The oldest church in Old Goa is St. Catherine’s Chapel. It stands on the spot where a mosque once stood and is located in the same complex as the Sé Cathedral and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The small chapel is the first ecclesiastical form to be built in Goa and is of historical significance. The construction of the chapel marked the introduction of Catholicism, no longer just in Goa, but in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and various places in the East.
St. Catherine’s Chapel located in Old Goa was the very first Christian ecclesiastical form built in Goa. The size of the chapel can be small; however, visitors to the site may also not leave this oldest chapel besides being impressed by its magnificence and grandeur.
It was the Portuguese “governador” Afonso de Albuquerque who originally built it in 1510 and dedicated it to Saint Catherine as an honor because it was her feast day (November 25, 1510) that he emerged victorious in his battle against the local Muslim ruler Adhil Shah of Bijapur Sulnanate and retook Goa from him. During Adil Shah’s heyday, there was a mosque from which Afonso de Albuquerque and his army entered the city. The mosque is gone now and there are remnants of the old fort of Adil Shah just opposite the chapel in Old Goa. Albuquerque had the mosque demolished on November 25, 1510, and built a modest chapel there with mud, palm fronds, etc. to temporarily serve the Christian community.
Governor George Cabral enlarged it in 1550 and later in 1952 rebuilt it with laterite blocks with lime mortar. It was partially plastered with lime. And the fusion of white lime and brown color of laterite adds extra beauty to this chapel. It is then perhaps the second or third oldest Christian structure in all of Asia. With a simple interior and an altar, it has a tower on each side of the facade. The chapel has rectangular window panes in the old Portuguese style dressed in mica shells. Near it stands “the Church of St. Francis of Assisi”. The oldest church in Old Goa is no longer functional now, historically its importance dates back to the early years of Portuguese rule in the Indian subcontinent. Governor George Cabral, installed a slab inscribed with the Portuguese meaning: “Here at this place and through the gate entered Governor Afonso de Albuquerque reconquered this city from the Moors (Sultan Adil Shah) on the day dedicated to Saint Catherine in l 1510 in honor and in memory of whom Governor Jorge Cabral erected this house in 1550. »
It was from here that the central governing body of Catholic authorities controlled religious activities in the Portuguese colonies in the East Indies. You can say that Goa was the main Catholic seat of power east of Suez. At 18and century there were up to sixty churches and, of them, only seven have survived, the rest have fallen into disrepair. In the later period, their power declined as the British became a major colonial power in India.
The oldest church in Old Goa is visited by many tourists. And is the legacy of early Catholic history in India and also the beginning of Portuguese rule in the entire Goa region. Well connected by rail and road, Old Goa is a major tourist destination for foreigners as there are countless beaches in this small state. Panaji, the state capital is nearby and has nice lodges for accommodation.