Stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Goa

The culturally rich and diverse country of India is home to 40 UNESCO World heritage sights that spread all across the country in different states. Among the must include places in India tour packages, Goa is one such state that has been home to an incredible amount of historical places as it was ruled by Emperor Ashoka followed by numerous rulers like Silharas, Kadamdas, Chalukyas, kings of Deccan, kings of Vijaynagar, Adilshah of Bijapur, and finally by the Portuguese who ruled for 450 years. These rulers have left their traces in the form of innumerable forts, ancient churches, and convents in Goa. Some of these are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and can be visited by a large number of tourists as part of their Honeymoon tour.

Churches & Convents of Goa

Located in the Konkan region, Goa is the smallest state of India and is one of the most popular tourist places in India. Goa was the capital of Portuguese India and Asia and an evangelization center from the sixteenth century. The famous churches in Goa stand testimony to the grand past of the fun capital of India. The distinct influence of the Portuguese architecture in these churches is simply amazing and these structures are of religious, cultural, and historical significance.

The Churches & Convents located in Goa Velha (or Old Goa) have been declared a World Heritage Site in 1986. The Churches and Convents of Goa is a serial property that consists of seven monuments – Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral, St. Cajetan Church, Church of St Francis of Assisi, Chapel of St. Catherine, Our Lady of Rosary, and Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine. These architectural edifices are the must include places in Goa tour packages. Other than the churches, one can also visit popular Goa beaches like Colva Beach, Baga Beach, Calangute Beach, Anjuna Beach, and Vagator Beach.

1. Basilica of Bom Jesus

The famous Bom Jesus Basilica is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Churches & Convents of Goa) and is a must-visit place in Goa Tourism Itinerary. Also called St. Francis Xavier’s Tomb, the construction of the church began in 1594 and was completed in May 1605. The imposing facade built out of black granite in an exquisite combination of the Doric, Corinthian, and composite styles, is remarkable for its simplicity. The Basilica of Bom Jesus enshrines the sacred remains of Goa’s patron saint Francis Xavier, who died on a sea voyage to China in 1552. Once every 10 years, the body is allowed to be viewed by the people who visit this holy place. The last time was in 2014 and the next would be in 2024.

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2. Se Cathedral

Situated just opposite to Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral is considered to be one of the largest churches in Asia, and among the top places to visit in Goa. This is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Churches & Convents of Goa. Also called St. Catherine’s Cathedral, the construction of this imposing church began in 1562 and was completed by 1619. The main attractions of the Se Cathedral are the 15 altars, which are dedicated to Our Lady of Three Needs, Our Lady of Anguish, or Our Lady of Hope. The grand alter is highly ornate and is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. On the right in the order of placing are the Chapels of St. Anthony, St. Bernard, the Miraculous Cross, and The Holy Ghost. It is known to be the oldest and the most celebrated religious building in Goa and has the prestige of being the seat of the Archdiocese of Goa.

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3. St. Cajetan Church

St. Cajetan’s Church which stands opposite the Se Cathedral in Old Goa is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name the Churches & Convents of Goa. The church was built by Italian friars of the Order of Theatines in 1661 and was named after the founder of the Theatine order, St. Cajetan. Dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence, the church has been constructed on the primary design of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The St Cajetan Church is an example of Corinthian architecture while the interior is a blend of Mosaic – Corinthian architectures. However, there are Baroque elements in the gilded altars. There are seven altars dedicated to the Holy Family, Our Lady of Piety, St. Clare, Our Lady of Divine Providence, St. John, St. Cajetan, and St. Agnes. The altar dedicated to St. Cajetan is the largest in the church. The shape of the main body of the church from inside is a Greek cross, while from the outside it is oblong. This is the only surviving domed church in Goa, and among the top places of heritage in Goa.

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4. Church of St Francis of Assisi

The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is a Roman Catholic Church situated in the main square of Old Goa. The church was established as a small chapel by eight Portuguese Franciscan friars who landed in Goa in 1517. Eventually, the chapel was modified into a church and dedicated to the Holy Ghost in 1602. The original structure was replaced by the existing one in 1661. The beautiful white structure complete with a three-tier facade and octagonal towers houses a large statue of St. Francis and that of Jesus on a cross. The exterior of the church boasts of Tuscan style while the interior is decorated with Baroque and Corinthian features. The convent contiguous to the Church now houses a museum that was set up by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1964.

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5. Chapel of St. Catherine

The Chapel of St. Catherine is located in the west of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Goa, among the top places for beaches in India. Dedicated to St. Catherine, this church was built in 1510, and the chapel was granted cathedral status by Pope Paul III in 1534. It was enlarged in 1550 by the Portuguese Governor George Cabral and rebuilt in 1952 using laterite blocks. The Chapel of St. Catherine is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Churches & Convents of Goa). Built-in Renaissance-style architecture, the chapel interior has only one altar which has an image of serenity. Old Portuguese-style windows decorated with mica shells add to the beauty of the shrine. The church may not be functional anymore, but a visit to it is definitely worth your time.

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6. Church of Our Lady of Rosary

The Church of Our Lady of Rosary is the oldest church located atop the Monte Santo or the Holy Hill, in Old Goa, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Churches & Convents of Goa). Built-in 1547, the church stands on the site of Portuguese leader Alfonso de Albuquerque’s victory over the armies of Bijapur Sultan in 1510. The Lady of Rosary church is believed to be built by de Albuquerque as a sign of gratitude for his victory. The church is an excellent example of the Manueline style architecture of the early Portuguese. With windows near the roof and rounded towers, the church looks more like a fortress. The church has a two-storied portico. The portico as well as the facade of the church has rounded towers on either side with the cross on top. The church has three altars and two chapels. The main altar is dedicated to the Lady of Rosary. There is a marble cenotaph to the right of the main altar and it commemorates the marriage of Dona Catharina with Viceroy Garcia De Sa that was performed by St. Francis Xavier. Every year in November the church holds a feast with traditional processions and novenas. The feast celebrations include grand fireworks, dance performances, Konkani concerts, and fashion shows.

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7. Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine

The Church of Saint Augustine was built in 1602 AD by Augustines Friars who arrived in Goa in 1587. They also built a convent besides the church. The St. Augustine Church was considered to be one of the greatest of three Augustinian churches. The Church was abandoned in 1835 after the Portuguese Government started evicting various religious orders under its new policies. Now, only the ruins of the front portion of the church and magnificent tower remain. The ruins of 46 m high Bell Tower without the bell can be seen from some distance and attract visitors. The four-storeyed arched belfry tower is one of the four towers of St. Augustine Church. The bell from this tower was first placed in the Fort Aguada Light House, where it remained from 1841 to 1871 AD. Finally, it was put in the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Panaji in 1871 AD and it is still in working condition. The ruins of St. Augustine Church also known as Nossa Senhora da Graca Church are a very popular tourist attraction and one of the most spectacular monuments in Goa.

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