Things to see in Old Goa
If you’re planning a trip to Goa and observing historical sites is at the top of your agenda, then paying a visit to Old Goa will be well worth the expense.
The settlement of Old Goa, or Goa Velha to which it is referred in Portuguese, was founded in the 15th century by the citizens of Bijapur: a district of India which was ruled by the then Persian Sultan, Yusuf Adil Shah. However, in 1510, a Portuguese fleet led by admiral, Afonso de Albuquerque, conquered Goa, and so it was that Old Goa subsequently came under Portuguese rule and was later established as a religious central point by its Portuguese pioneers.
Albuquerque’s influence ignited the construction of a series of churches that were commissioned by an assortment of Iberian governors in the Portuguese-Indian capital. The decision to build such a substantial amount of churches or cathedrals was chiefly designed to allow for the representation of various denominations of Christianity in the region with a key emphasis of exemplifying that Christianity was now the dominant religion of Goa.
Now that you’ve got the history on your side, the following churches and historical monuments are among some of the most frequented in the former Portuguese-Indian capital.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
This extravagant auburn-stoned cathedral possesses the remains of Goa’s patron saint, Saint Francis of Xavier, who was assigned to cleanse Goa of any corrupt behaviour within the province. Much of the inside of the church is covered in gold including St Francis of Xavier’s crypt. However, it’s the magnificent white archway that sits atop the church alter which really strikes one’s eye when entering the basilica. Undoubtedly, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a gold bullion amongst its rocky equivalents.
The Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina and its Surrounding Monuments
Just to the north of the Basilica of Bom Jesus lies the Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina, the Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Chapel of St Catherine and the Archaeological Museum of Goa. The Sé Cathedral is the pick of the places of worship in the immediate area and is the current seat of the archbishop of Goa, Filipe Neri Ferrão (as of 2011).
The cathedral features a collapsed turret which curiously compliments the remaining tower. Meanwhile, the rich Goan sun illuminates the white exterior leaving the cathedral to shine like a beacon in the night sky. Allow yourself to also witness the more diminutive Chapel of St Catherine. This chapel was built in 1539 and is the oldest religious structure still standing in Goa.
The Viceroy’s Arch, the Adil Shah Palace Gateway and other Historical Locations
Situated east of the aforementioned religious complex of Goa is the road, the Rua Direita. Turning left at the road and continuing north, you’ll discover the Viceroy’s Arch and the Adil Shah Palace Gateway: two awe-inspiring examples of Goan-Portuguese architecture located on the doorstep of the Mandovi River.
Other sites in the area include the Church of St Catejan, the Churches and Convents of Goa, the Duke’s Villa and Albuquerque’s steps. The steps in particular are of historical value being that they commemorate the first movements of Albuquerque when he set foot in Goa. Additionally, for a spectacular view of Old Goa in its entirety, venture to the Church of Our Lady of the Mount which is located approximately 2 kilometres east of the Sé Cathedral.
Lastly, for a slightly peculiar experience of Old Goa, take a trip to Wax World, where the quirky depictions of various historical figures can be seen in a Madame Tussauds-like wax sculpture form. Included in the selection of these lifelike statuettes is Michelangelo’s adaptation of the Last Supper. At just 30 Indian Rupees for entry into Wax World, this has to be seen to be believed!