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The Chapel of St Catherine, Old Goa
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Chapel of St. Catherine stands where once stood a mosque, and is located in the same compound as the Se Cathedral and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The small chapel is the first ecclesiastical structure to be built in Goa, and is of historical significance. The building of the chapel marked the advent of Catholicism, not only in Goa, but in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other places in the East.
HistoryOn November the 25th, 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque led the Portuguese forces to a decisive victory over the Muslims of Adil Shah of Bijapur. The day was the feast of St. Catherine. Albuquerque directed his soldiers to raze an existing mosque and build a chapel on the site. The chapel was constructed with mud walls and palm fronds. The wall of Adil Shah’s fort can still be seen opposite the Chapel.
Although it was enlarged in 1550, the Portuguese Governador (governor) at the time, George Cabral ordered it rebuilt in 1952 using laterite stones and partially plastered with lime. The combination of the white of the lime and the brown of the laterite makes it a striking structure. The chapel is simple but elegant with a tower each on either side of the façade. Inside there is only an altar and the walls are plain. The chapel has rectangular window panes with narrow panels of seashell, as is the style of many buildings of the time.
On one side of the chapel is a slab inscribed in Portuguese, which when translated goes thus: ‘Here on this spot, by the door, entered the Governor, Afonso de Albuquerque, recaptured this city from the Moors (Muslim forces of Adil Shah) on the day dedicated to St. Catherine, in the year 1510, in whose honor and memory the Governor, George Cabral, raised this house in the year 1550’.
Subsequently, a much larger church, the Se Cathedral, was built slightly to the east of the chapel to honor the Saint. The chapel is significant because it also marks the beginning of Portuguese rule in Goa.
Other places of interestOld Goa is today a town, but was the most important port city in the sixteenth and seventeenth century for the Portuguese. It was also the seat of power of Catholicism for the Portuguese colonies in the East Indies. Of the sixty churches that were surveyed in the 18th century, only seven have survived. There are numerous ruins scattered around the town that are of historical importance. Among the structures that are still standing are The Basilica of Bom Jesus with the tomb of St. Francis Xavier in it, The Se Cathedral; The Church of St. Francis of Assisi with the attached Archaeological Museum, The Church of Our Lady of Rosary; The Church of St. Cajetan, and The Tower of St. Augustine. Twenty kilometers south are a number of temples built in different periods, and are both historically and archaeologically important. Goa is known as the sun-n-sand destination in India. There are a plethora of beaches in both, North and South Goa. The culture is profoundly influenced by the legacy of the Portuguese and so is the food. Goa is renowned for its seafood.
How to get thereOld Goa is well connected with the capital city of Panjim by public transport. Unmetered taxis and auto rickshaws are also available. For a lone visitor, motorcycle taxis are the most economical. Expect charges of $ 10 USD for 25 miles by taxi. Close by, at Karmali, is a railway station that is connected to the important cities of Margao and Vasco da Gama. Accommodation in Old Goa itself is scarce. However with Panjim barely ten kilometers away, there is no dearth of accommodation for all budgets. The place is well policed but on the days of festivals and public holidays, when it is crowded, one has to be wary of pick-pockets and vendors who try to sell memorabilia at exorbitant prices.
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Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Apr 06, 2015