Bring in Christmas at these beautiful churches in Goa
Throw a stone in Goa and it will touch a church or a chapel. Beyond the beaches and the seafood, one of the biggest draws of the state is its churches. If you are in Goa for the festival, make your way to one of these churches at midnight and enjoy a special Mass. Stay till the end and you can participate in a game of housie or partake in coffee and cake while wishing people a Merry Christmas!
The best time to visit any church is Christmas season. The month of December has Goa’s churches dress up in twinkling lights, stars, and elaborate cribs. There are the popular ones: the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, the picturesque Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim, the hilltop Church of Our Lady of the Mount and the neo-Gothich Mae de Deus Church in Saligao.
Here are some of the state’s lesser known but yet beautiful churches.
Our Lady of Piety Church, Divar Island
The Church of Our Lady of Compassion or Our Lady of Piety is located atop a hill in Piedade on Divar Island. Originally a chapel in 1541, it was rebuilt in 1625 and construction of the present church was completed in 1724. A Goan priest designed the structure, which is considered the first Christian structure on the island. The white church has Indian baroque style, with carved motifs, Baroque altars and stucco work. The altar has paintings depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
Details: Divar is accessible by three ferries, from Old Goa, Ribandar and Bicholim. Call 0832-2280355
Our Lady of Rosary Church, Navelim
The Navelim church was founded in 1597 by a French Jesuit. In the 1700s, when the structure became too small, a rich Goan merchant helped reconstruct it with laterite stones. The merchant suffered major loss in his business and after praying to Our Lady of Rosary, recovered his money. In gratitude, he financed the church’s reconstruction. The church has a white front façade with distinctive blue, while you can see the original laterite construction on the sides.
Details: Call 0832 2736571
Penha da França Church, Britona
Our Lady of Penha de França Church is a stunning riverside structure, perched on a rocky spur by the Mandovi. It’s visible by those travelling by river or land along Old Goa and looks out onto the confluence of rivers, Chorao island and Panjim city. A widow, Ana de Azevedo funded the construction in 1626 by donating her house and property. When the building collapsed, the Franciscans built a new church from the foundation, in 1655.
The façade has polygonal towers, a vault covering the chancel and nave, a main façade with three arches and a staircase descending to the riverbank. The church inside has a high vaulted ceiling, a single nave and a high choir.
Details: Call 0832 2412791
St Anne Church, Talaulim
The Indian Baroque-style church, commonly called Sant’Ana or Santana Church, is located on the banks of Siridao River. Father Francisco do Rego conceived the idea and the church came up in 1695. A few villagers had visions of a woman named Anne who wanted a house in the village and the church found its patron saint. The most recent construction ended in 2010. The four-storey church has a bell tower, small balconies, a vaulted ceiling, rich baroque moldings, carved wooden reliefs, shell windows, hardwood doors, and an ornate pulpit.
Details: Call 0832 2219151
St Alex Church, Calangute
The Franciscans built Calangute’s first church – a thatched roof chapel of palm leaves in 1576 and later, a permanent structure in 1595. In 1741, the village communities (communidades) got together and built the present magnificent domed structure.
It has two towers, seven altars and a dome modeled on the one at St Peter’s Basilica (it is the only church in Goa to have a false dome). The church boasts Baroque and Rococo styles of architecture. There is a statue of St Alex below a crown at the main altar and behind it, gilded screens containing statues of saints and carved angels. The Rococo pulpit once belonged to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Old Goa.
Details: 0832 2277378