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Church of Our Lady of the Sea

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In the Nani Daman Fort, or more accurately, the St Jerome Fort, lies the Church of Our Lady of the Sea.
Perched in one corner of the Fort, protected by its thick, strong, more-than-a-storey tall walls, the church is almost invisible from the outside. The Church itself is a small structure painted beige; the pillars are painted green and to complement the overall look, the doors of the church are painted brown. The name of the Church is written in Portuguese, “Virgen Do Mar,” literally meaning Virgin of the Sea.
Church of Our Lady of the Sea in Nani Daman Fort premises

An inscription, “C 1901 R 1966,” is placed right above the main door of the church. I guess C refers to construction and R to renovation. This might possibly refer to a section of the church which might have been built at a later date, because the main church and the fort on which it resides are nearly 400 years old.
Outside the Church stands a beautiful Grotto of Mother Mary. There is also a statue of Our Lady of the Sea nearby besides a Cross, painted red, atop the Church.
There are two beautifully painted bells, silver coloured, on the right hand side of the Church. These bells have a little artistic work adorning them. These bells are rung to announce the commencement of prayer services and to intimate the community about the death of one of the residents.


When I visited the Church it was afternoon. Since no services are held in the afternoon, the bells remained silent.
A part of the Church is used as a school. I had no intention of disturbing the students studying inside. I inquired at the School Office if I could get to see the Church from the inside.
A lady named Odeth accompanied me to see the Church. As I stepped inside the Church, I felt relieved from the strong heat outside. The atmosphere was soothing and nice. It felt really nice to visit a church so beautiful.  
Church of Our Lady of the Sea

I guess the clay tiles, also known as Mangalore tiles, which were used to roof the church had played their part in keeping the place cool.
Inside I saw paintings displaying the events that are commemorated in the Way of the Cross. These 14 paintings were placed in wooden frames painted dark brown. The Way of The Cross prayer services commemorate the key events that took place as part of Christ’s death and resurrection.
In the church there is a pulpit. A pulpit is a speaker’s stand in the church. In the old days, the Priest used to stand in the pulpit and preach to the people. It serves as a mini gallery suspended from the walls of the church. The pulpit here was made of marble; the edges were painted golden. Its roof had a dove and other decorations carved in it. The Church also has huge chandeliers hanging inside.

The Church Bell

The Church had statues of Mother Mary and Jesus placed in Canopy Altars on the right and left hand sides of the main altar. These were made of wood and painted golden and were beautifully decorated. The carving must have taken years to be completed. 
The main Canopy Altar, placed behind the altar of the Church, was also made of wood and stood around two storey’s tall. Like most of the other standout elements here, it was painted golden. All the pillars were beautifully carved and even the minute details were clearly visible from where I took this photo. One could clearly see the image of Our Lady of the Sea in it.

Inside the Church

The locking system of the doors was old too, as I remember having the same kind of locking system on the main door of our ancestral house in Goa. It consisted of a huge wooden beam, known in Konkani as an adam, which is more than a metre long and with a thickness of 4 x 4 inches. This beam, with a large knob on its head, rests within a cavity in the wall on the inside of the structure. When one wishes to latch the door, one pulls this heavy beam, holding it by the knob, out of the cavity and stretches it across the door. Most old houses in Goa are equipped with this mode of door latching system. You might find it quite outmoded, but try pushing a heavy wooden door, that is barred using one of these huge beams. It is very difficult, I assure you.
Masses and other prayer services are held at this church every day. Prayers are held in English and Portuguese. I have been to Goa so many times but I have never attended a Portuguese prayer service. 
The Pulpit
In fact, Portuguese is actually spoken here. Odeth told me that she herself is very fluent in the language. However, the language is not widely spoken by the younger generation.

If you ever visit the Nani Daman fort, make it a point to visit the Church. It is right inside the fort; there is no way you can miss it. If the church is closed, ask the school office and they will open it for you.
The visit to this church introduced me to the Portuguese way of designing churches.


R Niranjan Das said...

Nice narration. Church looks beautiful.


Thanks R Niranjan Das

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