Ever Googled, “top things to visit in Goa”? Almost every article on the internet will recommend that you visit Old Goa. Before offbeat tourism in Goa made an appearance, all tourists could talk about was visiting the Basilica de Bom Jesus in Goa as you should. It’s a magnificent architectural achievement with so much history echoing through its halls.
However, as you take a step towards more slow, sustainable and conscious travelling, you’d like to know this – there is more. The small town was once the capital city of the Portuguese administration – a settlement that spans over acres and has thousands of stories to tell.
To pique your curiosity, here are 5 fascinating facts about Old Goa that you did not know.
It was Portugal’s Christian kingdom in Goa
Goa’s capital before Panjim was Old Goa. When the Portuguese moved to Goa, they built a fortified settlement and a port. This place was then named Ella and is today known as Old Goa. As happens in every political space, this town had different powers trying to have a say for themselves. This is why, if you ever decide to go beyond the Basilica of Bom Jesus, you’ll find numerous other religious structures worth exploring. They all hold a part of Goa’s story and the fine craftsmanship of Goan artisans. While Old Goa was an affluent port, it was overcrowded and host to several plagues. Eventually, the administration built the city of Panjim and the Quartier of Fontainhas.
Bebinca was invented in Asia’s first nunnery
The chapel or royal monastery of Santa Monica was a cloistered convent for the Augustinian nuns. They lived there under an oath of prayer and solitude. While they received plenty of education in music, languages, theology and so on, they had to remain within the monastery. They couldn’t meet friends and familial visits were short and rare. But guess what? This was also the place where the Bebinca was first made. The nuns used egg whites to starch their clothes and instead of throwing the yolks out, they decided to use them in baking. The Goan dessert Bebinca symbolises the 7 hills of Lisbon. A nun called Bebiana made it keeping in mind the capital city of Portugal. Today, India has a dessert that no one can get enough of – especially with ice cream!
It is home to the remains of a Georgian Queen
The heartbreaking story of Queen Ketevan found its end in Goa. Finding herself stuck in the power struggle of multiple kingdoms, she was killed by a Persian king for not converting to Islam. Some Augustinian friars gave honoured her with sainthood and tried to return her remains to her son. In this process, some of them ended up in Old Goa and you won’t believe it when we say that they are more than 400 years old! This fact is just one of the many things you didn’t know about Goa!
One church in Old Goa was built by Italians
Italians probably never came to Goa the way the Portuguese did. However, A group of Italian Theatine monks ended up here in their conquest to spread Christianity. They petitioned to the Portuguese king Dom Joao IV who allowed to them build a hospital in Old Goa. Following this, the church of St Cajetan was erected a few years later with hints of Goan, Baroque and Rococo architecture.
It protects disappearing art forms
Ever heard of Kaavi? This gorgeous art form used to be widely practised along the Konkan Coast. Artisans plastered walls in white, cured them for 48 hours and then carved intricate patterns into them. This was then filled up with red Goan soil. When churches in Old Goa were being built, Goan artisans created similar pieces called sgraffito. There are a bunch of other art forms in these churches that aren’t being created anymore. If you ever want to know more, head over to the Christian Art Museum in Old Goa!
The first museum to celebrate Christian Art in Asia
Goa has a very unique culture and heritage and Christian Art is one of its many facets. The Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa is the first of its kind in all of Asia. It is situated within the Convent of Santa Monica and is home to all of Goa’s artistic heritage. You get an insight into the state’s history through unique stories based on paintings, sculptures, metalwork, textiles, jewellery and furniture. Soul Travelling has collaborated with the museum’s curator Natasha to bring you unheard stories from Goa and its artists. You can choose between an experiential tour of Old Goa or a specifically guided tour of the town’s Christian Art – each giving you a new perspective on a place you thought you knew.
Why should you visit Old Goa?
Old Goa has been a popular must-visit place in Goa for all the wrong reasons. Yes, the Basilica is gorgeous but it is just 10% of all the heritage architecture you can find there. It’s one place you should visit to understand the state’s history and how it mingles and defines its present. Step away from the crowded locations and take a walk to the lesser-known, offbeat places in Goa.
If you are someone who loves history and would like to know everything about this historic place, book a heritage walking tour in Old Goa with Soul Travelling!
Check out the web stories we made on this brilliant World Heritage Site in Goa!