: Old Goa, Panjim.
Also known As
: St. Catherine's' Cathedral
: Portuguese-Gothic Style
The largest Churches in Old Goa, Se Cathedral was begun in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastiao(1557-8). It was substantially completed by 1619, though the altars were not finished until 1652. The cathedral was built for the Dominicans and paid for by royal treasury out of the proceeds of the sale of crown property.
The building's style is Portuguese-Gothic with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. They were once two towers a, one either side of the facade, but one collapsed in 1776 The remaining tower houses a famous bell, one of the largest in Goa, often called Golden Bell because its rich sound. The main altar is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandra, and paintings on either side of it depict scenes from life and martydom.
A Cross Shaped Church
This is the largest church among the collection of churches in Old Goa. Built on a raised plinth of laterite, enclosed over with lime plaster, the church has, besides the main altar, eight chapels alongside the aisles and six altars in the transept.
There is an extended nave, two aisles and a transept. A bell tower is situated to the southern side of the fašade. The nave is barrel - vaulted while the crossing is rib-vaulted. Massive pillars support the vault in the nave and the choir, while the chapels on either side are separated by internal defenses. The building is oblong on plan but has a cruciform layout in the interior.
Architecturally, Portuguese-Gothic in style, the exterior of the building is Tuscan and the interior Corinthian. There was a tower on the northern side of the fašade, corresponding to the one on the southern side, which collapsed in 1776. The bell in the existing tower is often referred to as the 'Golden Bell""' on account of its rich sound immortalized in a Portuguese poem.
The main entrance in the fašade has Corinthian columns on plinths supporting a pediment containing an inscription in Latin recording that, in 1562, in the reign of King
Dom Sebastiao, this Cathedral was ordered to be erected, the Archbishops and the primates being administrators and that the succeeding kings continued the same at the cost of the Royal Treasury. Inserted into the two columns supporting the choir are two marble basins having the statues of
St. Francis Xavier while to the right is a chamber containing the baptismal font made in 1532, perhaps brought from the old Cathedral. A huge painting of St. Christopher is hung beneath the choir.
In the nave are two wooden pulpits projecting from two columns on the right. In the transept are six altars, three on either side of the main altar. The altars on the right side are those of St. Anna, Our Lady of Doloures and St. Peter, while those on the left are those of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope.
Paintings (An Insight Into The Lives Of The Saints)
The arches accommodating four of these altars are decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the lives of the saints. The main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. The richly gilded panel shows the martyrdom of the saint. On either side of the nave is a niche in which are kept the wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter.
In the nave, near the altar, to the right is a projecting gallery on which is kept an 18th century organ. In the nave near the altar are seats for the canon and a throne for the archbishop. There is also a richly carved ebony stand, which was originally in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
To the right is a door that leads to the sacristy, which is a barrel - vaulted structure with gilded altar showing a church modelled after St. Peter's Church in Rome. There are also paintings depicting scenes from the life of St. Catherine, besides chests of drawers containing various robes worn on ceremonial occasions.
Reconstruction Of The Church
This church remained under construction for nearly three-fourths of a century beginning from 1562. The main body of the church was completed in 1619 and the altars in 1652. The Cathedral was built by the Portuguese Government for the Dominicans from out of the sale proceeds of the property that escheated to the Government.
It has its facade facing east. Its beautiful courtyard is approached by a flight of stairs. The building does not seem very imposing in its outward appearance, the height of its front piece including the cross is 115 2/3 feet and the breadth 100 4/3 feet.; its total length is 250 feet and breadth 181 1/3 feet. It is externally built in half Tuscan and half Doric style, internally it is built in the Mosaic-Corinthian style. It has three large portals. It initially had two bell towers but the one towards the north collapsed on July 25th 1776. The remaining tower houses five bells including the "Golden bell", named so because of the gold rumored to be mixed in its creation accounting for its wonderful sound. During the Inquisition its tolling announced the start of the gruesome "
auto da fes " that were held on the square outside.
The interior of the Cathedral is majestic and it has a high vaulted ceiling. Its body excluding the four chapels on each side is 142 3/5 feet long and 69 1/5 feet wide and is divided into a nave and two isles, the nave being 72 feet and the aisles each being 57 1/2 feet. At the entrance besides the two marble basins for holy water inserted in the columns , is a baptismal font made of black stone with an inscription dated 1532 that belonged to the old cathedral. Apart form the main altar, there are four chapels to either side. To the right are Chapels dedicated as follows from the first to St Anthony, the second to St. Bernard, the third to the Cruz dos Milagres or the Miraculous Cross, and the fourth to the Holy Ghost. The Miraculous Cross deserves special mention because it is thought to have grown in size. It was transferred from the hill of Boa Vista on 23rd February 1845 to the Chapel. Of the four Chapels on the left, the first is dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Necessidades, the second to St. Sebastian, the third to the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth to Nossa Senhora de Boa Vida. Of these the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is the most spacious and beautiful. Further into the interior one finds the transept 36 feet by 90 4/3 feet. It has six altars, three on each side. To the right dedicated to St Joseph, Nossa Senhora das Dores, and St. Peter. To the left dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Augusta, St. George, and
Nossa Senhora d'Esperanza. Near the altar of St. Joseph is a slab covering the bones of Dom Gaspar de Leao Pereira, First Archbishop of Goa.