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 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.
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.
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’.
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.