Old Goa - Today


In front of the Church of St. Francis of Assis, there runs a steep narrow road which leads to the chapel of Sta. Catarina. The same road would lead to the Hospital Real (Royal). The city of Adil Shah had four gates: the Ribeira gate where this chapel stands; the Fortaleza gate where the arch of Vice-Roys was built; the Mandovi gate near S. Caetano's convent and the Bacais gate near the cemetery. Albuquerque entered through the Ribeira gate when he conquered Goa and the Muslims fled through the Mandovi and Bacais gates.

In commemoration of this fact, Albuquerque ordered that a Chapel dedicated to Sta. Catarina should be built in the same year (Goa was reconquered on November 25, feast day of Sta. Catarina. Afonso de Albuquerque had chosen Sta. Catarina de Alexandria as the Patroness of the City. Initially, it was a mud structure covered with palm leaves. Before he left for Malacca he ordered that it should be enlarged.

At the request of Albuquerque, King D. João Ill ordered that on December 25, the entire Senate with the Cathedral Chapter and other religious groups should go in procession to this chapel for thanksgiving. But this custom had been introduced much earlier by Albuquerque. Now, it was given great solemnity. The Senate appointed a Chaplain. Subsequently the religious zeal had dimmed and in the 17th century the chapel was closed and it was opened every year only on November 25. But later, the Senate realized its responsibility and once again it was opened. In 1804,it was entrusted to Franciscans and later to secular priests. On November25, 1840, the responsibility of the Chapel was assigned to the Cathedral Chapter. It was rebuilt in 1550, by the Governor Jorge Cabral in an anti-Manueline style. Over the door of the Chapel there was a stone slab which was Later fixed in the wall, near the side door, with the following inscription: AQVI NESTE LVGAR ESTAVA A PORTAJPORQVE ENTROV 0 GOVERNADOR/AFFONSO DALBOQVERQVE E TOMOV I ESTA CIDADE AOS MOVROS EM / DIA DE SANTA CATARINA I ANNO 1510 EM CVJO LOVVOR / EMEMORIA 0 GOVERNADOR / JORGE CABRAL MANDOV FAZER / ESTA CASA ANNO DE 1550 A CVSTA DE S.A. (Here was the door by which the Governor Afonso de Albuquerque entered and took this city from the Mohammedans on the day of Sta. Catarina in the year 1510, in whose honour and memory the Governor George Cabral, ordered this Chapel to be built in the year 1550, at the expense of His Highness).

In 1931, on the occasion of the Exposition of the Relics of St. Francis Xavier, the Archaeological Commission placed another slab with the following inscription: PORTA DA MURALHA DA CIDADE MAOMETANA (Gate of the Muslim city's wall).

There is still another slab representing St. Martin mounted on a horse back and offering a piece of his garment to a beggar, with the following inscription: POR ESTA PORTA / ENTROV DOM JOAO / DE CASTRO DEFENSOR I DA INDIA QVANDO TRIVMPHOU DA CA / MBAYA E TODO ESTE MVRO LHE FOI DER I RVBADO ERA DE 1547. (By this door entered Dom João de Castro, Defender of India when he conquered Cambay, and this whole wall was demolished for him.) This slab was formerly in the Chapel of St. Martin; it had been placed there when D. João de Castro returned victorious from Diu in 1547.

The frontispiece in renaissance style has an image of Our Lady and a monstrance. Formerly, this Chapel was the centre of attraction on the occasion of Sta. Catarina's feast on 25th November. On this day, a big procession could be seen coming from this Chapel and going' to the St Catedral where holy Mass was celebrated. The Central Government of Portugal appointed Architect Baltasar de Castro for the restoration of the Convents & Monuments of Old Goa. This was in preparation for the Exposition of 1952. He arrived in 1951 and began with the Chapel of Sta. Catarina. The vault was dismantled and rebuilt with the same stones. The sacristy was rebuilt. Four stone crosses were placed on the roof. The one that is above the main altar is in gothic style