One of the largest churches in Asia, the Sé Cathedral has served the people of Goa since the 17th century.
On the western coast of the Indian peninsula, in the province of Goa, stands one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia: the Sé Catedral de Santa Catarina (The See Cathedral of St. Catherine). Most commonly referred to as simply Sé Cathedral, this monumental building is one of the oldest and most celebrated in the province.
Sé Cathedral dates back to the 16th century, when Portugal sent its first missionaries to Asia. It was constructed to commemorate Alfonso Albuquerque’s 1510 victory over Muslim forces, which led to an influx of Christianity in the region . This victory came on the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria, for whom the cathedral was named.
The Government of Goa’s Department of Tourism notes that the cathedral was commissioned by the Portuguese Viceroy, Redondo, who said the church was intended 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.”
Construction began in 1562, and it would be 78 years before the cathedral was completed and consecrated in 1640. The architecture is a prime example of Portuguese-Gothic ingenuity, while the exterior and interior boast Tuscan and Corinthian styles respectively. The facade of the church is plain and humble, with high white walls accented by windows, but the interior is filled with such detailed ornamentation that it’s almost dizzying.
Sé Cathedral was erected with two bell towers, one on either side of the entrance; however, the right tower was struck by lightning in 1776 and was never rebuilt. In the remaining bell tower are five bells, one of which is known as the “Golden Bell” and is said to have an exceptionally rich tone.
The altars, which were not completed until 1652, were dedicated to St. Catherine, and the walls on either side of the altar are decorated with oil paintings depicting the life and martyrdom of the early saint.
This cathedral contains eight chapels, with four on either side of the nave. Two of these are protected by ornately carved wooden grilles. One of these, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, is accented by beautiful gilded walls and ceiling. The other, the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles, is the site where it is said a vision of Christ appeared in 1919.
The most striking part of the interior is the enormous reredos — the ornamented screen covering the wall behind the altar — which is completely gilded and features an impressive array of sculpted biblical scenes. This reredos spans the entire back wall, which rises up 115 feet.
There is more to see in the Sé Cathedral than can be properly appreciated in one day, let alone one article. For an incredible look at Sé Cathedral’s grounds, and some wonderful close up shots of the many priceless works of art within the storied building, check out the video featured above, by TIM Entertainment.