Panjim church also known as Mary Immaculate Church or The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim, Goa, which was first built in 1541 as a chapel by the Portuguese, was replaced by a larger church, as seen now, in a wedding cake shape. The facade of the church is painted in super white colour like”white toothpaste” and is built in Baroque architecture.
Initially there was a chapel in this place which was built in 1541 by portuguese to cater to the spiritual needs of the sailors as it was their first port of call. At that time this place was a small waterlogged fishing village. It became a Parish in 1600 and in 1609 the chapel was replaced by the present large church to meet the religious aspirations of the people, even though the village was very small. In the 18th century more additions were made to the church in the form of the stairways in a symmetrical zigzag form. A large church bell installed in this church is the second largest in Goa. The largest is the golden bell installed at the Se Cathedral church in Old Goa, which was part of the Augustinian Monastery on Holy Hill, was retrieved after the monastery was damaged, and installed in this church in 1871.
The Church of Immaculate Conception is located in the Panaji municipal garden area which also known as Church Square and some people also calls it Samba Square. The Municipal garden or church’s gardens is in its foreground to its south east direction. It was the location of an old port when ships sailing from Lisbon used to make the first call where sailors disembarked, before they proceeded further inland in to Ela (now Old Goa), which was the capital of Goa till the 19th century. A laterite walkway and a straight line of thin palm trees were part of the scene around the church.
The decor inside the church is not extravagant but fairly colorful. The main altar, which has an elegant decor, is dedicated to Mother Mary. There are two other intricately carved and decorated altars, one each on either side of the main altar, which is also very attractive; the one to the left is of Jesus’s Crucifixion and the other to the right is of the Our Lady of the Rosary, and both are gold plated. These two altars are flanked by marble statues of St Peter and St Paul. There is also a chapel of St. Francis Xavier, located in the south transept to the right side of the main altar; the statues in this chapel are enclosed in a glass case.
The exterior surface of the church is painted in white colour. There is a large belfry which houses the polished bell that was retrieved from a monastery. Next to the ropes suspended to ring the bell there is warning sign stating: “please do not ring the bell”. On festive occasions, the wooden structural elements, which form part of the vaulted ceiling above the altars, are festooned with twines of blue and white flowers, an indication of the external colour scheme of the church.
The feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated every year on 8th March with spectacular celebration which includes extravagant fireworks display at the night of the feast in the chuch premises which is witnessed by the people of Panaji. There is big fair organized during the festival days which continues for the 3 days and during this period the road leading to the church is closed for the traffic partially.
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 prior to the existing light house of fort aguada. On the right side of the church down to the lane little further is Secretariat Building. On the down the lane few steps is 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. 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. There is a regular mass service in English, Konkani & Portuguese held in this church