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

Saint François Xavier Schrine, Apostle of Indies

Saint François Xavier Shrine, Apostle of Indies


Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) arrived in Goa for the first time on 6th May 1542. He stayed there many times, interrupted by voyages to Maluku, Japan and China, where he died on the island of Sancian. His body was returned to Goa and is extremely popular.

In 1636 the Jesuits made a magnificent new silver coffin for their saint. Composed of two separate parts, it is the combined fruit of work carried out by Goans and Europeans. The glassed-in sarcophagus, with silver filigree, contains the mummified body of the saint. As for the mausoleum, it was given as a gift by Cosme III de Médicis, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1670-1723), at the end of the 17th century. It is made of marble from Italy and is of pure Florentine style, decorated with bronze reliefs illustrating scenes from the life of the Apostle of Indies. This lower section is perfectly Italian. But the whole, in its glimmering abundance, is typically Indian.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus) inGoa Velha , the final resting place of Saint Francis Xavier, has always been a place of pilgrimage and when the Portuguese, upon their departure in 1961, wanted to take the shrine with them, the Goan people firmly opposed the idea. The body of the Saint is displayed to the public every ten years and attracts several thousands of people of all faiths, including Muslims and Hindus.