Art Guide: Explore The Museum Of Christian Art In Old Goa

Your guide to centuries of captivating masterpieces and their cultural significance nestled nicely in the majestic Santa Monica of Old Goa
For representation purpose only
For representation purpose onlyDepositphotos

The Museum of Christian Art (MoCA) rests in the former capital of Portuguese India, Old Goa, or Velha Goa, situated beside the Mandovi River in Goa. It is housed in the 17th-century Convent of Santa Monica, a heritage monument of great historic and architectural importance which is located in the vicinity of Old Goa's UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. First of its kind in the whole of Asia, the museum was inaugurated on 23rd January, 1994 by Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, erstwhile President of India. It was set up in collaboration with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi.

Here is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about the Museum of Christian Art before you visit.

About the Museum

The museum first opened its doors in 1994, but it underwent extensive renovation between 2017 and 2020, resulting in significant upgrades. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the reopening, the museum finally welcomed visitors back in 2022 with numerous enhancements. This project was a joint venture between the Archdiocese of Goa, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation from Portugal, and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi.

Initially, the museum was located at the Seminary of Rachol in Salcete, Goa. It now boasts a remarkable collection of Christian art objects crafted from ivory, gold, silver, wood, and textiles, dating from the 16th to the mid-20th century. These art pieces, known as Indo-Portuguese art, are famous worldwide for their fusion of Indian and European cultural influences. They are highly esteemed not only for their antiquity but also for their distinctive Indian contributions.

The museum is a popular attraction that is frequently recommended by international travel guides. It draws visitors, scholars, and dignitaries from around the world. Furthermore, its art objects have been featured in exhibitions across India, Japan, Europe, and Australia. One of its prized possessions, the Pelican Monstrance and Tabernacle, has held a prominent place in exhibitions such as "India and the World - A History in Nine Stories," which was a collaborative effort between CSMVS Mumbai, The British Museum in London, and the National Museum in New Delhi.

Notable Exhibits

The museum has a rich collection consisting of sculpture, metalwork, embroidered textiles, painting, furniture, and books. Among them, here are a few of the notable exhibits which the travellers must not miss.

Processional Banner of St. Joseph

Processional Banner of St. Joseph
Processional Banner of St. JosephMuseum of Christian Art -Old Goa/facebook

The Processional Banner of St. Joseph is a silk and gold-embroidered velvet banner from the early 20th century. The face, hands, and feet of St. Joseph and Child Jesus are made of ivory, which is a rare material to be used in textile work.

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity
Holy TrinityMuseum of Christian Art -Old Goa/facebook

The sculpture of the Holy Trinity, carved out of white marble, is surrounded by angels amidst dense clouds. It depicts the symbols of Christ's Passion, which used to be a common practice until the Council of Trent banned it in 1563. The positioning and intricate drapery of the figures give it an Italian-style appearance. Notably, the Father is portrayed in a maternal Pietá pose, while an Orb supports one of the Son's feet. A short loincloth with a front knot suggests it has a European origin.

Saint Ursula

Saint Ursula
Saint UrsulaMuseum of Christian Art -Old Goa/facebook

Saint Ursula was a British royal who was promised marriage to a pagan ruler on the condition that he converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, while returning to the British Isles with her maids-in-waiting after the wedding, their caravan was attacked by the Huns, and they were all shot with arrows, resulting in a tragic end for Saint Ursula. The oil painting of Saint Ursula depicts her in a rich costume with a red mantle, which symbolises martyrdom. The painting includes her customary attributes, such as a gem-encrusted royal crown, a halo, ribbon-adorned hair typical of the 17th century, the arrow of her martyrdom, and a green palm frond on a table.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of SorrowsMuseum of Christian Art -Old Goa/facebook

The Friday before Good Friday, known as the 'Friday of Sorrows,' is a day that focuses on the pain and suffering experienced by Mary, the mother of Christ, during His Passion. Mary is known by various names related to her sorrows, such as Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, Our Lady of Piety, or Mother of Sorrows. In religious art, she is often depicted mournfully with seven knives or daggers piercing her heart, causing it to bleed. This painting portrays the Virgin Mary with her heart pierced by seven swords arranged like a halo, symbolising devotion to her seven sorrows.

Christ on His Way to Calvary

Christ on His Way to Calvary
Christ on His Way to CalvaryMuseum of Christian Art -Old Goa/facebook

This painting portrays the 7th station of the Cross, out of 14. In this station, Christ can be seen carrying the Cross on his back and stopping before his Mother and the Saints who follow her. The foreground portrays Christ turning his face towards the observer, while the background showcases the houses of Jerusalem.


19th-century sketch of Convent of Santa Monica
19th-century sketch of Convent of Santa Monicamocagoaofficial/instagram

The Convent of Santa Monica is located on Holy Hill, en route to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. The architectural style combines Tuscan, Corinthian, and composite designs. The three-story building was initially constructed with laterite and lime plaster in 1606 and completed in 1627. However, it was destroyed by fire in 1636 and rebuilt the following year. It was also known as the Royal Monastery, as it enjoyed the patronage of royalty.

The ceiling of Convent of Santa Monica
The ceiling of Convent of Santa Monicasreekala.m.g/instagram

The square building features a large inner courtyard surrounded by a secluded verandah, numerous cells, and halls. The church's facade has a Santa Monica statue and the Holy Ghost symbol. The vaulted ceilings are exquisitely painted, and there were 11 chapels in the convent, a novitiate and a seminary for girls. The church in the convent is dedicated to St. Mary. In the 1960s, the convent was renamed the Mater Dei Institute, inaugurated in 1964.

Plan Your Visit

Timings: 10 am - 5 pm

Entry fees: Museum's admission fee is Rs 100 for adults and Rs 50 for students. You can book tickets as well as guided tours on their website.

Address: Convent of Santa Monica, Holy Hill, next to the ruins of the St. Augustine Monastery, Old Goa

Monuments Nearby

Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus
Basilica of Bom JesusDepositphotos

The iconic church is considered a pilgrimage centre and has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and is an example of classic plane architecture introduced by the Jesuits. The basilica is a monument that is representative of the Society of Jesus.

Timings: 8:30 am - 8:00 pm

Immaculate Conception Church

Immaculate Conception Church
Immaculate Conception ChurchDepositphotos

The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church hosts daily Mass in English, Konkani, and Portuguese. The church, built in the colonial Portuguese Baroque style, was originally constructed as a chapel in 1541 on a hill overlooking the city of Panjim.

Timings: 6:00 am - 8:30 pm

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary
The Church of Our Lady of the RosaryWikimedia Commons

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary is a Catholic church that was built between 1544 - 1547, and it is part of the World Heritage Site of churches and convents in Goa. The Classic Gothic style, Portuguese-Manueline style, and Renaissance style have influenced the church. The design of the church is quite simple, with the only decoration on the exterior being cornice-style rope twists on the towers. The church is a three-storied structure with buttresses built, giving it the look of a fortress. The Gothic style of architecture is prominent in the portico of the church.

Timings: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

How To Reach

Air: The Dabolim Airport is located 29 km from Panaji.

Rail: The Karmali railway station is the nearest railhead.

Road: Buses depart frequently from Panaji's Kadamba bus terminal to various destinations in Old Goa. Additionally, auto rickshaws and taxis are available for hire, although they are more expensive but more convenient.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller