Beyond Beaches: Churches In Goa That Offer A Glimpse Of The Past

The state of Goa was long a Portuguese territory and the rich history and heritage is well documented in the historical churches. Here are the most famous ones you cannot miss.

Published On Nov 30, 2023 | Updated On Feb 26, 2024

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Often known for its party destinations, the state of Goa has more to offer than just beaches and nightlife. Often unexplored, the heritage monuments in Goa offer a glimpse into the state’s colonial history like no other. If you are a history buff, the scenic state will delight you with its forts, museums, and most interestingly, churches.

The churches in old Goa, India, with their different design elements, are also significant markers of different architectural periods. For example, the Baroque period coincided with the Renaissance period in Europe, and as a result, the churches in Goa built at this time when the influx of missionaries was at its peak, reflected that style-wise. Churches in old Goa like The Basilica of Bom Jesus are a good example of this design period.

This was followed by the Indian Baroque period which saw the introduction of local motifs and design elements in the churches in old Goa, India like The Church of St Francis of Assisi. The new conquest or the the taking over of the territories of Goa and around by the Portuguese brought with itself some design changes too. This is why some of the churches in old Goa, India are characterised by lavish interiors and the use of stucco in the exteriors, making it what is known as the Rococo period. The Immaculate Church in Goa is a fine example of this type of architecture.

When in the scenic state, here are the historic churches in Goa that you must visit

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Located on the banks of the Mandovi River, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage church in Goa that you must visit when in the state. As it houses the mortal remains of Goa’s patron saint, St Francis Xavier, this beautiful church is also often known as the St Xavier’s Church, Goa.

One of the oldest churches in India, St Xavier’s Church, Goa is astonishingly beautiful with a black granite facade and interiors that match the grandeur. This famous church in North Goa also has a gallery that’ll delight art lovers.

Where: Old Goa Rd, Bainguinim, Goa, 403402, India

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Located in Panaji, the Royal Chapel of St Anthony is one of the most revered churches and is dedicated to the national saint of Portugal, St Anthony. Built in the 17th century, this church in North Goa was renovated by the last Governor General of Goa Vassalo de Silva in 1961 before it was opened to the general public.

Also popularly known as the Siolim Church, The Royal Chapel of St Anthony boasts of beautiful architecture that’ll simply take your breath away. This church in Goa is also close to many other churches and ruins that you can explore while visiting.

Where: Velha Goa, North Goa, Goa, 403110, India

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Often used as a backdrop in movies shot in the state, this church in North Goa is one of the must-visit places. This beautiful church in Goa is also one of the first to be built in the state and has a unique architecture that delights visitors and devotees alike.

The Immaculate Church Goa, as it is commonly known, is constructed in the Baroque style and houses a large bell from an Augustinian monastery from the time Old Goa was a Portuguese administrative centre. Nicknamed ‘The Crown Of Panaji’, this church in Goa is a must-visit.

Where: R. Emidio Gracia, Altinho, Panaji, Goa 403001

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This famous church in North Goa is a UNESCO Heritage site you don’t want to miss. Located in the same compound as the Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Chapel of St Catherine is a stunning building with white and brown facades, made in the Baroque style that is sure to leave you smitten.

The oldest church in Goa, the Chapel of St Catherine is not functional anymore but the structure and the art gallery it houses attract visitors and history buffs alike.

Where: Velha Goa, Goa 403402

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Built by eight Franciscan monks, who landed in then Portuguese territory, The Church of St Francis of Assisi is a must-visit church in Goa. Initially constructed in the Portuguese–Manueline style, it was later renovated in 1665 and ended up blending details in the Tuscan style of architecture.

Don’t be fooled by the simple and straightforward exterior of this church in Goa, the lavish interiors are a delight to visitors and devotees alike. The beautiful Baroque-styled altar is dedicated to St Francis and also has statues of the saint and Jesus Christ. While the church doesn’t hold prayers, it is home to a museum full of artefacts that offer a glimpse into the history of the state, making this church in North Goa a place you must visit.

Where: Off National Highway 4, Velha Goa, Goa 403402

This church in North Goa is famous for its three bells. The legend has it that the villages close by all wanted to stake rights to the church, and it was decided that whoever installs the bells first shall have them. The villagers from Guirim, where the church is actually located decided to come back the next day to get the job done, while the villagers from Sangolda worked overnight to install 2 bells and hence won the rights.

Apart from the main attraction of this church which happens to be these 3 bells, the church is also a visual delight. Built in Mannerist Neo-Roman style, the church houses 5 ornate altars, making it a must-visit church in Goa.

Where: Guirim, Goa 403507

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One of the most famous churches in Goa, and for a reason, this beautiful place of worship will delight visitors and devotees alike. Built in a Corinthian style, this church in Goa is said to be visually quite similar to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Dedicated to St Cajetan, this church in Goa also has local Goan, Rococo, and Baroque influences, making it one of the, if not the most beautiful church in North Goa. Another notable thing about the church is that it was built by an order of Italian monks called the Theatines, who are known to have been the first advocates of the distribution of Holy Communion to all catholic Goans irrespective of their class or caste.

Where: Velha Goa, Goa 403402

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As the name suggests, this church in Goa is atop a mount and offers stunning views of the area around, overlooking the river Mandovi and the islands Devar and Chorao. Having been the picturesque backdrop for many Bollywood films, this church in Goa is easily recognisable and attracts religious visitors and tourists alike.

That said, this church in Goa is also famous as the venue of the Monte Music Festival, held in February each year. Aiming to integrate Indian and Western music, the festival draws large crowds.

Where: Velha Goa, Goa 403402

Note: The aforementioned chapel is undergoing a renovation and is temporarily closed. Please check before you make plans to visit


Photo: Shutterstock

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