Goa, a multi-racial land

A paradise for hippies, who were originally attracted by its heavenly beaches during the 1970s, and today teeming with both Western and Indian tourist, the state of Goa (India’s smallest state covering just 3,700km2), bounded by Karnataka and Maharashtra, was a Portuguese enclave for 400 years.  So although Goa is in India, it is a different India which has been profoundly influenced by four centuries of Portuguese presence, giving this small region its uniqueness.  Colonisation, which mixed the Portuguese and Indian worlds together, produced a unique society which would for evermore be different to the rest of the Indian Peninsula and marked by multi-racial mixing at all levels: art, literature, language, food and even religion, where the caste division of the Indian society hasn’t been erased by Catholicism.

The campaigns of Alexander, traders and missionaries began to cross through the Indian sub-continent, but it was Vasco da Gama who opened the first maritime route to India.  He started out in search of "Christians and spices" – according to the famous words of the first Portuguese to land in India – his small fleet of four ships sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached Calicut on the Malabar Coast in south-west India on 18th May 1498 after eleven months at sea.

  • Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire of Asia

    Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

  • Arch of the vice-regents

  • Se Patriarchal

  • Interior of the Se Patriarchal Cathedral: altarpiece of the principal alter

  • The Basilica of the Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)

    The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)

  • Saint François Xavier Shrine, Apostle of Indies

  • Frescoes of the covent of Saint Monica

    Frescoes of the covent of Saint Monica

  • Church of Saint-Gaetan

  • Church of Saint Francis of Assisi

  • Interior of the church of Saint Francis of Assisi

  • Panjim, contemporary New Goa

    Panjim, contemporary New Goa

  • Two-storey aristocratic house at Fontainhas

  • Window with « carepas »

  • Road in Fontainhas

    Road in Fontainhas

  • Façade in Fontainhas

    Façade in Fontainhas

  • Small shrine in Panjim

    Small shrine in Panjim

  • Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim

  • Sunday Mass in Panjim

    Sunday Mass in Panjim

  • The Bambolim Miraculous Cross

    Tha Bambolim Miraculous Cross

  • Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Mandur

  • A sculpture woekshop in Goa

    A sculpure workshop in Goa

Se Patriarchal

Se Patriarchal


It was in 1510, with the arrival of Afonso de Albuquerque, that the Christian history of Goa began. The great missionary Orders began to evangelise this new land. From 1517, the Franciscans began to settle and were very quickly followed by the Jesuits in 1542, the Dominicans in 1547, and the Augustinians in 1572. The ecclesiastical structures were put into place: Goa was established as a diocese in 1534 and as an archdiocese in 1558. The area became covered with churches and Goa became the “Rome of the East”. And the buildings were built big in order to impress. InGoa Velha – today a ghost town where only the sacred remain – the churches are striking due to their impressive size and bear witness to a spectacular past.

Built by the Dominicans, the Se Patriarchal Cathedral is the greatest achievement by the Portuguese in India and its construction lasted so long that the Goan people doubted that it would ever be completed. It has lost one of its towers, which was struck by lightening in 1766. The façade is extremely mannerist: very plain, without any decoration except for the three portals and the triangular pediments. In Goa, towers became a characteristic of religious architecture and a good number of churches were thus given towers.

Goan monuments were generally built using laterite, the local stone, which is quite porous. For openings, a harder stone was used, a type of granite from Baçaim in the north of Goa. Due to the climate and monsoons, the churches are regularly whitewashed which gives them their immaculate appearance.