Monday, 11 May 2020

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church





This is one of the most iconic structures in Goa. You can’t miss this church. The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church is located in Panjim, Goa, in India. The Church conducts mass every day in English, Konkani, and Portuguese. The colonial Portuguese Baroque style church was first built in 1541 as a chapel on a hill side overlooking the city of Panjim…..

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When anyone arrives in Goa he is bound to notice this iconic structure in Panjim. Not all of Goa’s myriad ancient churches are concentrated in Velha Goa. A notable exception is the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church which is located in Panjim, the capital city of Goa. It has a singularly distinctive appearancedue to the double flights of steps that zigzag across the hillside on which it is built. True to its name, the façade of this church is painted in immaculate sparkling white. To a regular tourist, this might even belie the actual age and antiquity of this church. To reach the church, you have to climb 78 steps. This zigzagging double staircase was a later addition, added in 1871 after the land in front of the church was reclaimed, at the same time the pediment and belfry was strengthened in preparation for the installation of the heavy Augustinian bell.

Pic: By Klaus Nahr from Germany 
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição) is located in city centre at Panjim,  in Goa. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, known as Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceicao in Portuguese. The altar on the right is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary while the one on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion of Christ.   The Church conducts mass every day in English, Konkani, and Portuguese.

The colonial Portuguese Baroque style church was first built in 1541 as a chapel on a hill side overlooking the city of Panjim. It was eventually replaced by a larger church in the 1600s as part of Portuguese Goa's religious expansion. This church houses the ancient bell that was removed from the Augustinian ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Grace (Nossa Senhora da Graça) in the once famed city of Old Goa. This bell is considered to be the second largest of its kind in Goa, surpassed only by the Golden Bell which resides in the Sé Cathedral in Old Goa.


Pic: By Rupeshsarkar 
The church is laid out in the orthodox cruciform fashion. The main altar has a bas-relief carving of the Last Supper of Jesus with his Apostles. The pulpit has a depiction of the descending of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The main altar is backed by a fantastically carved and gilded reredos, where the statue of St. Francis Xavier enjoys pride of place. The two sub-altars are also noteworthy for the carving and gilt work and they are flanked by statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the southern part of the transept is the chapel of St. Francis Xavier, which is very popular amongst the visitors to this church.

A chapel was first built in Panjim in 1541, to serve the religious needs of Portuguese sailors at their first port of call in colonial Portuguese India. At that time the settlement was a small fishing village. It became a Parish in 1600, and in 1609 the small chapel was replaced by the present day large church to minister to the residents and sailors. In the 18th century the stairways, in a symmetrical zigzag form were added to the church. The second largest church bell in Goa was installed in a bell tower in 1871. It was formerly at the Augustinian Monastery on Holy Hill, and was retrieved after the monastery was damaged.

Pic: Bogman
The church is located in Panjim and sits atop a hill facing the square below. The city's municipal garden (Garcia da orta) lies to its southeast and can be seen from atop the hill. The site was once the location of a colonial port landing where ships sailing from Lisbon made first call, and where sailors disembarked before they proceeded further inland to Ela (now Old Goa) - the capital of Goa until the 19th century. A laterite stone walkway with ziz-zag stairs ascend the church while lines of thin and tall palm trees form part of the scene.

 
The exterior facade of the church, rich with Portuguese Baroque style architectural elements is painted a bright white to signify the Immaculate virgin Mary. The tall belfry centered atop the facade houses the bell from the Augustinian Monastery. The imposing façade is distinctive with its two towers and centrally placed taller belfry. It can be seen from a great distance and is often known as the ‘crown’ of Panjim. The steps are possibly remodeled after the Nossa Senhora da Peneda Sanctuary in Penada and the Bom Jesus do Monte church in Braga, Portugal.

The interior of the church is not extravagant, but is colourful. The main altar, which has an elegant decor, is dedicated to Mother Mary. There are two other intricately carved, gold plated and decorated altars, one each on either side of the main altar. The one to the left is of Jesus's Crucifixion, and the one to the right is of the Our Lady of the Rosary. These two altars are flanked by marble statues of St Peter and St Paul.
On festive occasions, the wooden structural elements, which form part of the vaulted ceiling above the altars, are festooned with twines of blue and white flowers, an indication of the external colour scheme of the church.

There is also a chapel of St. Francis Xavier, located in the south transept to the right side of the main altar; the statues in this chapel are enclosed in a glass case.

Pic: By Josephdesousa 
During the Festival of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, held every year on 8 December, the church is colourfully illuminated. A fair is also part of this festival. On this day of December this church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception with great pomp and fervour. The celebrations are preceded by a nine day novena to Our Lady. The church is decorated with a profusion of lights and the vaulted ceiling is strung with blue and white flowers which reflect the colour scheme of the church.

After the feast mass the people go in procession with a brass band and the candle sellers come out in force, to sell their wares to the faithful desirous of making offerings to Our Lady to ask for her intercession. After the procession there is often a firework display while the band continues to play festive music. People enjoy themselves, walking amongst the stalls selling miniature statuettes, souvenirs, garments, food and drink, to name just a few. Here I may add, if you find the façade of this church familiar, that may be because it has been the backdrop for many a Bollywood movies.

Also read:  The story of Milagres church, Mangalore

The Velankanni Basilica, Velankanni

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