The Holy Cross Church, in Verna, Goa, is called Igreja de Santa Cruz in Portuguese, but is commonly known as ‘Verna Church’, locally. Located in the heart of the village of Verna, it is built in the traditional manner, overlooking a large church square.
According to historical records, the church was built in three different locations, and the first version of the church was built in 1568. The church that we see today is the third one that was built, and was inaugurated by the Jesuits in 1612. It is especially interesting from the standpoint of Catholic religious architecture in Goa because it has survived exceptionally well alongside its entire built complex.
The Oriente Conquistado mentions that “When the Portuguese entered this land (Salcete) about the year 1519…. they built an altar under a tree (in the Mardol ward of the village of Verna) and consecrated the land to God with the first mass said in Salcete.” The mass was probably celebrated by a Dominican priest.
The façade of the church is similar to the façade of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, in Old Goa, but divided into three orders. The façade faces north with a setback tower on its east front, and a rectangular block of the ‘college’ type on its west flank, joined by a cloister, one of whose galleries runs beside the church. The ‘college’ façade is the same original height, doors, windows and even the entryway with respect to the portico. The cloister is also well-preserved. The church has a single nave covered by a tiled roof and a barrel-vaulted chapel.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Necessities at Senaulim, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Lume at Mongrupoim, both of which are in Verna, are associated with the Holy Cross Church.
In Verna, the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated on the day of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14, instead of the customary May 3 or the first Sunday in May. An ancient silver cross inside the church is venerated on the feast day, and that is followed by a procession in the church compound.
In the past, only a select few individuals or vaddos would celebrate the feast, but lately all the parishioners and vaddos have been involved in the festivities. Prior to 1980, the feast was celebrated by the Fabrica with its own funds.
The church has two main feasts:
- Feast of St Michael, the Archangel on the last Sunday in January.
- The Feast of Holy Cross Church is celebrated on September 14.
LOCATION OF THE CHURCH: South Goa
IN THE VICINITY: Velsao Beach (5.8 km), Mhalsa Temple, (2.2 km)