Old Goa - Today
CONVENTO DE S. CAETANO
E IGREJA DA DIVINA PRO VIDENCIA
(THE CONVENT OF S. CAJETAN AND CHURCH OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE)
The Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence (popularly
known as the Church of St. Cajetan) and the Convent
of St. Cajetan were built by the Theatines, who were
called Clerigos Regulares da Divina
In 1639, Pope Urban VIII sent three Italian Theatines
to Golconda for missionary work. They were D. Pedro
Avitabili, D. Francisco Marci and D. Antonio Maria Ardizone.
But as they could not go to Golconda, they came to Goa
on 25th October 1640. At first, they stayed at Rui Baracho's,
behind the Collegio de S. Paulo o Veiho. Later, they
changed their residence successively to two other private
houses, Fr. Diogo de Sant Anna's and Beco do Bacharel's,
between the Convent of St. Monica and Rosario Church.
Here they started building a hospital but as they were
foreigners, they were stopped by the Viceroy in 1643
and ordered to leave Goa in 1645. In these circumstances,
their courageous superior D. Pedro Avitabili went to
Portugal to explain to the King, Dom João IV,
how advantageous it would be for the Christian religion
if they were allowed to work in Goa together with the
Portuguese priests. The King was impressed and allowed
them to build the hospital in 1650. Later, in 1655,
they were given permission to build the Church and a
Convent. In 1661, the Church was ready. The Convent
which was built at the same time, was very small in
the beginning and was enlarged later.
From 1640 to 1750, all the Theatines were Europeans.
56 Theatines and three novices were supposed to come
from Europe in 1750, but some died and others returned
to Europe, so that only 34 arrived in Goa. It must be
noted that at this time the relationship between the
Government and the Theatines was very tense on account
of their submission to the Congregation of Propaganda
Fide. As there were no more hopes of getting European
priests, the Prefect (Superior of the Theatines in Goa)
obtained permission to ordain native priests.
It was due to the efforts of the Theatines that Indian
Catholics of lower classes were administered Holy Communion.
The usual practice was to administer it only to the
higher caste Indian Catholics. At the Theatines' request,
the Archbishop convened a public meeting and solid arguments
from Scripture and Tradition were put forth by the Theatines,
specially by D. Antonio Ardizoni, in favour of their
When the Convent was closed in 1835, sixteen Theatines
were forced to leave. Then the Convent was transformed
into a temporary residence for the Governors when they
visited Old Goa on the occasion of religious solemnities.
Later, the gallery of the portraits of viceroys and
Governors was transferred here, as well as the Museu
da India Portuguesa. The Convent was rebuilt and at
present, it houses the St. Pius X Institute for the
pastoral training of priests.
The Church built after the style of St. Peter's in Rome
has an hemispherical cupola and a beautiful Corinthian
façade looking towards the west. Italian father
D. Carlo Ferrarini and lay-brother Francesco Maria Milazzo
were the architects. Mestre Inacio was the sculptor
and Manuel Pereira was the builder. It has four niches
with granite images of Sts. Peter, Paul, John and Mathews.
The following words of Christ are painted in bold letters
on the threshold: Domus mea domus oration/s (My house
is a house of prayer).
At the entrance, we see two basins for the holy water;
they were formerly in the Cathedral. The beautiful Carrara
marble basins belonging to this Convent were taken to
the Cathedral. They had been offered by Cosimo III of
Florence and were brought to Goa by his emissary, Ramponi.
Eight pillars divide the Church into three naves with
six vaulted lateral chapels. The four central pillars
support the cupola with tour large, elegantly carved
arches. Around the cupola we find the following circular
legend: Quaerite pr/mum regnum Del et haec omnia adjicientur
Underneath this cupola there is a 22 meters deep well
with a small opening covered with a square slab. There
are many stories around it. Some say that it was the
holy tank of the hindus, but it is not correct. Moreover
the Inquisition would not allow a Hindu tank to be incorporated
in a Church. Others say that the architect, D. Francisco
Milazzo built this well in order to drain the subsoil
waters which had damaged the walls. But some historians
say that it was built in keeping with a tradition belonging
to a Church in Portugal. Finally there is a simple explanation
that this well belonged to a private house or Casa de
Polvora, and it was closed up when the Church was built.
There is also another well in the verandah which too
has been covered with a slab.
The main altar is remarkable for its admirably wrought
and tastefully gilded altarpiece. It has a sitting image
of Nossa Senhora de Divina Providencia holding a chalice
with host, with two angels at her feet, and the following
legend: Comedite panem et bibite vinum quod miscui vobis.
The walls and the pillars have been adorned with fourteen
paintings. The pulpit has been richly carved. In front,
we see the images of St. Peter and St. Paul and on the
sides the images of a Pope (Paulo IV?), St. Cajetan
and a priest. It is supported by the figures of a bull,
an eagle, an angel and a lion which are the symbols
of the four evangelists. A painting of St. Cajetan with
the child Jesus in his arms, adorns the pulpit.
An interesting thing about this Church is that it has
two sacristies one on either side. Under the main altar
there is a vault which was formerly the cemetery of
the friars. Since 1842, the embalmed bodies of Portuguese
Governors were kept here before they were taken to Portugal.
The Theatines had an autographed letter of St. Cajetan
which perhaps had been brought when they first arrived
in Goa. When they were forced to leave the Convent,
D.Jose Avelino Rozarlo Dias took this letter with him
to Camorlirn (Rala) where he lived for the rest of his
life; but in his old age he returned the letter to the
Administrator of St. Cajetan's Convent. It was exhibited
in 1922, on the occasion of the Exposition of St. Francis
Xavier. Later, in 1924, it was taken to Rome for a missionary
exhibition and was returned in 1929. Now it lies, perhaps,
in the Archives of the Bishop's Palace in Panjim.