This Church was one of the first to be built in Goa (1541). The early Church was completely rebuilt from its foundation in 1619, and, this was even considered taking into account the still negligible population of the area, and the size of the new Church is a striking commentary of the religious climate of the time and the wealth available to the Church.
It was first built as a “chapel” by the Portuguese, and then replaced by a larger Church as seen now, in a “wedding cake shape”. The façade of the Church is painted in pure white like “white toothpaste” and is built in “Baroque” architecture. The Church is located in Panaji, with the municipal gardens (church’s gardens) in its foreground. It was the location of an old port when ships sailing from Lisbon used to make the 1st call where sailors disembarked, before they proceeded further inland in to ELA (now Old Goa), which was the capital of Goa till the 19th century. A “laterite walkway” and a straight line of palm trees were part of the scene around the Church.
Initially a chapel” was built to cater to the spiritual needs of the sailors. At that time it was a small water-logged fishing village. It became a parish in 1600 and in 1609 the “chapel” was replaced by the present-day church. In the 18th century, more additions were made to the church in the form of the stairways in a symmetrical “zigzag” form. A large Church bell, the 2nd largest in Goa (the largest is a GOLDEN BELL at the Se Cathedral), which was part of the Augustinian Monastery of Holy Hill, was retrieved after the Monastery was damaged and installed in this Church in 1871.
The “décor” inside the Church is not extravagant but fairly colourful. The main altar, which has an elegant décor, is dedicated to Mary. The 2 flanking altars, that catch the eye are, that on the left dedicated to Jesus Crucified and that on the right dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. Each is a riot of heavily gilded, deeply carved ornamentation, yet compact and controlled and a fine example of the period. These 2 altars are flanked by marble statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. There is also a chapel of Saint Francis Xavier, located in the south “transept” to the right side of the main altar, and the remains of Saint Francis Xavier are enclosed in a glass case.
The exterior surface of this Church is painted in white. There is a large “belfry” which houses the polished bell that was retrieved from the Augustinian Monastery. Next to the ropes, suspended to ring the bell, there is a warning sign stating : Please do not ring the bell.
On festive occasions, the wooden structural elements, which form part of the vaulted ceiling above the altars, are festooned with “twines” of blue and white flowers, an indication of the external colour scheme of the Church. The Church conducts Mass every day in English, Konkani and Portuguese. During the festival of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, held every year, on the 8th of March, the Church is colourfully illuminated. A fair is also part of this festival.