One of the most famous of Margao’s architectural attractions is the Holy Spirit church which borders one side of the main city square. This church which is more than 450 years old is a superb example of Indo-Portuguese architecture. It is a functioning parish till this day and is perhaps most famous for its feast which is held on the occasion of Pentecost, usually in the month of May.
This church is a superb example of Indo-Baroque architecture and is also famous for its superbly carved and decorated interiors and fully functioning pipe organ.
The first church that was built in Margao was constructed by the Jesuits is 1564. The site for the church was selected by the first Archbishop of Goa, Dom Gaspar de Leao Pereira and the first mass was celebrated in the church in 1565.
However, this church was later destroyed by the armies of Adil Shah in 1571 when they retook the territory from the Portuguese and tore down the church. The Portuguese later took back the land but refrained from building another church until they were sure that the territory was completely secured and defended; although they constructed smaller chapels and churches during this time.
The construction of the present day church began in 1645. Due to the lack of funds, the construction of this monumental edifice took 30 years to complete. The church was consecrated in 1675. According to the historical records, this church is built on a different site from the one that was originally constructed in Margao. There used to be an old factory on the site, which was torn down to make room for the church.
The Holy Spirit Church in Margao is considered to be one of the finest examples of Indo-Baroque architecture in Goa. The stark white façade, fully four storeys high is graced by towers on either side of a central dome.
It is thought that the façade was built along the lines of the Augustinian church which used to stand on the hill in Old Goa. The central section is divided into the three orders, while the towers which frame it are divided into four, slightly set-back, orders.
The façade was added to later on in the church’s history by someone skilled in the making of retables, as is evident from the tight proportions of the architectural members and less refined ornamentation.
The tower crowns are comprised of drum, cupola and lantern. This type of tower top is known as zimbórios, and these are the oldest to have survived in Goa. It is thought that the church of Our Lady of Grace (the Augustinian Church) also had towers topped by zimbórios.
The Holy Spirit Church of Margao is laid out in the traditional cruciform style, with a single nave and transept. The church is accessible through the side door. The south arm of the transept is occupied by the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The walls are decorated profusely with moldings and carvings; especially in the chapels under the high choir, the transept and lower floors.
The ceiling over the nave consists of five barrel vaults with lateral penetrations within the arches corresponding to the nave’s five sections. There are groin vaults over the crossing and transept. The chancel is barrel vaulted with penetrations.
The nave is articulated by giant order pilasters in the Doric and Ionic architectural style. The building is the oldest in which the Goan influence on European architecture can be seen. This is evident in the semi-circular niches surmounted by shelled half vaults. This architectural phenomenon is seen all over the church; in windows and doors as well as articulating the lower order of the nave’s side elevations.
The altar is backed by a carved and gilded reredos, stretching from floor to ceiling, which is dedicated to Our Lady. This is made only more impressive by the carved and gilded archway that stands in front of it.
As well as the main altar, there are two side altars, also heavily carved, which are dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. The old pipe organ of the church has been completely restored and is used to play for the accompaniment of hymns during mass. There are carved statues of St. Anthony and Joseph Vaz in glass cases near the north transept.