Next Time You Are In Goa, You Must Visit The Museum of Christian Art

The entrance to the Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa
The entrance to the Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa

The Museum of Christian Art (MoCA), the first of its kind in Asia, is housed in the 17th-century Convent of Santa Monica, a heritage building of significant historical and architectural value that is close to UNESCO World Heritage Monuments in Old Goa. It was established in 1994 in partnership with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi, and the Portuguese Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

It was shut for renovation for the past five years and reopened to the public in May 2022.

The artefacts at MoCA are noted for their antiquity and distinct Indo-Portuguese influence and are acknowledged globally as a perfect symbiosis of two cultural manifestations, Indian and European. This has drawn visitors and study experts from all over the world, including India. The almost 200-item collection from the 16th to the 20th century has been organised by type&mdashsculpture, metalwork, embroidered textiles, painting, furniture, and books.

More than 450 years of Portuguese Goa is represented in the collection, with one of the earliest items being a chalice and paten from the late 16th century. Here's a glimpse at what you can see at the museum.

The Sculptures

Look out for a 17th century sculpture of the Infant Jesus, The Good Shepherd which is carved from a single piece of ivory. It is the treatment of the pedestal which makes this an exemplary piece of Indo-Portuguese hybrid art. The depiction of the subject is unusual when compared to European representations. Lush green foliage of a symbolic Tree of Life surrounding this peaceful scene would have once been part of the original, now missing. 

Another gorgeous piece is the pristine white sculpture of&nbspthe Madonna as the Nirmala Matha or&nbspimmaculate mother. Once agan, it is a reflection of the Indo-Portuguese artistic traditions that evolved over four centuries.

The Textiles

The museum houses a variety of rich textiles like the lavishly worked Bishop's Cope, which showcase the high level of skill that Indo-Portuguese embroidery art achieved. An 18th century chasuble displays the influence of highly worked princely Mughal vests with their elaborate Zardozi-laden designs and motifs. 

The Paintings

Among the collections is a 17th century depiction of The Holy Family Blessed By The Holy Trinity - a Flemish-style painting on wood of the Virgin Mary&rsquos coronation to which the Holy Family has been added is a striking example of Indo-Portuguese art.

The Metalworks

Among the collection of metal carvings is that of an infant Jesus in a canopy bed. A delicate example of the Indian silversmith&rsquos art, the bed has lavishly used Indo-Portuguese pearl motif, and a star-shaped floral motif on the sides of the bed. The latters suggests the white flowers of Carissa carandas that grows wild in the hills of Goa. 


MoCA also organises events and talks from time to time. For instance, they screened the film Painted Hymns - The Chapels of Santa Monica which documents fading 17th-century murals in a poetic form. Last year they had organised an exclusive series of illustrated talks conducted on Christian art.

More information here.

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