Stark, stern and yet with a glamorous charm all its own, the Mae de Deus or Mother of God Church is a breath-taking site. With its Gothic spires and pristine white walls, it reminds one of a fairytale castle. Situated amidst picturesque surroundings of the typical Goan countryside, this Church at Saligao, which is situated in the Bardez taluka, was built in 1873. It is amongst the finest in the Gothic style and is attractively illuminated at night.
Claim to fame : It is the finest example of Neo-Gothic architecture in Goa. It houses the miraculous statue of Mae de Deus (Mother of God) which was brought from the ruins of the convent of Mae de Deus at Old Goa.
The church is also open to tourists every day from
9.00am to 12.30pm and from 3.00pm to 5.00pm.
Mon to Sat – 7.00am and 8.00am
Sun – 7.00am, 8.30am and 9.30am
Miraculous statue of Mae de Deus
This exquisitely gold-painted wooden statue was brought to the church from the ruins of the Mae de Deus convent in Daujim, Old Goa, with all pomp and circumstance. First it crossed the Mandovi on a wonderfully decorated boat and was transferred thence to a be-flowered and be-garlanded bullock cart. It was installed in the church amidst cheers, to the accompaniment of a band and some sources even claim that it was given a 21 gun salute! It is now kept inside the church at the side altar.
Neo-Gothic architecture of the Church, unique amongst the Goan churches
Illuminated view of the church after sundown
After the church was declared a heritage structure, the tourist board of Goa took charge of its illumination after dark. The tastefully yet brilliantly lit church is easily visible as you travel past.
Statue of Mae de Deus in the church courtyard
Gilded and carved ornamentation inside the church
History, Construction and Architecture
The church dedicated to the Mother of God or Our Lady came to be built at Bardez in the 19th Century. Its foundation stone was laid on 7th February 1867 and the Saligao Church was inaugurated on November 26, 1873.
The Church building is stunningly distinctive with its jutting spires, each crowned with a cross. It has buttresses supporting its exterior walls and belfry. The courtyard of the Church contains another statue of the Mae de Deus, this one made of black stone.
Before the construction of this church, the Saligao Catholics were part of the parish church of the Holy Trinity at the neighbouring village of Nagoa. However, the Saligaokars had a vested interest in building a parish of their own. One of the parishiners, Francisco Salvador Gama Pinto went as far as to take the matter up with the Archbishop of Goa. The Archbishop, being in favour of their proposal, enlisted the aid of Major Martins, who was the Inspector of Public Works, to draw up the plans for this church.
It is said that the church was built with stones excavated from three different sites, two of them religious institutions. The black stones came from the ruins of the Mae de Deus convent in Daujim, the second lot of materials came from the Chapel of Our Lady of Victory, which was also close to ruination, while the balance was made up with stones from a nearby quarry.
The church building shows all the hallmarks of the Gothic architectural style, with its walls being supported by massive buttresses, surmounted by elegantly tapering spires. The main portal of the church is almost a full story high with a beautiful domed shape. Above this there is a niche in the façade in which resides a statue of Our Lady. This is surmounted by the belfry, which houses two bells. A dome like structure with a jutting spire completes this rather unusual façade.
Interior and Artwork
The interiors of the church are similarly imposing. In addition to the miraculous statue of the Mae de Deus which reposes near the altar, there is an altar stone which was also taken from the convent in Daujim. In addition to the main altar, this church has six sub-altars.
Upon entering the church, to the right is the community centre which is in charge of organizing parochial events. The choir loft is situated just above. In front is the main aisle which leads to the altar. The church is lit by low-hanging chandeliers. The altar, which is carved and gilded is backed by a reredos, which is magnificently carved and gilded and tapers gracefully toward the ceiling.
There are six other altars besides the main one. They are dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Sacred Heart of Mary, Christ the Redeemer, Our Lady of Assumption and Our Lady of Piety.
The altar of Christ the Redeemer holds the Blessed Sacrament which was consecrated by the Patriach Dom Antonio Valente during his pastoral visit in 1883. The image of St. Bonaventure which resides on the altar of St. Francis Xavier, was brought here from the College of St. Bonaventure in Old Goa. Part of the retable which backs the altar of Our Lady of Assumption came from the seminary of Chorao.
The first Sunday of May is celebrated as the church feast, the feast of Our Lady, the Mother of God. The feast day itself is preceded by a nine day novena, the celebrations and Masses on each day being organized by a different ward of Saligao. Each day, a small group of children are dressed up as angels and they dance before Our Lady and pay homage to her with offerings of flowers. After the novena the celebrations are continued with music and short skits, plays or dances performed by the parishioners.
On the feast day, celebrations are taken a few notches up with a grand procession followed by a firework display. Previously, there was also a dance which was organized by the Saligao Sports Club, called ‘Foxes Night’.
Legend and Lore
Some sources claim that the neighbouring parishes objected to the Saligao church receiving the honour of having the miraculous Mae de Deus statue kept within it. There was even talk of protests and marches, to the dismay of Fr. Camilo Teodorio Rodrigues, the administrator of the church who did not want to give up the statue. The issue was finally settled by the Government Order passed on the 20th of June, 1865 which was approved by the King of Portugal.
Made possible by the endeavours of the faithful parishioners of Saligao and a singularly beautiful monument for the ages, do stop by this church as you pass it on the Chogm road from Panaji, if only to take a few pictures of its fantastical architecture.