Igreja Maria Immaculada Conceicao (Our Lady of Immaculate Conception)
Standing tall and elegant in the heart of the capital city of Goa is the famous Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception of Panaji (Igreja Maria Immaculada Conceicao). It towers over the whole city of Panjim. The architecture is amazing, and the interiors are also beautiful. With the flight of steps adding to the exquisite charm and the majestic look of the immaculate & white façade, the Panjim Church is rooted in Goa’s historic past and culture for more than four and a half centuries.
Though it existed as a chapel before 1541, the whole structure was rebuilt from its foundation in 1619 and the majestic double staircase, rising in angled planes from the main church square was built in 1870. The main church bell, which weighs about 2,250 kilos, on the central belfry of this church, was originally from the Church of Our Lady of Grace art the Monastery of St Augustine at Old Goa. From there, it was taken to the Light House of Aguada to ring the hours for the benefit of the ships. The bell was brought to the Panjim Church in 1874. This is considered the second largest church bell in Goa, after the Golden Bell in Se Cathedral in Old Goa. The president parochial residence was constructed in 1977.
The decoration of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church is simple, but still it is amazing to the eyes because of its simplicity. The main altar is honored 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.
In the Church there are many Portuguese inscriptions of 1866, 1871 and 1955, etc. According to one of these inscriptions in Portuguese, in one corner of the Church, Governor Senhor Dom Luis Caetano de Almeida ordered the sails of the Baptismal font in which he was baptized in the year 1708 and they were executed in the year 1742.
To reach the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Panjim, one has to climb 100 steps arranged in a majestic fashion, for the Church sits majestically atop a hillock dominating the heart of the city and offering a bird’s eye view of the main square.
On the 8th of December, the feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is celebrated at the Church in great pomp and religious fervor. The church is artfully lit at night and a lively fair occupies the entire church square. The feast of the Immaculate Conception is one of the major Christian festivals in Goa. The feast celebrates the belief in the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast is preceded by novenas for nine days. The day before the novenas begin is the fama wherein the priest blesses a banner which has the image of Our Lady. And on the feast day masses are held throughout the day with the feast mass sometime in the morning. After the feast mass, a procession is taken out which winds its way through the stalls before returning to the church. And the brass band which accompanies the procession brings back many a memory of the feasts gone by. After the evening mass, fireworks are displayed. Many people witnessed the dazzling fireworks as they have been doing for the last many years. A band plays festive music and enthralls the crowd in the late evening while the ubiquitous chanawalas and flower and wax candle sellers tug on sleeves to buy these items as the faithful entered the Church to seek blessings and favors of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception.
There is a 3 day fete where people from all walks of life come to witness the sheer splendor of the Church. There are stalls selling miniatures, souvenirs, handicrafts, garments, sweets, food and drink. The traditional hajekars who sell haje, kaddio-boddio, laddus, capam and grams, to vendors selling bed sheets, bedspreads and clothes are all to be seen during this feast.
Like how a candle placed in the dark, unites and emits a beautiful kaleidoscope of white, yellow and orange so does the Immaculate Conception Church resembles this against the backdrop of the black sky. As soon as evening sets in, this huge monument is transformed into a glowing specter. Complete with tiny electric bulbs, the entire Church is lit up in the eeriness of the night. During the feast the whole church is beautifully decorated inside and the exterior is very artfully lit. Its illuminated view is a visual feast to the eyes