Old Goa is famous for its churches, most of which are centuries old, dating back to the Portuguese era. One of these churches is the Sé Catedral de Santa Catarina, better known as Se Cathedral.
Built in the Portuguese-Manueline architectural style, the cathedral has an interesting feature inside – a big, black wooden cross, not too far away from the entrance.
ABOUT THE CROSS
There are a couple of interesting stories surrounding the cross. According to the most popular one, in 1619, Fr Manuel Rodrigues, a priest from Se Cathedral, placed a wooden cross on a rock on a hillock in the city. This hillock, called Monte de Boa Vista, had a beautiful view of the entire city of Goa.
At around 3 pm on February 23, 1619, the cross was found to be increasing in size, reaching a height of around 3 m, and people from the city, down below, could see several red flags waving in the air near this cross.
At the time, an image of the Crucified Christ could also be seen on the cross, and there was a glow all around.
On March 5 of the same year, another miraculous event is believed to have taken place when water gushed from the rock on which the cross had been placed by Fr Manuel.
At the time, the then archbishop of Goa, D Frei Cristovao de Sa e Lisboa called for a meeting of all the superiors of various convents, theologians and priests to discuss the mysterious goings-on.
The events were declared to be authentic and the archbishop ordered a grand feast to be celebrated on the Sunday of the Holy Trinity – in the Se Cathedral, as well as all the churches in the archdiocese.
The cross was named Cruz dos Milagres and a chapel was eventually built in the location where the apparition took place. Later, the chapel was replaced by a church. Unfortunately, the church wasn’t very strong, and eventually fell in 1658.
A NEW LOCATION FOR THE CROSS
The church of the apparition was rebuilt in 1671, and the cross was placed inside. The Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri (Congregação do Oratório) was established in this church by the local priests in 1684.
The following year, in 1685, Fr Joseph Vaz (now St Joseph Vaz) joined the order.
In 1835, on the orders of the queen of Portugal, D Maria II, all religious orders and priests of the congregation had to leave the convent, eventually leading 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 to Tivim.
Archbishop Silva Torres ordered that the Cross of Miracles be transferred to the Se, on May 3, 1845, the feast day of the Holy Cross. The cross was brought in a procession, with due reverence, to Se Cathedral and installed in the Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Tres Virtudes.
As a result, the place of the apparition at Monte de Boa Vista was abandoned.
In recent years, prayers at the church of the apparition have been revived, with people thronging to the location on the 23rd of February, where kanji is served to devotees after the religious service. A huge convent of the congregation of Oratorians, and the recently-built St Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre are also located there.