Standing tall and elegant in the heart of the capital, is the famous Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception of Panaji (Igreja Maria Immaculada Conceicao). With the flight of steps adding to the exquisite charm and the majestic look of the immaculate & white façade, the Panjim Church is rooted in Goa ’s historic past and culture for more than four and a half centuries.
Built originally, before1540, that is between 1510-1540, by the Portuguese, the Shrine of Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceicao, was raised to a Parish Church in 1600. It is one of the oldest Catholic ecclesiastical structures of Panaji. It was built from its foundations in 1612, but historian-scholar from Panaji Antonio de Menezes writes that it was built in 1619 (‘ Goa- Historical Notes’ – Vol. I by Antonio de Menezes).
He further states that the flight of steps , which leads up to the Church, date back to 1870. The Church was originally a Chapel and stood on a small hillock called “Conceicao Hill” and hence the necessity was felt to build the majestic steps.
The bell , at the top of the Church is the second largest in Goa , the first being that of Se Cathedral, at Old Goa. The bell was cast in 1749.
It was in this Church, that in the year1619, the Portuguese Governor of Goa , Ferrao Albuquerque took charge of his office. It was the same Church that on the 8 th September 1641, the royal proclamation of Dom Joao IV (Braganca royal family), as the 21 st King of Portugal, was read out by a 9-year old boy, Andre , writes Antonio de Menezes and C. M. Estibeiro.
Mr. Estibeiro in his book ‘Goa – Yesterday & Today’, writes that the Church of Mary Immaculate Conception has its own pristine historic splendour, apart from its architectural beauty of a majestic façade with two balustraded towers and an imposing central gable, which holds the famous bell, whose rings resounds throughout Panaji.
The majestic stairway of the Church, set in a zigzag pattern rising in angled platforms, has at the center, a beautiful pulpit with the image of Our Lady, in standing position raised on a pedestal, with an inscription dated 8 th December 1954. The stairway has balustrade pattern dotted with posts. The façade has other architectural features like pediments and a Roman arch entrance, pilasters, niches, belfry and above all a Red Cross set on the King’s Crown, at the apex of this charming Church.
Its illuminated view is a visual feast to the eyes. During the Portuguese period, the Church was located at the St. Thomas Aguinas College .
Antonio Menezes mentions that it was one of the six shrines mentioned in the Covencao of June 30 th, 1541 . The other shrines being those at Cabo, Carambolim, Batim, Divar and Banastarim. The Altar of the Church is in the Baroque- renaissance style. The side altars are that of Mother Mary and Jesus lying on her lap. Another altar is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier.
In the Church there are many Portuguese inscriptions of 1866, 1871 and 1955, etc. According to one of these inscriptions in Portuguese, in one corner of the Church, Governor Senhor Dom Luis Caetano de Almeida ordered the sails of the Baptismal font in which he was baptized in the year 1708 and they were executed in the year 1742.
8 th December Feast is celebrated here in a grand way, since the Portuguese days, till date.
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