The Church in the shape of a boat, along the banks of the river Mandovi, in Ribandar, is dedicated to Our Lady of the Help, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda em Ribandar, Goa, in Portuguese. The parishioners celebrate the feast every year on the second Sunday of November, which this year falls on 12, with great zeal.
Originally there was an Irmid, a chapel here, constructed between 1551 and 1554, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and it was affiliated to the early Church of Our Lady of Livra Febres in Chimbel. The Portuguese constructed the Church here in gratitude to Our Lady who saved their lives from a ship wreck in 1565. The following is the story behind it.
A big Portuguese ship (patmar) got caught in the storm in the Arabian Sea. Some of its sails got destroyed and the ship began to drift away. Seeing this situation, the terrified captain of the ship sought the intercession of Our Lady. It is said that as he prayed one could see the sign in the sea of the stars (Maris Estella) and Our Lady guiding the ship along the Mandovi River and it got docked in Ribandar where the chapel stood. During the course of the storm, one could hear a voice, which said – Arribar e Andar, which means Toddir voch or Vhor ani chol. In gratitude to the favour done by Our Lady and in keeping his promise, the captain constructed the Church here before 1623 and dedicated it to Nossa Senhora de Ajuda.
According to Mons F. X. Gomes Catao, the Ribandar Church was raised to the status of the Church before 1656; it was strengthened in 1711. Fr G Schurhammer, a German Jesuit researcher, is of the opinion that the Church here was constructed before 1538 and it was raised to the status of the Church by Dom Joao Afonso de Albuquerque, the archbishop of Goa, who died in 1553.
The Church had the honour of welcoming the ship carrying the incorruptible body of St Francis Xavier from Malacca. A cannon salute welcome was accorded to the ship and the body of St Francis Xavier was kept at the Ribandar Church on the night of March 14, 1554, before it was taken to St Paul’s College, Old Goa.
The Ribandar Church has a three-storey bell tower to the right and in front of it is a big cross. Over the main altar is a painting of a ship with Our Lady depicted on it with a similar fresco found on the exterior wall of the Church on the side of the river. Both these paintings commemorate the help received by the Portuguese sailors at sea.
Legends say the false ceiling of the Ribandar church was built from the wood of the wrecked ship. The pulpit has a niche with the image of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, which belonged to the ancient chapel.
Along the road on either side of the parking lot are two mounted crosses, the distance between them indicates the size of the ship.
The Church has four altars; the main altar is dedicated to the patron. To its right are the images of St Anthony and St Monica; to the left of St Peter and St Augustine. An altar-piece was brought here from the college of St Augustine in 1841.
The altar on the left-hand side has on top the image of St Michael, below it in the centre that of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, to the right on top that of St John the Baptist; in the middle of Crucified Jesus, to its left that of St Sebastian and to the right of Our Lady of the Assumption and below it in the middle that of Infant Jesus.
Besides this there is another altar that depicts the scene of Calvary, below it is the image of Our Lady and St John. On the other side is an altar dedicated to Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It has three chapels without resident priests that come under its jurisdiction, where Mass is celebrated during the Novena and on the Feast Day.
The writer is Superior at Casa Professa, Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa