Goa is considered a masterpiece of Portuguese planning and architecture in India. One such striking inclusion to the beautiful city is the Convent of Santa Monica and the Chapel of The Weeping Cross. Built in 1606 in Monte Santo, the historic building took a total of 21 years to get constructed. It was believed to be Asia’s first and largest nunnery that could accommodate around 300 people at once. Perched atop a hill, the church gives a vision of an olden day fortress with massive courtyards and big buttresses. It houses four altars dedicated to St. Monica (mother of St. Augustine), Bom Jesus, Immaculate Mary and Crucified Christ (popularly known as The Weeping Cross).
In ancient days, the church not only welcomed nuns but also widows and also females whose husbands were travelling for work and they were willing to devote their time to Christ. Currently, a part of the church has also been converted into a Museum of Christian Art with dedicated works of ivory and silver, manuscripts and sculptures etc. belonging from the 16th - 19th centuries.
Legends and Myths about the Church
It is believed that on the 8th of February, 1636, the image of Christ placed in the church opened its eyes and real blood flowed out from the wounds of the statue. The incident occured again four days later in the presence of the Viceroy, Bishop, and some other people of the village. Ever since, the statue of Christ is considered miraculous and is held in great reverence.
Architecture of the Church
Bishop Aleixo de Menezes laid down the foundation of the church and the construction started in 1606. The structure has three storeys with several rooms and cells; it has high ceilings, huge arches, spacious courtyards and huge buttresses. The architectural style is a mix of Tuscan, Corinthian and composite designs. The facade has two main doorways and has a prominent statue of Saint Monica and a symbol of Holy Ghost. The doors have elaborate carvings of a traditional Portuguese ship called Caravel and a dragon.
The frontage of the church has carvings of Eucharist, the Paschal Lamb and Holy Ghost and some inscriptions. The convent has a courtyard in the centre called Vale de Lirios meaning lily of the valley. There also used to be a well at the centre of this courtyard called Font de Salvador. The interior of the church has scenes from the Bible depicted on the walls.
The Museum of Christian Art
Lately, the convent has been converted into a Museum of Christian Art. It has paintings, inscriptions, manuscripts and sculptures belonging from the 16th and the 18th centuries. Also, the old monastery of Santa Monica now houses the Mater Dei Institution which is used for religious purposes. The church also holds frequent devotional music concerts and art exhibitions.