A December 2006 trip
to Goa by MichaelJM
Quote: We had a great day visiting Old Goa, Ponda, and the locality.
Attraction | "Fort Aguada"
We travelled through busy villages and past some exclusive and expensive looking beach resorts before climbing the hill to a prominent church. Our guide took us to the edge of the hill to view a superb view across the river and out to sea. He pointed out a large coastal settlement; it looked idyllically situated until he explained that this was Goa’s prison - a prison with a reputation for not having any successful escapees. It is housed in the lower fort, which was built to ensure a safe haven for the Portuguese navy. Just below the church was an amazing, modern dwelling – it appeared to be a bungalow but in reality there were several stories built into the rock. An exclusive and doubtless extremely expensive home, known locally as "Jimmy’s Palace" for someone who likes great views and their privacy. As we left this small viewpoint our guide told us that this was a "lover’s meeting place," but due to a recent outbreak of crime people were not permitted to cavort there after dark. Guess that severely limits its usage!
A short journey along the coast and we reach the old Lighthouse, built in 1864 and only decommissioned in 1976 when the "new" lighthouse was built. Fort Aguada is alongside the lighthouse and admission is free. It was built in1612 by the Portuguese as part of the major defences. We learnt that "Aguada" means water in Portuguese, and in the fort there’s an underground water storage tank capable of holding 2,376,000 gallons. There’s a fairly impressive moat around the fort and the bastions and gun powder room are all still intact. It was certainly a great design as this was the only fort that proved to be impregnable during the 450 years of skirmishes that took place in this region.
But best of all is the 360º view that you get from the summit of the fort – views right across to Calangute beach in the North, the Arabian Sea to the west and the Nerul River to the South. And despite the fact that this is a tourist attraction there are numerous places where you can take in the view and enjoy your own company.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 8, 2006
Fort Aguada Beach
Attraction | "St Catherine's Chapel, the archeological museum and St Francis Church"
St. Catherine’s is a chapel dwarfed by the mighty churches surrounding it, but it’s worth a very small detour to take in its simplicity and the tranquillity of its gardens. The chapel is well signed and a gentle walk down a flight of steps brought us to the simple primitive chapel. It was built in 1510 to commemorate Alfonso de Albuquerque’s entry into the City on St Catherine’s day, it was enlarged in 1550 and rebuilt in 1952. There a single large "open plan" room with a simple altar at the far end with large double doors set in an impressive "chunky" carved frame under a couple of arched turrets. Indeed it’s the introduction of these twin towers that set off the "trend" for the notable design of Goan Churches.
About 200 yards away from the chapel is the Archaeological museum. There’s a very small entrance fee, and the downstairs is awash with stoneware artefacts from both the pre-colonial days as well as the Portuguese occupation. This building started off life as a wing of the original Franciscan monastery and the cloisters, although somewhat neglected, are virtually intact. In the 1960s it was renovated and put to its current use as a key museum in Old Goa.Upstairs we found much more interesting, because it has a greater sense of living history about it. Here you’ll find a full portrait gallery of over Portuguese governors. They cover a whole range of styles, and although they’ve been heavily restored over the years the fascination is to be found in their posing clothes. Some were just laughable, and it was hard to think that some of these powerful guys had a handle on the fashion of the day! Immediately "next-door" to the museum is the fascinating Church of St. Francis of Assisi. It was built in 1661 on the site of an earlier Franciscan church, and although it no longer functions as a church it still retains a strong spiritual feel. I just didn’t know where to start looking, as this empty shell of a church is a mass of carvings, frescoes, paintings, and gilt work. A veritable cornucopia of art. The floor is "awash" with sculptured tombs, and a large section of this cavernous building is cordoned off to protect them from further erosion. The ornate pulpit and "busy" altar are well worth closer inspection, and the painted wooden panels in the chancel ably depict the life and times of St. Francis. The archway at the entrance of the church is a tapestry of symmetrical carvings. The overall perception of St. Francis Church is that although it generally has a weathered and faded appearance the colours are strangely appealing. In its day the pink, green, yellow, and gold would have been much more vibrant and it truly would have been a magical place for worship. We soaked in the atmosphere and appreciated this time capsule.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 12, 2006
St Catherine's Chapel, the Archeological Museum and St. Francis Church
Attraction | "Temples around Ponda"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 14, 2006
Attraction | "The Churches of Old Goa"
Behind the Church of St Francis and on the north of Old Goa’s main square is Se Cathedral. The view around the square, which was once the site of public executions, is worth pausing to take in and some of the trees have grown at 33º off the horizontal—a weird sight. The Cathedral was built in the early 17th century and the bell tower houses the golden bell, the largest bell in the whole of Asia, with the "sweetest and mellowest of tones." It didn’t ring for us! I also understand that it had a more sinister use in the days of the inquisition.
Inside is absolutely fantastic and it’s hard to know where to look first. There are eight chapels to the side of the barrel-vaulted nave and six altars, all ornately and extravagantly decorated and carved. The main altar (dedicated to St Catherine) is beautifully carved, heavily gilted in gold leaf and has half a dozen painted panel depicting the life of the saint and the gory scene of her torture and final slaughter. Remember Catherine wheel fireworks—well that I believe was the instrument used to torture this infamous martyr. The sunlight shining through the church’s windows adds to the atmosphere of the lavish interior of Goa’s Cathedral. Photographs are allowed but "photographs of people are prohibited".
The construction of the Basilica de Bom Jesus started in 1594 and was completed in 1605. It’s in a sorry state today, currently undergoing restoration work, but it’s still impressive internally. I guess because there’s a starkness about the main body of the church the huge gilt altar stands out as a masterpiece. To the right of the main altar, we found the mightily impressive mausoleum with a silver casket in which are kept the "venerable relics" St. Francis Xavier. This chapel can be viewed from three spots and every available surface is ornately carved or painted with memories to celebrate the life of the saint. Although I know little about this saint he is clearly very important and you can sense the reverence, which has been attached to him and his life.
St Augustine’s tower can be seen from the Cathedral and we wanted to check it out. Augustinian friars built the monastery back in 1602 and the 46m high bell tower soared over the impressive church with its four altars and eight chapels and the extensive attached convent. Although abandoned in 1835 and the main church collapsing within the decade there is still enough ruins to clearly identify the layout of the church. Carvings are evident on the arches and it’s clear that it was quite some building in its day, now you’ll need to exercise your imagination. The original bell is now ringing from the lady immaculate Church in Panaji.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 15, 2006
Old Goa Churches
Throughout Old Goa