Miraculous Weeping Cross

The Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa, Asia’s first and largest Convent, was built between 1606- 1627. The Church of Santa Monica, is joined to the Convent on the Southern side.

The nave of the Church of Santa Monica is divided into two parts: the first makes up the main part of the Church with two side Altars, the Main Altar and the Altar of the Weeping Cross. The second part of the Church (presently the Museum of Christian Art) is separated from the first part by an iron railing.

The Altar or the Chapel of the Weeping Cross is divided into two distinct parts: At the lower part, is the retable. At the upper part, is a verandah, having at its centre the image of Christ on the Cross, after which the Chapel/ Altar is named.

The image of the Crucified Christ on the Altar of the Weeping Cross, initially stood on the choir loft, and is reputed to be miraculous. It is said, that on the 8th of February, 1636, the second Friday of Lent, this image of the Crucified Christ opened its eyes many times as well as its mouth as one who desired to speak while blood was seen flowing from its wounds as though it were living. This event was witnessed by some of the cloistered nuns.

This supernatural event was repeated again on the 12th of February, 1636 in the presence of the Viceroy, the Archbishop, aristocrats and a vast multitude of people. After a thorough inquiry this event was declared as miraculous. Since then, the image is held in great veneration. From 1915 onwards, the feast of this Cross that was initially celebrated on the last Sunday of November, was fixed to the 27th of November.

The Church of Santa Monica (Chapel of the Weeping Cross) has been recently restored by the Museum of Christian Art with the financial assistance from the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa.

The Church is open to the public everyday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Pelican Tabernacle Monstrance

The use of animals in religious symbology is often found in both, the Old and the New Testament. It had been common practice since the Middle Ages and continued vigorously in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Pelican has a prominent place in Christian art, based on the words from Psalm 102:7, ‘I am like unto the pelican’. There was a widespread belief that pelicans were so devoted to caring for their young that, if there was no food, they would peck at their own breast and feed their blood to their children. This gesture of the Pelican was compared to the action of Christ on Calvary, who shed His blood for the remission of sins, feeding mankind with His Body and Blood at the Eucharist. However, the truth is actually rather more prosaic: when a pelican catches fish, it retains half digested food in a membrane beneath its beak, to be subsequently fed to its offspring.

Besides the carved or painted representations on the doors of tabernacles, the pelican was also used on this unique 17th century Tabernacle Monstrance, from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. It is an exquisite object with great religious symbolism associated with it. It was originally made for the Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa (Asia’s first and largest convent) and was used on special religious occasions such as Maundy Thursday. Later, it was kept in the Sé Cathedral, Old Goa. It was part of the exhibition held on the occasion of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress held in Bombay in the year 1964 when Pope Paul VI visited India for the first time. It was also used at the Eucharistic Celebration when Pope John Paul II visited Goa in 1986. It is presently on loan for the international exhibition “India and the World” at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Mumbai.

This piece has two distinct but interlinked parts: the spherical base made of wood covered in silver, with a cavity for the tabernacle to which access is gained through an opening at the back; and the Monstrance, which is in the shape of a Pelican in whose breast is an aperture surrounded by a radiating halo to show off the consecrated Host for the adoration of the faithful. This Pelican is an example of the Indo-European art of the first half of the 18th century and is important not just because of its monumental size but also due to its powerful feet, made of teak and covered in silver. Also worthy of note is the treatment of the body and wing plumage, as well as the crest and the beak (the latter looks more like that of an Eagle).

OPENING OF THE RESTORED CHURCH OF SANTA MONICA, OLD GOA

After many years of intensive painstaking restoration work, the 450 year old Church of Santa Monica will be opened to the public on Friday 10th June 2016. At 4.30 p.m., there will be a Presentation on the works carried out, followed by the formal opening by the Archbishop of Goa.

The 450 year old Church of Santa Monica, a part of the Convent of Santa Monica (Asia’s first and largest Convent) in Old Goa, and a State protected Monument, has been restored by the Museum of Christian Art Goa with financial assistance from the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa.

This beautiful church with its exquisite altars, pulpit, miraculous crucifix, statues, paintings and art objects was in desperate need of repair and restoration, and preservation for posterity. The Archdiocese through the Museum of Christian Art Goa sought the technical assistance of the conservation architect, Ketak Nachinolkar and two internationally recognized art restorers, the late Miguel Mateus and Jose Pestana of Portugal to carry out an in-depth study of the state of the church building, its altars, pulpit, statues, and paintings, the extent of deterioration and to draw up a comprehensive restoration project proposal. The proposal was approved by the State Government and provided a grant of Rs. 1.3 crores in two phases and the work entrusted to the conservation architect and the two expert art restorers and their teams.

Restoration work on the building involved complete removal of the cement plaster from the walls, internally and externally and its replacement with the original mud and lime plaster, rebuilding the entire roof whose members were severely damaged the removal of the damaged red cement flooring to reveal the original stone flooring. Removal of the much damaged wooden pulpit revealed the original beautiful carved stone pulpit and the graffito work which surrounded it. The altars needed extensive work as much of the wood work had decayed either due to ingress of moisture or attacked by termites. The statues and paintings all needed a great deal of attention. Original graffito was discovered under layers of lime wash and these have been restored.

The church will now be open to worshipers for veneration at the Miraculous Cross popularly known as the Weeping Cross and to visitors to appreciate the artistic and architectural beauty of the church. The church will also be the venue for sacred music concerts and for temporary art exhibitions organized by the Museum of Christian Art.

Restoration of the Chapel of the Weeping Cross

The Museum of Christian Art, Goa, will soon commence the work of repairs and restoration of the Chapel of the Weeping Cross within the Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa.

The work of repairs and restoration of the chapel which has been made possible by a grant from the State Government through the Department of Archives and Archaeology

includes repairs and restoration of the structure and restoration of the artworks, especially the wooden altars, paintings, sculptures and the pulpit.

Historical importance of the Chapel

The Convent of Santa Monica, located on the Holy Hill or Monte Santo in Old Goa is of considerable architectural and historical importance. It was Asia’s first and largest nunnery, whose construction commenced in 1607 and was completed in1627.

The Chapel of the Weeping Cross is an integral part of the Convent of Santa Monica and occupies the southern part of the complex and has a massive height across three stories of the convent. The chapel has four altars. The main altar is dedicated to St. Monica (the mother of St. Augustine, whose monastery located next to the convent now lies in ruins). The two side altars are dedicated to the Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) and Immaculate Mary. There is also an altar dedicated to the Crucified Christ popularly known as the Weeping Cross.

It is stated that on the 8th February 1636, the image of Christ opened its eyes and from its wounds blood appeared to flow as though it were living. The miracle is said to have occurred again on the 12 of the same month, in the presence of the Viceroy, Bishop, as well as many other people. The image was from then onwards declared miraculous and held in great veneration.

Historically the nave was clearly separated from the chapel altar with a grand archway and had a large choir floor from where female inmates used to attend the services, shielded from the presence of priests in the chapel. The choir floor no longer exists albeit for the massive pillars which then supported it and the nave has been presently converted to house the Museum of Christian Art.