples include the Church of Nossa Senhora at Saligao built in the gothic style.
Most of the churches are functioning institutions and can be seen and prayed in. Most are revered by both Hindus and Christians alike because of their past.
This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.