When I asked some photographer friends what I should look to photograph in my (then-) upcoming trip to Goa, I was told, “Churches! Goa is the ‘Rome of the East'”. I did some digging around and discovered that in fact “Old Goa” with its many churches is a UNESCO World Heritage site for that very reason. The city was taken by the Portuguese in 1510 and for the next two hundred years became the center of Christianization of the East. The large and impressive churches that were built by various orders to awe the local population into conversion and to impress upon them the superiority of the foreign religions. From a peak of 200,000 in 1543, the population declined to around 1500 by 1775 due to successive plagues – which must have made the locals wonder about the veracity of any claims of religious superiority. Goa was incorporated into the rest of India in 1961, but Christianity remains the majority religion in the region even today.
When you drive around Old Goa, you can tell the place served as a religious center for the region, because there are places where grand churches literally stand one next to the other, in a quantity the local population never could have supported financially – meaning they had to be paid for from elsewhere – in this case, Europe. The majority of them are painted white, which became so identified with churches, that at one time it was forbidden to paint local houses in that color. However, the Church of Bom Jesus stands out for having been constructed from the porous red stone found locally. Below are some of the photos I managed to take during our short visit to Old Goa.
Shot from the outside and inside of the Basilica de Bom Jesus:
Barefoot men sit in front of the Bom Jesus, taking a break from renovation work.
and a shot of the interior courtyard – which is painted white. In order to make all parts of the photo visible, rather than having, for example, the archway be completely black with the background too light, I used a program called Photomatix Pro, which can be used to achieve HDR effects using RAW format photos.
This is the Se Cathedral, literally across the street:
and a slightly different shot of the same:
Next to the Se Cathedral, you will find the Church of St Francis of Assisi, and next to that, the Chapel of St. Catherine.
Finally, about half a mile away, you can find the ruins of St. Augustine Cathedral. There are much more impressive photos of it to be found elsewhere on the internet, but when we visited the areas was completely fenced off. Presumably there are times you can go inside with supervision?