Goa is one of the most frequented holiday destinations in India. The hot-seat of the Portuguese in India in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Goa has imbibed plenty of Portuguese culture and tradition. One of the famous landmarks of Goa is the Se Cathedral, located in Old Goa. This ancient and revered cathedral was built in the 16th Century by Afonso de Albuquerque to commemorate the capture of Goa from the Muslims. The day the Portuguese gained victory happened to be the feast of St. Catherine. The church is hence dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Looking at the history of Se Cathedral, Goa, the re-construction of this religious monument commenced in 1552 by the then Governor George Cabral. King Dom Sebastian funded the construction through the Royal treasury by selling off some properties belonging to the Crown. Construction was completed in 1619 but the Cathedral was consecrated in 1640.
The church once had two towers but the South tower collapsed in 1776 and was never rebuilt. One of the bell towers was also damaged.
Se Cathedral architecture is unique in many aspects. It is, in fact, the largest cathedral in Asia and it is said that the edifice is larger than any church even in Portugal. Located on the West side of the Terreiro de Sabaio, the great Square. Although plain-looking Tuscan architecture forms the frontispiece, the interior is beautiful Corinthian with an overall Portuguese Manueline architecture. The imposing front edifice is a good 35 m high and 76 m in length. The Corinthian columns have Latin inscriptions at the main entrance.
The interior of the church is beautiful, a nave with two aisles and a transept and the main altar for
St. Catherine of Alexandria. Both sides of the altar have beautiful old paintings depicting the life and martyrdom of St. Catherine. To the right of the Nave is a huge cross in the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles where a vision of Christ appeared in 1919. There are 2 chapels with beautiful filigree work on the screens giving them a regal look. The Chapel of Blessed Sacrament is famous for the wall and ceiling paintings.
Se Cathedral Goa is famed to house the remains of St. Francis Xavier. Statues of St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius Loyola are inset in the main pillars. The Baptismal font used by St. Francis is also preserved on the right side. It is said that he used this font to Baptize many Goan into Christianity. There is also a well preserved 18th Century organ in full use and an ebony carved stand near the choir.
The convent attached to the church has been taken over by the Department of Archeology and is open to tourists as a museum. There are 5 bells in the church of which one huge bell known as the Golden Bell which is world-famous for its strong tone. It is the largest bell in Goa and considered to be the best bell in the world. The revered Pope Pius XII awarded Se Cathedral Goa with the Golden Rose in the 20th Century. It sits today enjoying a place of pride over the tomb of St. Xavier.
The Se Cathedral Goa is well visited by tourists all over the year. It is open to visitors all day from 7.30 am till 6 pm and from 7.15am to 10 pm on Sundays alone. It is required that visitors wear respectable attire appropriate for a religious place.
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