One of the most famous vacationer sights in Goa, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is located on a hilltop in Panaji.
The white glowing church is majorly famed for its architecture and its flight of stairs that zigzag to the top.
Another appeal of the church is the Augustinian Bell placed in the belfry, which adds the second biggest bell in Goa.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is additionally known as the ‘Crown of Panaji’, a ‘great huge wedding ceremony cake’ like shape and ‘a bride ready at the altar.
This famous church in Goa has additionally been the backdrop in many Bollywood films. In December, a one-day feast of the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is celebrated each year with pomp and exhibit making it a must-see.
History of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception
The history of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception states that the original structure built here first was a chapel in 1541 for the sailors to pay their gratitude for being able to reach safely before heading to Old Goa or Velha Goa. The chapel, later in 1619 was rebuilt into a church that still stands today.
The architecture of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception
The architecture of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is a mix of Portuguese-Baroque and Goan style. The facade is adorned with two towers and a tall belfry in which is positioned the Augustinian bell.
Festivals at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church –
December 8th is the day when the locals organise the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It is the time when the church is illuminated with a distinct set of colours, and the ceiling is adorned with white and blue flowers to match the colour scheme of the church.
A nine days novena to Our Lady is served before hosting this exciting fest, which includes some particular servings and offerings to the Lady. After the feast mass is over, all the people fetch some candles from the candle sellers and light them with respect to the Lady.
This practice is followed by a grand firework display on the blank canvas of the night sky dotted with shiny stars with some engaging background music by a band. This entire festival includes a fair too, where you can get some miniature statuettes, souvenirs, garments, food and drink, to name just a few.
Key Sightseeing at Panjim Church
The Augustinian bell housed in the main belfry.
Distinctive zigzagging stairway
Two towers on either side of the façade
View of Panaji from the church steps
View of the church after sunset when the façade is lit by a multitude of lights
Statue of St. Francis Xavier, in the centre of the reredos
Carved altars and pulpits
Marble statues of St. Peter and St. Paul which flank the altar
Chapel of St. Francis Xavier
History, Construction and Architecture
The original construction on this site is believed to have been a chapel, built in 1541, so that sailors could give thanks to God for delivering them safely to Goa and avoiding the perils of the sea, before continuing their journey to Velha Goa.
This chapel was later rebuilt, in 1619, into the church that stands there today. The architecture of the present church is a beautiful blend of the Portuguese-Baroque and Goan styles.
The imposing façade is distinctive with its two towers and even taller belfry. It can be seen from a great distance, and is sometimes known as the ‘crown’ of Panaji.
To reach the church, you have to climb 78 steps. This zigzagging double staircase was a later addition, added in 1871 after the land in front of the church was reclaimed, at the same time the pediment and belfry were strengthened in preparation for the installation of the heavy Augustinian bell.
Interior and Art
The interior of this church is comparatively simple, especially when one compares it to the profusely decorated reredoses and carvings that one sees in the churches in Old Goa. However, the decoration has been skilfully and gracefully executed both on the main altar and on the two sub-altars which flank it.
The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, known as Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceicao in Portuguese. The altar on the right is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary while the one on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion of Christ.
The Purpose of Panjim Church Feast
On the 8th of December this church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception with great pomp and fervour. The celebrations are preceded by a nine-day novena to Our Lady. The church is decorated with a profusion of lights and the vaulted ceiling is strung with blue and white flowers which reflect the colour scheme of the church (and of Our Lady).
After the Panjim feast mass the people go in procession with a brass band and the candle sellers come out in force, to sell their wares to the faithful desirous of making offerings to Our Lady to ask for her intercession. After the procession there is often a firework display while the band continues to play festive mandos and fados. People enjoy themselves, walking amongst the stalls selling miniature statuettes, souvenirs, garments, food and drink, to name just a few.
The Panjim Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is placed on the hillside and just high above the Idalco Palace built by Adil Shah. Standing on the gallery of the church, you can see the entire view of the lovely Panjim city.
It is one of Panjim’s best attractions located in the heart of Panjim city and is the first church of Goa, built in 1541.
In this century this area was hilly and residential. Land around was swampy covered by the field of paddy, coconuts groves and watery. It was in 1843 the land was developed by the Viceroy when he took over Panjim; and in the year 1855 the ‘Praca de Flores’ (Square of Flower’s) was built in front of the church. In the year 1619 the church was re-constructed by enlarging it further looking at the population growth.
The decoration of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church is simple, but still it is amazing to the eyes because of it simplicity. In the year 1871, the great bell belonging to the Augustinian Church of Our Lady which is in Old Goa was brought here in Panjim Church to install. After the Golden Bell in Se Cathedral, this is second bell which is large and heavy in weight and due to this the whole pediment of the facade was renovated and increased in the size.
The Panjim Church has ordinary interior. The main altar is honoured to Mary Immaculate, and it has two more altars, on the left is Jesus crucified and to the right is Our Lady of the Rosary. On the both sides there are two marble statues, one of St. Peter and one of St. Paul. On the right of the main altar in the south transept there is a Chapel of St. Francis Xavier.
The area above the church on hilltop is called Bairro Altos de Pilotos because large beacons used to be lit here to guide ships into the estuary before the light house.
On the right side of the church down to the lane little further is Secretariat Building. On the down the lane few steps are Jama Masjid and built in is a Muslim College. Further on the street is the Hindu Mahalaxmi Temple which is main temple in Panjim, in front of the church is the view of Municipal Garden, hotels, boutiques etc.
The feast of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church is celebrated on 8th December every year. During its feast this church is beautifully decorated with lights and decoration and the entire Church Square is occupied by a lively fair. Infact this location of the church is so popular that many film shootings have been carried on this place. Standing on the high on the hill this church is indeed the crown of the Panjim city.
Facts About Panjim Church
If you find the façade of this church familiar, that may be because it has been the backdrop for many a Bollywood movie shoot.
Poised as it is on the hilltop, this church has been variously described as the ‘Crown of Panaji’, a ‘great big wedding cake’ like structure and ‘a bride waiting at the altar. One cannot seem to go anywhere in Panaji without passing, or at least seeing this church. However, for the discerning tourist, it is well worth a closer look.