Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see a 500-year-old church that houses the body of a saint who performed miracles and traveled across continents? If yes, then you should definitely visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a historical and spiritual treasure in Goa, India.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited churches in India. It is famous for its Baroque architecture and the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. In this article, we will explore the history, significance, and beauty of this remarkable church, and how you can plan a memorable visit to this sacred site.
The History and Significance of the Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus was built in the 16th century by the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order that played a prominent role in the evangelization of Asia. The name "Bom Jesus" means "Good Jesus" or "Infant Jesus", and refers to the image of Jesus as a child that is venerated in the church.
The church was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, as part of the group of churches and convents of Goa. It represents the cultural and religious heritage of Goa and India, which was influenced by the Portuguese colonization and the spread of Christianity.
The church is also famous for being the final resting place of St. Francis Xavier, one of the most revered saints in Catholicism. St. Francis Xavier was a Spanish Jesuit missionary who traveled across India, Southeast Asia, Japan, and China, preaching the gospel and converting thousands of people. He is known as the patron saint of Goa and the Apostle of the Indies.
St. Francis Xavier died in 1552 on an island near China, but his body was brought to Goa in 1554 by his fellow Jesuits. His body was remarkably well-preserved, despite being buried and exhumed several times. His body was placed in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in 1637, where it remains to this day.
The most amazing thing about his body is that it has not decomposed completely, even after almost five centuries. His body still shows signs of life, such as flexibility, hair growth, and wound healing. Many people believe that his body is miraculous and has healing powers.
Every 10 years, his body is displayed to the public in a solemn ceremony called the Exposition. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world flock to see his relics and seek his blessings. The last Exposition was held in 2014, and the next one is expected in 2024.
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The Architecture and Interiors of the Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a stunning example of Baroque architecture, a style that originated in Europe and is characterized by ornate details, curved shapes, and dramatic effects. The church has a red laterite stone facade that contrasts with the white plaster walls. It has Corinthian columns that support a triangular pediment with the letters IHS (the monogram of Jesus) and statues of St. Ignatius Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits) and St. Francis Xavier.
The interior of the church is equally impressive, with a marble floor, a wooden ceiling, gilded altars, paintings and sculptures, and an organ. The main altar is dedicated to the Infant Jesus, and has a large statue of St. Ignatius Loyola holding a sun with the letters IHS. Above him are angels holding the symbols of his life: a book, a globe, a cross, and a skull.
The most important feature of the interior is the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, which is located on the right side of the altar. The tomb is made of marble and jasper, and has exquisite carvings depicting scenes from his life. The silver casket that contains his body is placed on top of the tomb, inside a glass case. The casket has four panels that show his miracles, such as raising the dead, curing the sick, calming storms, and multiplying food.
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The church also has some artistic masterpieces that are worth admiring, such as:
1. The carved wooden pulpit that has intricate designs of flowers, animals, and angels.
2. The mural of St. Christopher that covers an entire wall behind the altar. It depicts St. Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus across a river.
3. The statue of St. Francis Xavier that stands next to his tomb. It shows him holding a silver casket with his right hand and blessing the people with his left hand.
4. The painting of The Last Judgment that hangs above the main entrance. It shows Jesus judging the souls of the dead, while angels and demons fight for them.
The church also has some symbolic meanings behind some of these elements, such as:
1. The red color of the facade represents the blood of Christ and the martyrs.
2. The letters IHS represent the name of Jesus and the motto of the Jesuits: "Iesus Hominum Salvator" (Jesus, Savior of Mankind).
3. The sun with the letters IHS represents the light of Christ and the glory of God.
4. The symbols of St. Ignatius Loyola represent his virtues and achievements: the book for his learning, the globe for his missions, the cross for his faith, and the skull for his death.
The Timings and Entry Fee of the Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is open to visitors every day from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. There is no entry fee to enter the church, but donations are welcome. The church also holds daily masses in English, Konkani, and Portuguese at different timings. You can check the official website for more details.
The church has a dress code that requires visitors to dress modestly and respectfully. You should avoid wearing shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops, or any clothing that exposes too much skin. You should also remove your shoes before entering the church.
The church has some rules and regulations that visitors should follow, such as:
1. Respect the sanctity of the place and maintain silence and decorum.
2. Do not take photographs or videos inside the church, especially near the tomb of St. Francis Xavier.
3. Do not touch or kiss the relics of St. Francis Xavier, as they are fragile and sacred.
4. Do not litter or damage any property inside or outside the church.
If you want to avoid crowds or queues, you should visit the church early in the morning or during weekdays, when there are fewer tourists. You should also book online tickets in advance if you want to attend the Exposition, as they are limited and sell out fast.
How to Reach the Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is located in Old Goa, about 10 km from Panaji, the capital city of Goa. You can reach the church by various modes of transport, such as:
You can drive to the church by taking the NH 748 highway from Panaji. There is a parking lot near the church where you can park your car for a nominal fee.
You can take a bus from Panaji bus stand to Old Goa bus stand, which is about 1 km from the church. The bus fare is around Rs. 10 per person.
You can take a train from Panaji railway station to Karmali railway station, which is about 5 km from the church. The train fare is around Rs. 20 per person.
You can take a flight from any major city in India to Goa International Airport, which is about 25 km from the church. You can then take a taxi or a bus to reach the church.
Other Attractions Near Basilica of Bom Jesus
Old Goa was the former capital of Portuguese India, and has many historical monuments and churches that showcase its rich heritage. You can visit places like Se Cathedral (the largest church in Asia), Church of St. Francis of Assisi (a museum of Christian art), Archaeological Museum (a showcase of Goa's history), and St. Augustine Tower (a ruined bell tower).
Se Cathedral is a majestic church that was built in 1619 to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over a Muslim army. It has a Tuscan exterior and a Corinthian interior, and boasts of having a golden bell that is one of the largest in India. It also has a chapel that contains a fragment of a cross that is believed to have miraculous powers.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Church of St. Francis of Assisi is a beautiful church that was built in 1661 by the Franciscans, another Catholic religious order. It has a Baroque facade and a Mannerist interior, and houses a museum of Christian art that displays paintings, sculptures, vestments, and relics related to Goa's colonial past.
Museum of Christian Art
Museum of Christian Art is a unique museum that showcases the artistic legacy of Goa's Christian community. It has a collection of over 200 items that date back to the 16th century, such as ivory statues, silver chalices, wooden altars, and embroidered vestments. It also has a library that contains rare books and manuscripts on Christian art and history.
Archaeological Museum is a fascinating museum that displays the archaeological and historical evidence of Goa's past. It has a collection of over 8000 items that range from prehistoric to modern times, such as stone tools, coins, inscriptions, sculptures, paintings, and weapons. It also has a portrait gallery that features the portraits of the governors and viceroys of Goa.
St. Augustine Tower
St. Augustine Tower is a ruined bell tower that was once part of a large church complex that was built in 1602 by the Augustinians, another Catholic religious order. The tower is 46 meters high and has four stories, but only one remains intact. It is a symbol of the decline and destruction of Old Goa, as the church was abandoned and demolished by the Portuguese government in 1835.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a historical and spiritual treasure in Goa that you should not miss. It is a place where you can witness the marvels of architecture, art, and faith, and learn about the life and legacy of St. Francis Xavier, one of the greatest missionaries of all time. It is also a place where you can experience the culture and heritage of Goa, and explore its other attractions and charms.
If you are looking for a destination that will enrich your mind, soul, and senses, then you should definitely visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Happy Travels!