Exploring the Santana Church, Goa

posted in: Goa, Asia, Heritage, India | 68

I hope you had fun reading about my experience at the unique Cucumber festival or the Touxeachem feast at the Santana Church. While I had shared a cultural experience in my last post, I had also, mentioned that I found the venue of this experience interesting enough for me to explore further.  This 17th century church had me fascinated from my first glimpse at it and as soon as the Touxeachem Mass concluded, I went about exploring this church. From the base to the top of the bell tower, I went around peeping into nooks and corners to satisfy my curiosity about old and ancient places. What I found and learnt was quite interesting. Without further ado, here goes my discovery of the Santana Church.

Venue for the Touxeachem Feast - Santana Church in Talaulim, Goa.

History of Santana Church

Interestingly, the original name of the church was Church of St.Anne and the same came to be popularly known as Santana Church. As I understand, the difference in the dialects is what lead to the popular name. Try saying and am sure you will realize how the Portuguese might be pronouncing it. 🙂

Picture of St. Anne at Santana Church, Goa

The church was built by Monsignor Francisco de Rego – a missionary who was instrumental in spreading the religion around Talaulim, a part of Old Goa. While he started the construction, it was later, completed by his successor – Fr Antonio Francisco da  Cunha. The church was built in the 17th century without any patron in mind.

Around then, a resident of the town – Bartholomeu Marchon had a dream in which an old lady with a walking stick and a hat appeared and told him that the church was her home. Though the news spread like wildfire, no one was able to identify the lady. This incident was followed by another where an aged Brahmin lady in the village was quite unwell but she was miraculously cured after she dreamt  of an old lady with a walking stick and a hat. She said that the old lady who helped her get rid of an ailment, claimed that her name was Anna and that the church was her home. As a sign of faith, the Brahmin lady converted her religion and Fr Antonio Francisco da Cunha declared the church as the Church of St.Anne.

The Architecture of Santana Church

Santana Church, Talaulim, Goa

The exterior of the church is quite impressive with its typical European designs. A white building with pointed spires, a central round window and several others on different levels. However, unlike the other European buildings, the stained glass facet is missing. That is however, not to say that the church is any less beautiful.

The Cross outside Santana Church, Goa

In front of the main church, is a small structure with a cross on it. I am not really aware of the significance of the same. It almost looked like it was a place marker in this church campus.

The Pulpit

Pulpit at Santana Church, Goa

The interiors of the church was all decorated for the Touxeachem feast but nonetheless, the gorgeous pulpit is what caught my attention first. The rich brown, intricately carved pulpit stood out against the white interiors of the church.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Pulpit – it is the place where the priest stands to address the church. Since there were no mikes in those days, it was generally kept at the center of the church so that all the attendees could hear the priest clearly.

On examining it closer, you can see beautiful mermaids trying to hold the pulpit up. Quite a lovely effect.

The Altar at Santana Church

Rich and Extensive are the words that came to my mind when I saw the Altar at Santana Church. The whites punctuated with the gold and brown carvings around the various sculpted stories from the lives of Jesus and his family. From the floor to the ceiling, there were details that could take your hours to absorb.

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It was not just the Altars but the stories along the walls of the church that had me captivated. Take a look at one of them.

Along the walls of Santana Church, Goa

Now comes the interesting part. Behind the Altar is a small passage to a room and then a tunnel. I did not know of this till I had exited a church and it was only later, during a conversation with our guide, I got the whole story. It appears as if the chamber was a hidey hole of sorts, but what it was actually used for, no one knows. It still exists but is in really bad shape with rats and bats all over it. Was my curiosity going to make me go down that hole?

NO!!! Thank you!

I love hidden places but definitely not with bats and rats together. I sure, would have loved seeing the entrance but beyond that, was happy to stay off.

Windows & Passages

The small balconies of Santana Church, Goa

Now this was a part that I felt really good about. As I was busy clicking the church, I noted the lovely balconies above. I assumed that it was out of bounds but luckily, I discovered I was wrong for a change. I saw another photographer merrily clicking the Feast from up there. With a few queries, I realised that I too, could walk up an old staircase to check out what was on the other 4 floors of the church.

The way up the Bell tower at Santana Church

The steps were rickety alright. In fact, what you see are the re-constructed ones only upto the first floor. After that the stairs are all termite eaten and so open that you could see the bottom of the church from atop. Sticking close to the wall, I made my way up to the first floor.

The narrow passages on the first floor of Santana Church, Goa

The interesting part of this floor were the passages that were quite narrow, just barely enough to let one person pass through. At regular intervals it broadened to plus shaped chambers – with one side opening up to the very balconies that I saw from below and the other side to the gorgeous shell windows that were a feature of this church.

The plus shaped chambers of Santana Church with the Shell Windows opening up to the view outside the church

The shell windows as I learnt later were made from the shells found at the banks of River Siridao. The windows themselves, were a typical Portuguese styled ones, with narrow strips of shells stuck to one another. The effect is quite charming as these shell gave a translucent glow during the day. Of course, the reason why the windows were made the way in this particular manner, was to allow the rain drops to just slide down.

Shell windows of Santana Church

No matter what, the windows made an excellent backdrop for capturing a memory of this church. Thanking my fellow blogger – Anuradha Goyal for this lovely picture. 🙂

At Santana Church

Up the Bell Tower

Once done with the passages, I climbed up further to the Bell tower of the church. There wasn’t much on the 2nd and 3rd floors except the low ceilings and the windows. However, once I reached the top, I saw the old bell of Santana Church. As tempted I was to shake the bell, I resisted it and diverted my attention to the beautiful monsoon scene from atop Santana Church.

The view from the top of the Bell Tower at Santana Church

The bell as I learnt later, was not the original bell. The Original bell was not well maintained and went off in the middle of the night in the 1880s. It was brought down and replaced with this newer bell. The old bell was stolen and was never recovered.

Bell at Santana Church

Sadly, the church is quite neglected and needs some expert restoration. Starting from the external facade to the steps that lead you to its highest floors, there is a fair amount of dilapidation that you can see. It was easy for me to go up those steps but even the brave me, while coming down had butterflies in my tummy. Eventually, to reduce the risk, on the 2nd floor, I actually, descended it like a kid – sitting down on every step.

Santana Church is a beautiful piece of history and heritage, one that needs to be promoted and shared. As I understand, efforts are being made to make this an important tourist destination. For me, it definitely gave me a lovely taste of Goa beyond beaches.  Waiting to know of what you think of this church.

 

Travel Tips:

  • On how to visit Santana Church, please refer to the Getting here section of this post.
  • The church is open from 6 am to 6 pm.
  • Please be extra cautious when climbing up the Church staircase as the same is not in a great shape. I would recommend that you do so at your own risk as there are no safety precautions here. Even if you are a bit scared of heights, avoid it.

Thanks to Goa tourism for hosting me and guiding me through this wonderful piece of heritage that we have.

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