Friday, January 3, 2014

Se Cathedral Old Goa

Prologue :After Augustine Tower ( church complex ) Se Cathedral happens to virtually the largest church in Goa, and probably in Asia too during ancient times.  This place being so close to Adil Shah’s palace we can assume that a mosque or mausoleum existed in this place, which was razed to ground.  In its place St Paul Church, St Francis Assisi Church and Se Cathedral was built.
Among the group of churches Se Cathedral is the largest existing churches in Old Goa.  It was commissioned according to the inscriptions in Latin in 1562.  The Cathedral construction was ordered by King Dom Sebastiao ( 1557 – 1578 ).  The construction was sponsored by the Royal treasury, with generation of revenue from the sale proceeds of vast stretches of property and treasures salavaged. 

The Church measured 115 feet high 250 feet in length x 180 feet in width at the time of construction.  It was built on raised plinth with laterite stones.  It was plastered with limestone and painted white signifying purity.  There were 8 chapels besides the main alter.  Additional prayer slots were created for the saints.  The bell tower is located on the southern tower.  The bell transfixed on the tower was referred to as the Golden Bell on account of its resounding tone, which are immortalised in poems and carols. 

The vault and the choir were supported by massive pillars.  The building is oblong, and has cruciform interior.  It can be termed as a mixture of Portuguese & Gothic style on the exterior facade.  There is a tinge of Tuscan and Corinthian inside.  The northern tower collapsed in 1776 and it was not rebuilt.
On the left hand side of the Cathedral there are four chapels which are dedicated to our Lady of Virtues, Saint Sebastian, The blessed Sacrament and our Lady of Life.  On to the right hand side again four chapels exists which are dedicated to Saint Bernard,Saint Anthony, The Holy Ghost and Cross of Miracles.  There are three alters on each side of the main alter.  The alter is decorated with paintings from the lives of the saints.
The main alter is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, which is richly gilded in panel form, depicting martyrdom of the saints.  There are statues of St Peter and Paul.  There are seats of throne for the Archbishop.  There are paintings of St Catherine in various ceremonial robes depicting her lifestyle in general. 

The church was under construction for nearly  90 years beginning from 1562.  The main church complex was completed in 1619.  The alters were completed in 1652.  The Portuguese govt sponsored the construction for the Dominicans. 

Conservation :  Massive conservation efforts were undertaken by ASI to ensure that the complex did not collapse like the Augustine Church.  The basic fault in the design of the structure was rectified which may be owing to the southern tower collapsing and upsetting the balance of the structure.  Fresh laterite stones were used in rebuilding the weak portions of the structure, using replastered lime mortar mixed with acrylic resin ( nafafil ) The windows were replaced due to prolonged exposure to rain and humidity.  The decayed wooden beams, rafters and ceiling planks were replaced.  The plastered and reinforced walls were white washed as per the original standards.  Teak wood door and windows were re moulded in the residential complex of the church. 

The exposed iron rods were given protective paint coating to prevent rusting.  Further the wooden ceiling on northern and southern aisles were replaced.  The plaster on the wall were re applied.  The exterior walls were painted with waterproof cement paint.  The retaining wall was rebuilt which had decomposed due to vegetation over growth. 
World Heritage :
The work of ASI is ongoing to maintain the complex.  Thanks to their timely attention many a disasters and short circuits have been averted.  In order to maintain the world heritage status it is essential keep the entire complex clean and updated from the rigours of heavy monsoon.  In 1986 the churches of Old Goa have been accorded the world heritage status, which has helped in funding the cost involved to maintain the heritage structures.
Ack :  Outlook Traveller guide, World Heritage Series publication by ASI.

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