Old Goa - Today

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 proposition.

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 vobis.

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.