UNESCO tag for Goa's old churches boosts tourism, ensures their safety

Panaji, Sep 24 (IANS): Goa, famous for its beaches, found a place for its ‘Churches and Convents’ in UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1986, which helps the tourism sector to grow in the small coastal state.

More than eight million tourists who visit Goa every year flock to these sites to know about their history. In future, one more site is likely to be added in the list.

There are seven places listed under ‘Churches and Convents’ in the UNESCO's list declared in 1986, located in the former capital of the Portuguese-Indies at Old Goa, 10 km away from here.

These sites are:Basilica of Bom Jesus, Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine, Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Convent, Se Cathedral, St. Cajetan’s Church, Church of Our Lady of Rosary and St Catherine’s Chapel.

Noted historian Professor Prajal Sakhardande speaking to IANS said that one more site is on the tentative list of UNESCO, which could be declared next year.

“The Pansaimoll-Uzgallimoll petroglyphs (rock art) site on the banks of Kushawati River in Dhandole village of Sanguem taluka has been put on the tentative list of UNESCO as another world heritage site from Goa. This could be declared next year,” he said.

“We started this process through the Archeological Survey of India. We had given a proposal and presentation before the UNESCO committee in 2010. Then in 2022 it was put on the tentative list,” he said.

He said that they have recommended Patto bridge and Khajan land to be included in the list.

Patto bridge in North Goa was built by the Portuguese and was considered to be the longest bridge in Asia.

Speaking about the tag of World Heritage Site from UNESCO, he said that this helps in many ways as the sites gets legal and other protection.

“Once any site is declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, it gets protection in many ways. Even Khajan land of Goa should come under UNESCO, so that it gets protection,” he said.

Khajan land is a part of a traditional agro-aqua integrated system traditionally used by local communities for equitable sharing of resources between farmers and fishers.

According to Sakhardande, if the Khajan land comes under UNESCO sites, then their destruction will stop.

“It means a lot to get a UNESCO tag as the site gets protection and draws more tourists,” Sakhardande said.

According to him, the ‘rock art’ site at Sanguem taluka will be the second heritage site by UNESCO after it is declared.

Minister for Archaeology Subhash Phal Dessai had stated that the government intends to formulate a Heritage Policy.

“For the purpose of drafting the heritage policy, an extensive survey of all heritage sites/monuments is required. The Government has accorded administrative approval to carry out the survey of all monuments and antiquities as per the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities of the Archaeological Survey of India and also to sign an MOU with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Monali and the Indian Numismatic, Historical and Cultural Research Foundation, Nasik for the purpose of carrying out a pre-historic site survey in the State. Based on both surveys, a Heritage Policy will be formulated by engaging experts from related fields,” he said.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) presidentNileshShahtold IANS that there is a segment of tourists who specially visits heritage sites, which helps the tourism sector of a place.

“These heritage sites definitely help in the growth of tourism as many people visit these places. Those who are interested in exploring heritage sites will surely visit them. However, once they get the UNESCO's World Heritage Site tag, even those who come down to Goa for the first time will also visit these places,” Shah said.

He pointed out that there is need to market these places as UNESCO's World Heritage Sites so more people are drawn to Goa.

‘Churches and Convents’ of Goa:

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier, is a monument typical of the classic forms of plane architecture, introduced by the Jesuits. It is a large single Nave structure built in 1595-1605 and paid for with legacies left by Dom Jeronimo Mascarenhas, a wealthy Portuguese Captain of Cochin.

Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine:This complex was built by the Augustinian order. It comprised the church of Our Lady of Grace, the Convent of Saint Augustine, the College of Populo, and the Seminary of St Guilherme. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. Its construction was started in 1597 and was completed around 1602.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Convent:The original shrine, constructed by the Fransican monks in 1521 and subsequently enlarged, was showing signs of decay, so a new church was constructed and dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Built in 1665, it retained the portal of the old structure which was in the Portuguese–Manueline style.

Se Cathedral, Goa:The construction of Se Cathedral in Goa started in 1562 and ended in 1652. It is built on a raised laterite plinth and covered in lime plaster.

St. Cajetan’s Churchwas built by Italian Monks of the Order of Theatines in 1665. It’s crowned with a huge hemispherical dome, on the pattern of the Roman Basilica of St. Peter.

The construction of ‘Church of Our Lady of Rosary’ had begun 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.

St Catherine’s Chapelwas commissioned by the Portuguese conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510. This was to commemorate his triumphant entry into Old Goa on St Catherine’s Day. The chapel was raised to the status of a cathedral by Pope Paul III in 1534 and subsequently rebuilt.



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  • Dr.Cajetan Coelho, Goa, India

    Tue, Sep 26 2023

    From north to south and from east to west, tiny Goa offers ample opportunities for spiritual tourism. Temples, Mutts, Churches, Basilicas, Cathedrals, Retreat Centers, Mosques, and Gurdwaras in Goa are known to impart techniques for harmonious living.

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