Old Goa - Today

This is one of the first churches built by the Portuguese, in 1542. This Church elicits admiration even today. It belongs to the first period of Church building activities in Goa. Its design is completely different from that of the other Churches we see today. It has only one tower and the characteristic cylindrical turrets for its façade. Except for the portico of St. Francis of Assisi's, the Rosario Church is the only religious architecture specimen of Manueline style in Goa. This Church which was built by the reinois (from Portugal), has a ribbed vaulting in the chancel and in other parts of the Church. The other Churches of this period were demolished either because they were too small or because their structure was very weak. The Rosario Portals, writes Rafael Moreira, are pure copies of those from the Graca in Evora, Portugal (1532) drawn by the famous French sculptor Nicolas Chanterene, also replicated in Infante D. Luis palace at Flor da Rosa (1534-35). Goa's first Bishop was a personal friend of Chanterene.

It is situated on the hill called Monte Santo (Holy mount) or Monte do Rosario, so called because it harboured many religious buildings. Afonso de Albuquierque was stationed here with a portion of his army when Antao de Nogueira informed him about the victory against Adil Shah on November 25, 1510. He himself requested that this Church be built together with another one dedicated to St. Anthony, patron saint of the military. This wish was fulfilled by Governor Martim Afonso de Souza. In 1931, the Portuguese Archaeological Commission placed a marble slab in the wall of the Church with the following inscription: DESTE ALTO ASSISTIU / AFONSO DE ALBUQUERQUE / EM 25 - XI-1510 A / RECONQUISTA DE GOA. (From this height Afonso de Albuquerque witnessed the reconquest of Goa on 25.XI.1510.)

Ttii full was not inria until 1526 when Pedro Faria, ex-Captain of Malacca, purchased it and built a house for himself, assigning the remaining part for the building of the Church of Rosario and of the Chapel of St. Anthony. Later, the house of Pedro Faria was acquired by the Jesuits and was transformed into a residence for the professed members and afterwards into a Novitiate.

The Church was raised to the rank of Parochial Church in 1543. It was later known as Priorado. But it was downgraded in 1869, and affiliated, as a Chapel, to the Se Cathedral The Church belonged to the Dominicans and was one of the most populous parishes in the city. It was held in great veneration, because according to tradition it was here that St. Francis conducted catechism class every evening and the people gathered at the sound of his bell. But there is controversy about this. In his letter dated 18th September, 1542, St. Francis Xavier wrote that he taught catechism to the children, in a Chapel of Our Lady near the Royal Hospital (me vuelvo a una Hermita de Ia Santissima Virgem que esta muy cerca de el Hospital: alii enseno). The Church of Our lady of Rosario was built in 1543; and even supposing that it had been built in 1542 as somebody suggested, it does not seem to be the 'hermita' to which the Saint refers because it was not close to the Hospital, whereas the Chapel of Immaculate Conception was nearby; perhaps it was here that St. Francis taught catechism.

The feast of Our Lady of Rosario was celebrated with great pomp. The well known traveller, Pietro della Valle, who was present on one occasion writes: "On the evening of 30 September, the Dominican fathers organize a procession together with the mem-bers of the Society of Rosario with many chariots and statues dressed up and jeweled according to the fashion of the epoch. All the streets through which the procession passes are decorated with evergreens and the windows with tapestry. The whole population of the city flocks here to see this procession...".

On the portico of the Church there is the following inscription: ASSUNTA EST MARIA IN COELUM (Mary was assumed into heaven). On the altar above the statue of Our Lady of Rosario, there is an image of Our Lady of Sorrows. Indian decorative motifs such as cashews, mangoes, flowers are seen on the main altar.

The lateral Chapels have retables representing the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The baptismal font is made up of a single granite block.

An interesting feature of this Church is the alabaster mausoleum, in Persian style, of Catarina a Piro located in the wall of the chancel. It has the following epitaph: AQVI IAZ DONA CATER-INA MOLHER DE / GARCIA DESA A OVAL PEDE A OVEM ISTO LER/QVE PECA MISERICORDIA A DEOS PERA SVA ALMA. (Here lies Dona Caterina, wife of Garcia de Sá, who requests the readers of these lines to beg God's mercy on her soul). Below, there is the sepulcher of Garcia de Sá (+ 1549) who was Captain of Malacca, and brought this lady of plebeian origin born in Miragaia in Portugal and married her in articulo mortis (at the time of death), when he was Governor. Tradition has it that St. Francis Xavier administered the marriage oath.

The bell of this Church has the following inscription: ASSUNTA EST MARIA IN COELUM GAUDENT ANGELI LAUDANTES I BENEDICUNT DOMINUM /(effigy of Our Lady) AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA / DOMINUS TECUM BENEDICTA TU IN I MULIERIBUS ET BENEDICTUS FRUCTUS / VENTRIS TUI JESU SANCTA MARIA / PETRUS DIAS BOCARROS FECIT / 1618. (Mary was assumed into heaven. The angels rejoice and bless the Lord in praise. Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary. Peter Dias Bocarro made the bell (in 1618).