The Portuguese Viceroy Redondo commissioned the Se, or St.
Catherine's' Cathedral, southwest of
Cajetan's, to be "a grandiose church worthy of the wealth,
power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic
to the Pacific". Today it stands larger than any church in Portugal,
although it was beset by problems, not least a lack of funds and
Portugal's temporary loss of independence to Spain. It took eighty years
to build and was not consecrated until 1640.
A Cross Shaped Church
This is the largest church among the group of churches in Old Goa. Built on a raised plinth of laterite, covered over with lime plaster, the church has, besides the main altar, eight chapels alongside the aisles and six altars in the transept.
There is a long nave, two aisles and a transept. A bell tower is located to the southern side of the façade. The nave is barrel - vaulted while the crossing is rib-vaulted. Massive pillars support the vault in the nave and the choir, while the chapels on either side are separated by internal defenses. The building is oblong on plan but has a cruciform layout in the interior.
Architecturally, Portuguese-Gothic in style, the exterior of the building is Tuscan and the interior Corinthian. There was a tower on the northern side of the façade, corresponding to the one on the southern side, which collapsed in 1776. The bell in the existing tower is often referred to as the 'Golden Bell""' on account of its rich sound immortalized in a Portuguese poem.
The main entrance in the façade has Corinthian columns on plinths supporting a pediment containing an inscription in Latin recording that, in 1562, in the reign of King Dom Sebastiao, this Cathedral was ordered to be erected, the Archbishops and the primates being administrators and that the succeeding kings continued the same at the cost of the Royal Treasury. Inserted into the two columns supporting the choir are two marble basins having the statues of St. Francis Xavier while to the right is a chamber containing the baptismal font made in 1532, perhaps brought from the old Cathedral. A large painting of St. Christopher is hung beneath the choir.
The Four Chapels
As one enters, to the left are four chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Virtues, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Life. To the right, again are four chapels dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Bernard, the Cross of Miracles and the Holy Ghost. Of these, the chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and the Cross of Miracles are provided with perforated wooden screens, having a high degree of filigree carving which has transformed wood into most delicate insinuations of foliage.
In the nave are two wooden pulpits projecting from two columns on the right. In the transept are six altars, three on either side of the main altar. The altars on the right side are those of St. Anna, Our Lady of Doloures and St. Peter, while those on the left are those of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope.
Paintings - An Insight Into The Lives Of The Saints
The arches accommodating four of these altars are decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the lives of the saints. The main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. The richly gilded panel shows the martyrdom of the saint. On either side of the nave is a niche in which are kept the wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter.
In the nave, near the altar, to the right is a projecting gallery on which is kept an 18th century organ. In the nave near the altar are seats for the canon and a throne for the archbishop. There is also a richly carved ebony stand, which was originally in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
To the right is a door that leads to the sacristy, which is a barrel - vaulted structure with gilded altar showing a church modelled after St. Peter's Church in Rome. There are also paintings depicting scenes from the life of St. Catherine, besides chests of drawers containing various robes worn on ceremonial occasions.
Reconstruction Of The Church
This church remained under construction for nearly three-fourths of a century beginning from 1562. The main body of the church was completed in 1619 and the altars in 1652. The Cathedral was built by the Portuguese Government for the Dominicans from out of the sale proceeds of the property that escheated to the Government.