The Most Beautiful Church I’ve Ever Seen
The St. Cajetan Church shows us ‘Elegance in Simplicity’
If one decides to leave the crowded beaches alone and venture into the quaint narrow lanes of Goa, there is so much to discover. Personally I am not a big fan of the beaches and when in Goa, I am mostly hunting for Portuguese food. After binging on a Balchao or a Xacuti, it is time to go church hunting.
Old Goa is famous for the White and Red Churches that stand on opposite sides of the road. These churches are often swamped with tourists. They are magnificent, no doubt but take a road less travelled. From where these churches stand, slide down one of the lanes towards the Mandovi River. As you drive further with the help of a GPS, you’ll know exactly what you are searching for- the St. Cajetan Church. This Church might look like a white structure at first but as you park your vehicle and advance towards it amidst a wonderfully maintained garden, you’ll notice the beauty on the whitewashed walls.
Underneath the lime is a laterite structure. This Church is said to be modelled on the St. Peter’s Bascillica in Rome. Since I haven’t yet visited Rome, I cannot compare the resemblance but this I can say: The St.Cajetan Church is a wonder in itself.
It is said that Pope Urban VIII sent 3 Italian Priests to spread Christianity to Golconda in India in 1640. The Priests weren’t allowed to do this and they soon reached Goa. Here they began setting up a hospital. The Viceroy of Goa came to know of these 3 foreigners and debarred them from Goa. One of the tenacious Priests then made his way to Portugal and took the express permission of King Dom Joao IV himself. Impressed with the dedication, the King gave his consent.
Our Lady of Divine Providence as the church was formerly called, came into itself in 1661. The construction of this church had started in 1655. What is so mind-blowing is the manipulative architecture. The Church looks to be a rectangle from the outside. The grandeur that awaits you is designed in the Baroque (17th and 18th century European style) and old Goan style. The Corinthian columns flank the sides of the entrance.
Let us now take in the church’s glory from the inside. We chanced upon this church at 5 in the evening and the church guard beckoned to us to make haste. He was about to close the church doors for the day. The kind guard made an exception and gave us a few minutes to look around.
My jaw dropped open the moment I entered in. There wasn’t any unnecessary grandeur in gold here nor was there an astoundingly pompous altar. The Church was dazzling in its simplicity.
Once inside you can see that the previously appearing rectangular structure is misleading. On the inside, this church appears to be in a cruciform or a Greek form. In simple words, two sets of corridors criss cross at the centre to form a cross. At their point of intersection ie. right in the middle stands a dome. Just looking up at the dome makes you feel the clarity and calmness the church reflects. Inside the dome there is a transcript that reads ‘Quaerite primum regnum Dei et haec omnia adjicientur vobis’ which translates into english as ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.’
I am no expert on churches but the St. Cajetan church is the first of its kind that I have chanced upon with a wooden altar. The wood is intricately carved. There are a total of 6 altars in this church all made of wood.
In front of the altar is a small platform. Upon researching about the church, I found out that this is a platform under which hides a well. Some people believe that it is just a way to cover up the site of an old Hindu temple. Nonetheless what seems to be a more logical explanation is that there is water in the sub-soil on which the church stands. It is said that two walls from this structure were unstable because of this water and crashed to the ground. To prevent this, the architect built a well into which the water can seep into, reducing the water content in the sub-soil. Its rather ingenious, isn’t it?
The ceiling also has a design on it. What is more awe-inspiring is that the arches that hold the dome have a flower pattern on the inside. This flower pattern is similar to the one we find in Indian architecture.
There are pictures depicting the life of St.Cajetan on the inside of the structure. This must have been the reason why the church is called the St. Cajetan Church instead of Our Lady of Divine Providence.
All in all, the St. Cajetan Church is on my list of the best churches I’ve ever visited. What I simply adored about it is the white elegance. Most other churches are adorned in gold and look grand but this church stands in all its glory in pure white.
Search this- Just beside the church you’ll find an unnoticed old gate. What is this gate, any guesses? If you have been to the St. Cajetan Church, you’ll know. Comment below to share the answer with the community.
If you drive further towards the Mandovi River, you’ll see an archway. It is the Viceroy’s Arch. Read about it here.
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