Church of Our Lady of Rosary

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Standing atop the Monte Santo (Holy Hill) and keeping a benevolent watch over Old Goa, is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. Beautiful in its austereness and simplicity this church is one of the only buildings in Goa that attests to the introduction of Renaissance architecture, brought to Goa by the Portuguese. It is perhaps the most Portuguese of all the Goan churches as it was not influenced by the Goan architectural solutions, which though they have their roots in the Portuguese tradition, have their own unique standing. Additionally, the building remains largely unchanged.

TimingsOpen seven days a week from 9 am to 5.30 pm.

Claim to fame : The church bears an inscription on the conquest of Goa by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510. Legend has it that Afonso de Albuquerque surveyed the attack of Adil Shah’s army from this hill and vowed to build a church there to give thanks for his victory.
The church of Our Lady of Rosary is also revered for its connection to St. Francis Xavier, who often taught catechism here when it was first built.

Must See :

  • Tombstone of Garcia De Sa & Cenotaph of Dona Catarina

    Set on the floor in front of the altar is the tombstone of the Portuguese governor Garcia De Sa, and set into the northern wall of the chancel is the alabaster Mausoleum, in the Persian style of his wife, Catarina a Piro, who was the first Portuguese woman to arrive in Goa. According to the legend they were married by St Francis Xavier as she lay dying, in fact described as “in Articulo Mortis” which means at the moment of death. Her cenotaph is slightly protruding from the wall and bears on it an inscription in Portuguese, which translated means “Here lies Dona Caterina, wife of Garcia de Sa, who requests the readers of these lines to beg God’s mercy on her soul”

  • Towers andbuttresses
  • Chapels andretables
  • Carvings of the main altar
  • Granite baptismal font

History, Construction and Architecture

Although de Albuquerque vowed to build a church in this spot when he saw his armies marching to victory, this church was not built in his lifetime. He originally constructed a hermitage on this site, which was later converted into the church which stands here today. The construction began in 1544 and took six years to complete.

The architecture of this church presents features of the classic Gothic style along with Portuguese-Manueline style while the Renaissance influence is reflected in the interior vaults and decoration of the retables. In 1931, the Archaeological Committee of Goa placed a marble slab on the walls of the church with the inscription: “From this height, Afonso de Albuquerque watched the re-conquest of Goa on 25/11/1510.”

The church is built of laterite and plastered with lime mortar. The design of this church is exceedingly simple and it has been beautifully restored. The only decorations on its exterior are simple rope twist devices which celebrate the seafaring ways of the Portuguese colonists. These ropes wrapped cornice-style around the towers are very typical of the Manueline style.

The three-storied tower façade of this church is outstanding. There are buttresses built on the front corners of the church, thus giving it the look of a fortress, an air which is only enhanced by its high windows. There are two towers on the corners of the nave. The south tower contains a winding staircase that gives access to the “high choir” on the upper floor of this tower. The North tower contains within it a baptismal chapel on the lower level. The upper level is distinguished by slender columns and has round arched windows in which bells are hung.
The portico of this church is two-storied. The Gothic influences are clearly visible in the rib of the portico the roof is tiled and supported by wooden rafters.

Interior and Artwork

Like its exterior, the interior of this church is also plain. The reredos (screen or decoration behind the altar) is ungilded but beautifully carved.

Set on the floor in front of the altar is the tombstone of the Portuguese governor Garcia De Sa, and set into the northern wall of the chancel is the alabaster Mausoleum, in the Persian style of his wife, Catarina a Piro, who was the first Portuguese woman to arrive in Goa. According to the legend they were married by St Francis Xavier as she lay dying, in fact described as “in Articulo Mortis” which means at the moment of death. Her cenotaph is slightly protruding from the wall and bears on it an inscription in Portuguese, which translated means “Here lies Dona Caterina, wife of Garcia de Sa, who requests the readers of these lines to beg God’s mercy on her soul”

The church is constructed in the orthodox, cruciform fashion with a square apse (the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome. In Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral and church architecture, the term is applied to a semi-circular or polygonal termination of the main building at the liturgical east end). It as a single nave ,with two chapels opening onto the nave (main body of the church), one in front of, and the other next to the apse. The arches of the chapels open onto the nave at varying heights. The nave once had a ceiling; however this structure collapsed in 1897, damaging the vaults of the chapels. The nave now has an open-tiled roof.The chapels and the chancel (or sanctuary) have star-form rib vaults. The chapels have retables representing the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Christ.
The narthex and the north wall of the church have very similar archways, which are distinctively Renaissance in nature. The retables of the chancel altars and the nave are also very classical in nature.
The church contains three altars. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and shows Hindu influences in its carvings of mangoes, cashews and flowers. The baptismal font in this church has been carved out of a single granite slab.
One of the bells, made by Peter Dias Bocarro in 1618, bears an inscription, which translated reads, “Mary was assumed into heaven. The angels rejoice and bless the Lord in praise. Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary.”