Estado Da India | Old Goa

The Portuguese rule in Goa started with Vasco da Gama landing at its shores in 1510 and lasted until Goa’s Liberation Day in 1969. However, the Portuguese rule in Goa was not just a tiny conquest under the Portuguese crown. Goa was the capital of the Portuguese ‘Estado da India’. Estado da India, for judicial purposes, included Macau in China and Timor in the Malay archipelago, among more Portuguese conquests of Eastern land (The Editors of Encyclopedia, 2018). At Goa’s zenith as the capital of these territories, vaster in area and population than Portugal, the Goan Governor General held more prestige than the Portuguese King (Lecture 3, GCA, Walter Rossa, 2019). 

Old Goa’s Architectural Glory- An overview of Buildings still standing - Sheet1
Estado da India on the World Map_©httpswww.worldhistory.orguploadsimages14123.pngv=1668439983

Today’s Old Goa was the seat of power of the administration of Estado da India. It was lined with momentous and ornate architecture to celebrate Portuguese power. However, by 1684, old goa was plagued by epidemics, and the population was forced to shift to Fontainhas, which is at the edge of Goa’s present capital city, Panaji. Today, most of Old Goa’s architectural prestige lies in dilapidated or demolished ruins. However, a few important structures still survive in Old Goa. Let’s take a walk through them. 

Nossa Senhora Do Rosario

Old Goa’s Architectural Glory- An overview of Buildings still standing - Sheet2
Nosa Senhora do Rosario_1_Estado da India on the World Map_©httpswww.worldhistory.orguploadsimages14123.pngv=1668439983

This is the oldest surviving church in Goa. It is built atop a hill overlooking the Mandovi river. It affords a view of any water vessel approaching old goa from the Arabian sea. Alfonso de Albuquerque, the first Portuguese viceroy in Goa, commissioned it. The architectural style used here is Manueline architecture. It is an architectural style promulgated during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal. It is centred around nautical themes since maritime activity was gaining popularity at the tie. As such, carvings like sea ropes and windows like ship windows were elements incorporated into the buildings. (Tikkanen and The Editors of Encyclopedia, 2008). 

The structure has a straightforward plan and a sloping roof of Mangalore tiles. Other features that show local adaptations are the use of Bassein stone carvings at the entrance of the church as embellishments. 

Basilica of Bom Jesus

Old Goa’s Architectural Glory- An overview of Buildings still standing - Sheet3
Basilica of Bom Jesus_©httpswww.itinari.combasilica-of-bom-jesus-in-goa-the-most-famous-church-in-india-mqcj

The basilica of Bom Jesus is a minor Jesuit basilica built in 1605. The basilica of Bom Jesus is the structure holding the remains of St. Francis Xavier. It has a church and living quarters at the back. Presently in exposed laterite and with flying buttresses, it looks alien as compared to its original construction. Initially, the church was whitewashed. The plaster was stripped off on the pretext of establishing exposed laterite as a traditional Goan building material. The flying buttresses were added later, too. The structure has a sloping Mangalore tile roof, and the first-floor story is supported with timber members and plants. It is considered among Goa’s first few examples of a Baroque structure. A courtyard in the back of the building provides natural light in the living quarters. The façade of the Church constitutes the main altar flanked by two more altars. The main altar is decorated with a statue of St. Ignatius Loyola overlooking and protecting Baby Jesus. The surroundings are frolicked with paintings and carvings directly from the Bible, and it also has a gallery that inhabits oil paintings from 1973 and 1976.

Viceroys Arch | Old Goa

Viceroy's Arch_©
Viceroy’s Arch_©

Old Goa was a port city. The riverbank was a port area. Today, this area is lined with coconut trees. The main entrance to the city was also via the sea. This was commemorated by the Viceroy’s arch built by Fransisco da Gama, Vasc da Gama’s grandson, to celebrate the achievements of his grandfather. The Arch commemorates the beginning of the central spine of Portuguese Old Goa, Rua Dirieta- the Road on which the Se Cathedral and the Infamous Palace of Inquisition lay. The road layouts in Old Goa have changed since, but the arch remains at the entrance to the city from the sea. It is decorated with a statue depicting Vasco da Gama on one side and St. Catherine on the other.  

St Cajetan Church

St. Cajetan Church_©httpswww.atlasobscura.complaceschurch-of-st-cajetan
St. Cajetan Church_©httpswww.atlasobscura.complaceschurch-of-st-cajetan

A unique church in Goa is one of Italian influence among the many Portuguese ones. The St. Cajetan Church lies adjoining the Viceroy’s Arch. Italian monks built it. As the last remaining specimen of Italian architecture in Portuguese-held Goa, the church is unique in many ways. The massive dome on the top is modelled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church displays two quadrangular turrets instead of towers. Ornate Corinthian columns adorn the frontispiece of the church with four decorative niches containing the statues of the apostles’ Peter, Paul, John, and Matthew, carved into the façade (Amrapali, 2019)

Conclusion | Old Goa


Other notable monuments still standing include the Convent of Santa Monica, the St. Augustine Tower ruins, and the Se Cathedral, all worth a visit.

A sunset on a winter evening surrounded by churches and greenery in the valleys of old goa is like visiting another fantasy world- a step in another era. 


Amrapali (2019) Church of St Cajetan, Available at:

The Editors of Encyclopedia, B. (2018) ‘Portuguese India’, Britannica. Available at:

Tikkanen, A. and The Editors of Encyclopedia (2008) ‘Manueline ’, Encycllopedia Britannica. Available at: (Accessed: 30 November 2022).


Raveena is passionate about design, architectural theory and the climate crisis alike. She aspires to understand and translate designed space- and its experiential qualities- into buildings that make a difference and respect the earth.