Se Cathedral is located in Old Goa on the banks of the Mandovi River. It is one of the ancient and the largest churches of Asia which is dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria. It is the church of the Latin Rite Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, and the seat of the Patriarch of the East Indies. The church is situated on the western side of the main square, Terreiro de Sabaio, with the front facing the east. It took around eight years to construct this beautiful church, under the reign of the Portuguese. This church represents the royal and imperial atmosphere of Goa prevailing at that time. UNESCO marked it as a heritage site and is considered as one of the most sacred places among the Christians. The structural design of the church is classically Portuguese with a Corinthian core and Tuscan peripheral. People from all over the world come to visit this church and to take the blessings of God. Apart from being a holy shrine, it is also the main attraction of tourism in Goa. In 1776, a lightning struck a tower on the northern side of the church destroying it. Till now it has not been rebuilt. According to legends, it is believed that in 1919, a vision of Jesus Christ appeared on the Church and from that time onwards it is assumed that the cross is increasing in size.
Dominicans, who were the Chaplains, were sent to India by the Portuguese under the rule of Alfonso de Albuquerque to fight the Muslim army, who had captured Goa in 1510. The Portuguese won and it was also the day of Saint Catherine (25th November), so, to celebrate the victory, along with the feast, this church was built. The construction of the Se Cathedral was started in 1562 and was completed in 1619. Earlier, this church was made with mud, straw and stones. In 1552, Governor George Cabral ordered to redesign it but the opening years were spent on planning and designing and the actual construction of the church began only in 1562, under the supervision of the King Dom Sebasitao and was completed in 1619. It was designed by Julio Simao and Ambrosio Argueiro, the Stalwart engineers. In 1640, the church was sanctified and, thus, became a holy place for Christians. The height of the church is around 250 feet in length and 181 feet in breadth and the frontispiece of the church is 115 feet high.
Se Cathedral is well known for its exclusive architecture and it also portrays the power, prosperity and reputation of the Portuguese at that time. This church consists of very high ceilings, and the exterior part of the church displays the Portuguese Manueline style while the interior part exhibits the Corinthian style with grand and elevated pillars. The major attractions of the shrine are the fifteen communion tables, which are devoted to Our Lady of Three Needs or Our Lady of Hope and Our Lady of Anguish, and the main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Originally, there were pillars on each side of the portico, with huge bells, but the pillar on the north side was destroyed when a lightning struck it. However, there is a tower on the southern side with a famous bell, also known as the 'Golden Bell', which is one of the biggest church bells of Goa. There is a large painting of St. Christopher which is placed near the church choir. The throne of the Archbishop of Goa is positioned near the main altar and also there are chapels on the right and left side of it. On the right side, one can see the chapels of St. Bernard, St. Anthony, and the Miraculous Cross with the Holy Ghost and on the left there are the chapels of Nossa Senhora de Necessidades, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and Nossa Senhora de Boa Vida. These chapels are ornamented with marvelous latticework. There are six main boards on which the life of Saint Catherine is very beautifully engraved. Besides, there is a big gold-plated carved screen which is placed above the Lord's Table.
The most favorable time to visit this shrine is from October to March. However, one can go there during the monsoon also but, at that time, it is too hot.
How To Reach
The Dabolim airport of Goa is at a distance of 30 kilometers from Panaji, the capital of Goa, and is maintained by the Indian Navy. The airport is near the Vasco-da-Gama port. Domestic flights are available from this place and some of the major cities which are connected to it by air are Bangalore, Chennai, Calicut, Delhi, Cochin, Lucknow, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Srinagar. Several chartered flights are also operated from Goa for England and other European countries. From the airport one can hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw.
Goa is well-connected by rail to all the major cities of India. The Konkan Railway connects Goa with places like Mumbai, Vadodara, Thiruvananthapuram and Delhi. After reaching the railway station one can hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach the church.
The national highways connect Goa with almost all the major parts of the country. National Highway 17A connects east coast of Goa to the west and with National Highway 17, Goa is connected with Karnataka, Maharashtra and some parts of Kerala and with National Highway 4A, it is linked to Karnataka and other main cities of South India. One can take a private or public bus to come to the shrine.
There are Catamaran services from Mumbai to Panaji.
This church is a very fine example of the outstanding architecture of the Portuguese. If you go to Goa, then you must visit this holy shrine. The exquisite paintings and the architecture resembles the combination of typical Portuguese style and the Gothic components, and thus, one can say, that the work is splendidly extravagant. This church provides one with a serene and peaceful experience.