SE CATHEDRAL CHURCH
One of the most ancient and celebrated religious buildings
of Goa, this magnificent 16th century monument to the Roman
Catholic rule in Goa under the Portuguese is the largest church
in Asia. The Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria
on whose feast day in 1510 Alfonso Albuquerque defeated the
Muslim army and took possession of the city of Goa. Hence
it is also known as St. Catherine's' Cathedral.
The Cathedral was commissioned by the Portuguese Viceroy,
Redondo to be "a grandiose church worthy of the wealth,
power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from
the Atlantic to the Pacific". The final edifice is bigger
than any of the churches in Portugal itself.
The construction of this imposing edifice began in 1562 during
the reign of King Dom Sebastião (1557-78) and substantially
completed by 1619. The main altars however were not finished
until the year 1652. It was consecrated in 1640. The Cathedral
was built for the Dominicans and paid for by the Royal Treasury
out of the proceeds of the sale of the Crown's property.
The Cathedral stands to the west of the great square called
Terreiro de Sabaio and has its façade turned to the
east. Its beautiful courtyard is approached by a flight of
steps. The building is Portuguese-Gothic in style with a Tuscan
exterior and Corinthian interior. The church is 250 ft in
length and 181 ft in breath. The frontispiece stands 115 ft
There were originally two towers, one on either side of the
façade, but the one on the southern side collapsed
in 1776. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its
plainness of style built in the Tuscan tradition. The loss
of one bell tower, which was never rebuilt, has given the
building a unique look.
The Sé Cathedral has five bells. The existing tower
houses a famous bell, one of the largest in Goa and often
referred to as 'Golden Bell' on account of its rich tone which
has been immortalized in a Portuguese poem. The main altar
is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, and old paintings
on either side of it depict scenes from her life and martyrdom.
the Cathedral has been built on a raised plinth of laterite,
covered over with lime plaster. There is a long nave, two
aisles and a transept. A bell tower is located to the southern
side of the façade. The nave is barrel-vaulted while
the crossing is rib-vaulted. Massive pillars support the vault
in the nave and the choir, while the chapels on either side
are separated by internal defenses. The building is oblong
on plan but has a cruciform layout in the interior.
The main entrance in the façade has Corinthian columns
on plinths supporting a pediment containing an inscription
in Latin recording that, in 1562, in the reign of King Dom
Sebastiao, this Cathedral was ordered to be erected, the Archbishops
and the primates being administrators and that the succeeding
kings continued the same at the cost of the Royal Treasury.
There are four chapels on either side of the nave, two of
which have perforated wooden screens across the entrance.
The screens have a high degree of filigree carving which has
transformed wood into most delicate insinuations of foliage.
Of these two screened chapels, the outstanding Chapel of the
Blessed Sacrament has a magnificently gilded and beautifully
decorated wall and ceiling, in complete contrast to the sober
look of the cathedral's interior.
On the right of the nave, is the other screened chapel, the
Chapel of the Cross of Miracles. A vision of Christ is said
to have appeared in 1919 on this huge, plain, cross. Towering
above the main altar is the huge gilded reredos. Scenes from
the life of St Catherine, to whom the cathedral is dedicated,
are carved on its six main panels. The Saint was beheaded
in Alexandria and among the images here are those showing
her awaiting execution and being carried to Mount Sinai by
The two small statuettes inset into the main pillars supporting
the choir are that of St Francis Xavier and St Ignatius Loyola.
To the right is a chamber containing the baptismal font made
in 1532, perhaps brought from the old Cathedral. St Francis
Xavier is said to have baptized thousands of Goan converts
using this font. A large painting of St. Christopher is hung
beneath the choir.
To the left of the entrance are four chapels dedicated to
Our Lady of Virtues, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament
and Our Lady of Life. To the right, again are four chapels
dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Bernard, the Cross of Miracles
and the Holy Ghost.
In the nave are two wooden pulpits projecting from two columns
on the right. In the transept are six altars, three on either
side of the main altar. The altars on the right side are those
of St. Anna, Our Lady of Doloures and St. Peter, while those
on the left are those of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of
Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope.
The arches accommodating four of these altars are decorated
with paintings depicting scenes from the lives of the saints.
On either side of the nave is a niche in which are kept the
wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter.
In the nave, near the altar, to the right is a projecting
gallery on which is kept an 18th century organ. In the nave
near the altar are seats for the canon and a throne for the
archbishop. There is also a richly carved ebony stand, which
was originally in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
To the right is a door that leads to the sacristy, which
is a barrel-vaulted structure with gilded altar showing a
church modelled after St. Peter's Church in Rome.
The adjoining convent has been turned in to an Archeological
Museum and is open to the public. Just behind the cathedral
lies a two storied edifice, the Palace of the Archbishop,
which is no longer in use. The Franciscan church lies to the
the west of the cathedral.
Location Old Goa, Panjim.