April 18, 2022

#BlogchatterA2Z: O for ‘Old Goa’ - Of the Feast, Church, Exposition, and so much more

My topic today is special one, one that is a matter of pride for all Goans irrespective of religion, one that is a source of intrigue among all tourists visiting Goa, one that is famous for its miraculous history, of fascinating faith, of undeniable devotion. 

I’m talking about Old Goa. 

Old Goa is located beside the the Mandovi river in the western Indian state of Goa. It was founded as a port town by the rulers of the Bijapur Sultanate in the 15th century. In 1510, it was captured by the Portuguese and became the administrative seat of Portugal in India. 

Also called ‘Velha Goa’ (‘Velha’ in Portuguese is ‘old’), Old Goa was once the former capital of Portugal in India. Later in the 18th century, however, the capital was shifted to Panjim or Nova Goa, which is 30 minutes away from Old Goa. 

Famous for its magnificent colonial monuments, Old Goa came to be known as Rome of the East and earned the epithet of ‘Golden Goa’. 

Chief among these is the Basilica the Bom Jesus. The Basilica was constructed by the Portuguese ruler Aponso De Albuquerque for celebrating the victory of capturing a city in Goa. Adorned by Portuguese Manueline architecture, this Basilica is a sight for sore eyes. However, let that not distract you from the tranquility this place

It is here that the holy relics of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa (fondly called ‘Goycho Saayb’ ) are preserved in a silver casket. 

Story behind the casket: 

The casket was commissioned as a Thank you to St Francis by Fr Marcelo Mastrilli, an Italian Jesuit priest, who was miraculously revived from death on two occasions and believed it was St Francis Xavier who had saved his life. 

Fr Mastrilli, however, did not live to see the casket completed as he was killed in Nagasaki in Japan months prior to it being readied.  

The miracle: 

The body of St Francis was originally transported back to Goa in a lime-slake, from which his body miraculously emerged unmolested. He was placed on view in a raised reliquary, with annual festivals, where, up until recently, pilgrims had the opportunity to kiss the exposed, miraculously mummified feet of the saint. Reportedly, in 1554, an excited devotee in a bout of over zealous faith, bit off the the pinky toe of his right foot. The attendees were shocked to see this, but not as shocked when they saw blood gushing from the site of the bite, like from a living body. Later, in 1614, by order of the church, his right arm was severed at the elbow and taken to Rome.

Once every decade, the mortal remains are taken down from 22nd November to 4th January,  for a ceremoniously conducted exposition. 

During this time, the relics are kept in the cathedral for 44 days. The exposition travels in a formal procession from the Basilica of Bom Jesus to the Se cathedral De Santa Catarina or Se Catedral there. Various stalls set up in the vicinity sell Goan handicraft, souvenirs, and ornaments. Plays and dramas on the life of Saint Francis Xavier are played during the exposition. Following the closing ceremony, the procession returns to the Basilica of Bom Jesus with the relics. 

The mortal remains of Francis Xavier in the basilica of Bom Jesus in old Goa draws tourists and devotees from around the world. The last exposition was held in 2014 and was presided over by the Archbishop of Mangalore Rev Bishop Aloysius and Archbishop of Goa and Daman Rev Bishop Filipe Neri Ferrao. If you want to witness the next exposition, make a trip to Old Goa in 2024. 

Old Goa feast or the feast of Saint Francis Xavier is celebrated on 3 December to commemorate the day St Francis died and was buried.  Preceding the feast, 9 days of Novenas are held and attended by scores of tourists and Catholic pilgrims who throng to Goa to pay their respects on this day and honour the memory of the saint.

Old Goa also has other glorious churches like the Se Cathedral, Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, and St Augustine’s tower, and others owing to which it has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. 

There are lot of interesting places and activities worthy of mention in the area. The Archaelogical Museum, the Wax Museum, Fontainhas, Divar island, to name a few. Famous for its heritage walks, cycle tours, and water sports, this port town in Goa Iis known and loved for  its wonderful combination of spirituality, faith, and heritage…yet another reason to say ‘Obrigado, Goa!’

Tomorrow’s post will talk about a simple flavour of daily Goan life. Be there to witness it. 

Until then,

Mog aasu di. 

(Let there be love!)  


I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z. 

My theme for the challenge is ‘Obrigado, Goa!’, under which I’ll be writing 26 posts on Goa (April 1-30th, excluding Sundays), each post corresponding to the letters of the English alphabet. You can read more about it in my theme reveal post


Rethink Mindful said...

Well this is a keepsake for us. This post is filled with the necetinfo and acts like a guide itself. Thanks Pri for sharing them.

Anagha Yatin said...

I learnt the story about St Francis for the first time Priyanka. Thanks for this anecdote. Though I had visited the church, I did not know this history.

Sonia dogra said...

Vividly remember visiting the Basilica during our tour of Goa in 2016 and being surprised by it. Your post took me back to that visit.

Pri said...

You're most welcome, Swarnali. I'm honoured you think so. :)

Pri said...

We, as tourists, are often guilty of doing that, Anagha. But I'm glad I could be the one telling you the story. :)

Pri said...

I'm happy my post could revive that memory, Sonia. :)