Goa, famous the world over for its golden beaches and laid back attitude attracts hordes of visitors each year both from within as well as outside India. The smallest state in India, it has a lot of things to offer other than beaches to those who visit. Renowned for its history and unique heritage, the cultural and historical part of Goa is a once in a lifetime heritage. One of its main glories is its churches and convents. These are spread all over Goa though the glorious ones are around old Goa, near Velha. The Portuguese style of art and architecture commemorate the past of Goa. The old Goa was the capital of the Portuguese Indies from the 15 century and abandoned around 1760 because of a major malarial outbreak.
One of the historical grandeur is the St Augustine ruins and the lonely tower:
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History. In Velha on Monte Santo hill stands a mute witness to the might and grandeur of Old Goa. This was the site for the monastery of the Augustine order, where stood the enormous church known as Nossa Senhora da Garca (Our Lady of Grace) , built in 1602 . The present day Augustine’s tower is a part of the Church of St Augustine with the church having eight chapels, four altars amongst many other important structures. One can just imagine the size of the Church of St Augustine in its full glory.
On its completion, the grand Nossa Senhora Church built by the Augustinian friars was recognized the world over as one of the three great Augustine churches in the world with the other two being the Basilica of Escorial in Spain and St Vincente in Lisbon.
This great church was abandoned in the 18TH century due to the repressive policies promulgated by the Portuguese government wherein the Augustinians were expelled from Goa and finally fell into neglect. The tower’s huge bell was moved in 1871 to the Church of our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panaji where it can be seen and heard even today. The remaining part of the church and its chapels, altars, towers soon fell down progressively leaving only the half of one of the tower standing which is seen by handful of visitors today.
This remnant, the renowned St Augustine’s tower is all that remains of what was once one of the largest buildings in Goa – The Augustine’s Monastery. There is little that can be seen today of the gracious and imposing church and monastery however the old ruins cause one to reflect on the passage of time and its vagaries. Every rock, every pillar and every stone here speaks about the times gone by and there is a tale that each of them has to share with those willing to listen.
Present Day. So in Goa and I was determined to spend the afternoons exploring the rich cultural heritage that was out here in whatever best way I could. Hence after a bit of research I found myself standing outside the gateway to a partially raised compound and a tower towering out of it . As I stepped into the compound I found myself in a largely spacious open place with ruins up ahead with a substantial waking path. This path led to the church ruins and the size of the structure is truly imposing. Once can walk along the pathway which is lined with illustrations of how the place was in its original glory or just cut across the grounds.
There is a feeling of forgotten glory out here, though there has been some kind of conservancy done in the past, presently the place has been left to fend for itself especially in respect of local guides or authorized individuals who could conduct the visitors around. There are few areas that have been cordoned off by steel barricades though I am not sure of the purpose, but the neglect in terms of overgrown weed and creepers dissuades anyone form venturing actively out there. In spite of that there is enough evidence of the grandeur of the place and once can easily spent a considerable amount of time out here. There are visitors who walk through the ruins trying hard to understand and assimilate the symbols, marks of glory that once existed out here.
As I sat there for a while watching the people and the structure in the backdrop, I could feel the objective of the lonely tower silently pronouncing to everyone around the story of the grand Nossa Senhora Church.
|Getting to Goa||Well connected with all major cities in India and also abroad|
|Getting to Old Goa||Hire a cab from wherever one is staying and earmark the destination as Velha, Goa|
|Monuments in vicinity||Club your visit with seeing the Basilica of Bom Jesus , Se Cathedral , Church of St Francis of Asissi, museum of Christian Art|
|Timings to visit||Preferably in evening prior sundown|
|Essentials||Water , shades, cap , sunscreen , comfortable footwear and google maps|
Few more priceless places to visit nearby :