The Se Cathedral, or SÃ© Catedral de Santa Catarina, is one of the largest churches in Asia and a vital church in Goa. Located in Old Goa, it is dedicated to Saint Catherine and is a necessary center of the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. Se Cathedral is a well-known landmark in Goa featuring Portuguese-Manueline architectural style.
The Se Cathedral was once built to commemorate the victory of Afonso Albuquerque, won on the feast day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, this building is the largest church in Asia. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Goa.
With its excellent Iberian facade, floating ceilings, splendid mosaics, intricate wood and gold carvings, Se Cathedral, sometimes known as St. Catherine’s Cathedral, is a must-see for any Goa vacationer.
History, construction and architecture
Construction of Se Cathedral in Goa began in 1562 and ended in 1652. The hundred years spent in this construction are well worth it, as the proud cathedral still stands tall and almost spotless today. Built on a raised laterite plinth and covered with lime plaster, this cathedral measures 250 feet (76 m) in length, 181 feet (55 m) in width while its frontispiece rises to 115 feet (35 m) height.
Construction began during the reign of King Dom Sebastiao, under the administration of the Archbishops of Goa and subsequent rulers were tasked with completing it using money from the Royal Treasury.
It was virtually completed in 1619 but the high altars were not erected until 1652, however, it was consecrated in 1640.
The Se Cathedral is built in the Portuguese-Manueline style. This sumptuous and composite architectural style was extremely popular at the end of the 16e Century.
It combines elements of late Gothic architecture with the Spanish Plateresque style, Mudejar, Flemish architecture and Italian urban design. The exterior of this great cathedral is of the Tuscan architectural order, remarkable for its sobriety and simplicity.
Interior and artwork
The interior is laid out in a traditional cruciform shape, although the exterior appears rectangular. The interior architecture is Corinthian. The high altar is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Besides the high altar, there are eight chapels along the sides of the nave and six altars in the transept.
Pope Pius XII conferred on this sanctuary the golden rose, which is a gold ornament, a token of reverence and affection. The ornament itself has since been placed on the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier.
Visitors to this sanctuary will not fail to see the magnificent altarpiece above the high altar whose six gilded panels represent the life of Saint Catherine, the fifteen communion tables, dedicated to Our Lady of the Three Needs, Notre-Dame de l’EspÃ©rance and Notre-Dame de L’angoisse and the baptismal font, built in 1532 and used by Saint Francis Xavier to baptize converts. Also worth seeing is the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles, where a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919.
Entering through the main facade there are Corinthian columns supported on plinths, with a pediment surmounting the portico with a Latin inscription recording the start of its construction in 1562 by Dom Sebastiao and the instructions for its completion by future monarchs.
The baptismal font, used by Saint Francis Xavier, is to the right of the entrance and faces two statues, one of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the other of Saint Francis Xavier himself, whose sacred relics were exhibited for the first time in the Se Cathedral.
The interior of the cathedral contains high ceilings supported by massive pillars on which the choir attic rests. The nave is barrel-vaulted, while the transept is vaulted with ribs. On either side of the nave, there are four chapels. Two of these chapels were hidden by wonderfully intricate wooden filigree screens, which were carved to resemble foliage.
On the right side of the nave, you will find the chapels of Saint-Antoine, Saint-Bernard, la Croix des Miracles et du Saint-Esprit while those on the left are dedicated to Notre-Dame des Vertus, Saint-SÃ©bastien, the Saint- Sacrament and Our Lady of Life. The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament has a beautifully decorated and gilded wall and ceiling, completely at odds with the rest of its rather spartan interior.
The main altar is finely and wonderfully carved and gilded; in addition, it is supported by an impressive altarpiece depicting scenes from the life of Saint Catherine and her martyrdom. Near the altar are the seats of the canon and the throne of the archbishop. There is also a carved ebony stand that once stood in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. In the pillars, in the nave, on either side of this altar are wooden statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul while a massive painting of Saint Christopher hangs under the attic of the choir.
There are two wooden pulpits projecting from the columns to the right of the nave, and a gallery in which is kept an 18e Organ of the century. The transept contains six additional altars.
Those on the right are dedicated to Sainte-Anne, Notre-Dame des Douleurs and Saint-Pierre, while those on the left are those of Notre-Dame des Sorrows, Notre-Dame des Trois NecessitÃ©s and Notre-Dame de l’EspÃ©rance. The arches containing four of these altars are decorated with paintings of scenes from the lives of saints.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Usually counted among the first female martyrs, Catherine of Alexandria holds a special place among the prophetic saints of the church because of her role as a philosophical defender of the faith. She is also the patron saint of Christian philosophers in addition to being the patron saint of the city of Old Goa, aka Velha Goa or Goa Velha.
In Church art, Saint Catherine of Alexandria is depicted wearing a crown (indicating her royal birth), holding a book (indicating knowledge), and leading a spiked wheel (indicating her martyrdom). The reason is that the tradition designates the notable periods of his life.
The story goes that Catherine was born to a noble family in Alexandria and was an extremely scholarly girl. She was converted from paganism to Christianity by a vision of Our Lady, the Virgin and the Child, and she dared to protest against the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Maxentius. Since he could not refute the arguments she raised directly, the Emperor had assembled a battery of 50 eminent philosophers to counter her views. However, their admission of defeat at her prowess and their subsequent profession of Christian faith sounded the death knell for both them and her.
They were burned alive, while she was flogged and put in prison where she succeeded in converting not only the jailers but also the emperor’s wife, Valeria Maximilla. In total, up to 200 people are said to have been converted after listening to his eloquent profession of Christian faith.
As a result of these conversions and her refusal to give in under torture, she was sentenced to death by means of being tied to a spiked breaking wheel. However, the wheel mysteriously broke, leaving Catherine miraculously unharmed; that is why she is known as the patron saint of wheelwrights. She was eventually beheaded and the angels are said to have taken her remains and placed them on top of Mount Sinai.
Legend and tradition
Contrary to the idea that this chapel was once built with funds from the Royal Treasury, some sources instead state that it was built in the past using money from the sale of houses that were seized by the government.
The Cross of Miracles (Khuris Milagre) is further credited with phenomenal power and importance, some legends claim that it is constantly growing, even so slowly, although others claim to have considered that water is gushing from the rock on which the cross is built.
This Goan cathedral is not only worth a personal visit; However, it is also convenient for countless different vacation spots. The convent adjacent to the cathedral has been turned into an archaeological museum open to the public, and the famous Bom Jesus Basilica is just across the square. Small surprise then, that no going to Goa should be seen in full except looking at the impressive artwork and structure of this most revered cathedral.