Rajan Parrikar Photo Blog

Basilica of Bom Jesus

The Basilica of Bom Jesus (1594-1605) in Old Goa, 6 miles east of the Goa’s capital Panjim, occupies a very special place in the consciousness of the Goan Catholic community.

Deliberate photography of this structure is not an easy undertaking. During the day there is a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists milling around the campus. But a more daunting impediment is the proscription on tripods within the complex, one of the countless boneheaded absurdities of the Indian bureaucracy. Luckily, the resident honcho chose not to pull rank and made allowance for my tripod outside of visiting hours. Another ‘permission’ layer had to be overcome to photograph the altar inside, one instituted by the local religious custodians, but the Lord cleared the way for this Hindu on that count, too.

The history and architecture of the Basilica have been treated in Churches of Goa by José Pereira (Oxford University Press, 2003, Monumental Legacy series).

The Jesuit church of Bom Jesus (‘The Good Jesus’)…is perhaps the best example in Goa of an aesthetic phenomenon common in the Iberian world, which we can describe as fachadoretabulism, a term derived from the Portuguese words for ‘façade’ (fachada) and ‘retable’ (retábulo): the aesthetic power of the building is concentrated on those two points; all other aspects of the structure are ignored.

Bom Jesus […] has three doors in its frontispiece, but open on to a single undivided nave. It appears that Bom Jesus is one of the first, if not the first, responsible for this innovation – of a single nave entered by three doors, a practice that became so widespread in Goa that occasionally even chapels adopted it…

Indian Neo-Roman façades vary their flat surfaces in a manner analogous to the variations introduced into the modes (or ragas) of the monophonic Indian classical music. A raga is a musical formula having a prescribed melodic shape, rhythm, and ornamentation. This formula creates a framework for improvisation: the melodic shapes are formed by a fixed set of notes, involving specific intervals of scale, with some of its degrees accented above the others, but neither the melodic shapes nor their sequences are fixed precisely. Similarly, in the Indian Neo-Roman façade the members of the order constitute the framework for the improvisation, realized through peculiar combinations of the members (or parts of them). Intervals are constantly varied but there is little or no modulation of volumes, at least in the architectonic Baroque manner…

Dominating the interior is the high altar…dedicated to the Good Jesus (Bom Jesus), portrayed as the Christ Child on the base of the pedestal bearing the huge figure of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order…The Goan retable seems to have been erected around 1699…The Bom Jesus altar is framed by the arch of the sanctuary, which is surrounded by decorated woodwork, and flanked by two smaller retables resting against the wall that supports the sanctuary arch, forming the typically Portuguese composition of the retable triad.

 
 
Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa

Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
Basilica in Old Goa

Façade
5D Mark II, TS-E 17L

 
Basilica in Old Goa

Altar
5D Mark II, TS-E 17L

 
 
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