If you visit Se Cathedral, in Old Goa, you can't miss the big, black wooden cross in a niche on the right. This cross is encased in another one, and wasn’t always a part of this ancient cathedral.
The City of Old Goa is a valley between three hills. The third hill is called ‘Boa Vista’ (Hill of Good View) on which the church of the Cross of Miracles (Cruz dos Milagres) is located. A huge convent of the congregation of Oratorians, and the recently-built St Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre are also located there.
ABOUT THE CROSS
According to one popular theory, in 1619, Fr Manuel Rodrigues, a priest from Se Cathedral, placed a cross, made of teak, on a rock on a hillock, named Monte de Boa Vista, because of the beautiful view of the entire City of Goa that could be had from this location.
On February 23, 1619, at around 3 pm, the cross apparently began increasing in size and attained a height of around 3 m, and people from the city apparently saw several flags of crimson waving in the air near this cross. At the time, Jesus is believed to have appeared on the cross, looking down at the city.
The book Historical and Archeological Sketch of the City of Goa by Jose Nicolau de Fonseca describes the event, “This spectacle viewed from a distance, tempted several persons to approach the spot, but by the time they arrived there, the apparition that had seemed so real from a distance, had disappeared. They then returned to the place from where they had first seen the extraordinary spectacle, and again observed a figure nailed on the cross, with the head uplifted, hands stretched out, feet fastened together, a white towel encircling the waist, the body covered with wounds and stained with blood and a crown of thorns around the head. The whole figure appeared to be wrapped in an ethereal flame of dazzling splendor, which reached the skies. This astounded the people.”
Another miraculous event connected with the cross is said to have taken place on March 5, 1619, when water gushed from the rock on which the cross stood.
At the time, D Frei Cristovao de Sa e Lisboa was at the helm of the Archdiocese of Goa, and ordered the cross to be shifted to the neighbouring church of Nossa Senhora da Luz. He then called for a meeting of all the superiors of various convents and cannons of the Se, theologians and priests to deliberate on the happenings.
After analysing them, the occurrences were defined as autoritate ordinaria, authentic and divine and a pastoral order was issued, and declared the event as authentic and true. D Cristovao ordered that a grand feast be celebrated in thanksgiving for the great marvel that occurred in the City of Goa, and that this celebration should be held on the Sunday of the Holy Trinity, in the Se Cathedral, as well as all the churches in the archdiocese. He even wrote a pamphlet titled “Tratado do aparecimento de Cristo Crucificado na Cruz de Monte de Boa Vista”
The cross was named Cruz dos Milagres and remained in the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz till a new chapel was built in the locale where the apparition took place. Later, the chapel was replaced by a church. It is said that when the cross was taken to the church, it could not pass through the church door, and it was necessary to widen the entrance.
The church wasn’t very strong, and eventually fell in 1658.
A NEW HOME FOR THE CROSS
An Augustinian friar, named Agostinho dos Reis, began work on rebuilding the church in 1669, and placed the cross in it after completion in 1671.
The Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, also known as Congregação do Oratório, was established in this church by local priests in 1684. The following year, in 1685, Fr Joseph Vaz joined the congregation.
In 1835, on the orders of D Maria II, queen of Portugal, all religious orders and priests of the Congregation had to leave the convent, which eventually led to its ruin. The throne of the main altar was taken to the Church of Socorro, in Bardez, the bell to the church of Nerul and the organ was sent to Tivim.
Fearing that the task of restoring the church was impossible, Archbishop Silva Torres ordered the transfer of the Cross of Miracles to the Se, on May 3, 1845, the feast day of Day of the Holy Cross. And with great solemnity, the cross was brought in a procession to the cathedral and installed in the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Tres Virtudes, whose statue was transferred to the altar of Nossa Senhora das Tres Necessidades. The place of apparition fell into neglect.
In recent years, prayers at the church of the Apparition have been revived, and people throng to this church on the 23rd of every month, where kanji is served to devotees after the religious service.