Goa is an island on the East Indian coast.
Old Goa is a UNESCO world heritage site and is famed for its opulent buildings and churches reminiscent of the glory days of "Golden Goa". It was abandoned by the Portuguese officially in 1843 when the capital was moved to Panjim or Panaji. Today, most of the remaining buildings and churches are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and the church services are maintained by the Archdiocese of Goa.
For a nautical colonial nation such as Portugal to settle on an island was helpful for purposes of overseas trade and defence, but did not necessarily help those who came to offer the Christian religion to these areas. In the year 1510, the Portuguese sailor and explorer Afonso de Albuquerque took possession of the island of Goa off the Malabar coast of India. The island then remained in Portuguese hands for more than 4½ centuries. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to set foot on Indian soil on 6th May 1542. Goa became a diocese (i.e., received a bishop of its own) in 1534, and then in 1554 was elevated to an archdiocese. This meant that the Archbishop of Goa was the senior official of the church for all of the Portuguese Far East. He had responsibility for Cochin, Mayalapur (near Madras), Malacca, Macao (part of China) and Punai (in Japan).
Administratively in the Portuguese colonial hierarchy and for the Church hierarchy, Goa became a Portuguese "Rome of the East", and was referred to by that description. In the year 1571, the Portuguese province of the Augustinians created a special Augustinian Congregation of The East. For Augnet pages about the invitation of the Augustinians from the king of Portugal to go to the Near East, click here. Twelve Augustinians departed Lisbon on 18 March 1572, and on 3rd September 1572 arrived at Goa. The Order then remained at Goa until 1663. From the previous paragraphs, it can be seen that Goa had been established for 62 years when the first twelve Augustinians arrived there. The pioneering ministry in Goa had long been handled by the Franciscans and Jesuits.
A dozen Augustinian friars on their arrival in Goa built the first Augustinian priory there in 1572. This simple priory was rebuilt 1597-1602, mainly through the efforts of Gaspar de Sao Vicente O.S.A., and dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. The project was assisted by the fact that at this period the Archbishop of Goa was a capable Augustinian, Dr Alexio (Alexis) de Menezes O.S.A., whose patronal favour gave the Order of Saint Augustine a special place in the society of Goa.
This new Augustinian monastery, which became the richest monastery in Goa. Beside it was the massive Church of Our Lady of Grace - the largest church in Goa. It great height made it one of the greatest-ever feats of construction in Goa. During its construction, the high vault fell down twice, but the Italian architect would not give up. ID0722 / TWO When it was built a third time, it is said that he and his only son stood under the vault and asked for a heavy cannon to be fired to test the stability of the structure. It did not collapse down again until the building fell into neglect much later in its history. When that happened, the bell, which was Goa's second largest, was moved to the Fort Aguada Lighthouse initially (1841-1871) and in 1871 transferred to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Panaji.
Towards the south of the church, the novitiate (house of formation for persons joining the Augustinians locally) of the Augustinians was an integral part of the complex, while the majestic 'Collegio do Populo' was provided for education to the priesthood of the candidates after their novitiate year. It was linked to the Augustinian Novitiate by a bridge over the Rua dos Judeus ("Street of the Jews"). This group of imposing Augustinian buildings was abandoned some time after religious orders were suppressed in Portugal in 1834-1835.
The church fell into neglect and the vault collapsed in 1842. In 1931 the façade and half of the tower fell down, and was followed by more sections in 1938. All that is left of this building complex today is one of four tall towers (see photos above and on the previous page) and the church's large bell that was moved to Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Panaji. Although leaning, the lonely tower retains close to its original height of 46 meters (150 feet) overlooks the old city. All else is now a heap of ruins covered by vegetation.
We now retrace our steps to the year 1595, when Rev. Dr Alexio de Menezes O.S.A., Count of Cantanheda, was appointed Archbishop of Goa. He was transferred back to Portugal to become the Archbishop of Braga in 1612. He was also appointed by Portugal as the Viceroy of India several times. While Archbishop of Goa, he saved the Catholic Church in Kerala (Cochin) by conducting the famous Synod of Diamper (Udayamperoor) in 1599 which brought back to the Catholic fold the "Saint Thomas Christians." One of the most notable successes of Menezes was to establish the first congregation of Catholic religious sisters in India. Previous proposals in this regard had not been approved by the King of Portugal on the stated grounds that Goa was "a land of soldiers and licentious people, in which it would be impossible to maintain the reverence of these venerable ladies."
Later documents, however, revealed that the King was reluctant to lose the civilising effects that the small number of women of Portuguese origin and of mixed blood in Goa could have by undertaking marriage and childbearing. Menezes prevailed, however, and in 1606 the Sisters of St Monica began. They were under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop, but were assigned the Rule of Augustine for their way of life, and were to be provided with an Augustinian as a spiritual director. Before long, there were twenty-five members, and a convent was built for them near the great Augustinian church and monastery.
In 1622 Augustinians had a seminary on the island of Neura (but then shifted it), and a church there in 1624, (2) at St Inez (until 1776), (3) at Palmar Pequeno at Mandur (until 1835) and (4) in Old Goa (until 1835). Growth was rapid. In 1633 there were 70 Augustinians at Our Lady of Grace, 35 in the House of Studies of Saint Augustine, 15 in Cochin, 12 in Damao, 15 in Thana, where there was a novitiate, and 10 in Chaul. In Bassain, they administered three parishes, and in Diu a house of refuge. They had gone to Golconda in central, founded a church at Barnagar, and built churches in the islands off Goa. In 1804 there were nine Augustinian communities in the Goa area, with a total of 79 Augustinians, and remained at that number until 1830. With the suppression of religious orders in Portugal and Portuguese colonies after 1835, the Augustinians were forced to become secular priests, and the Order as such ceased to exist locally.
(Continued on the next page,)Photo GalleryFor the Augnet photo gallery on the Vicariate of India (including Goa and the above pictures), click here.
Links Location of Goa on the map of India.http://mapsofindia.com/maps/goa/goalocation.htm
District map of Goa. http://mapsofindia.com/maps/goa/goa.htm
Churches of Old Goa. Past and Present. http://www.goa2u.com/churches.htm