Old Goa - Today
CONVENTO E IGREJA DE S. FRANCISCO
(THE CON VENTAND THE CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI)
This is the last among the majestic façade Churches
with towers on both sides, built in Old Goa. The decadence
of this type of Churches is patent here. There is no
proportion between the octogonal towers and the main
body, consequently the façade loses its elegance.
The Franciscans were the first religious to arrive in
Goa. They accompanied Albuquerque in 1510 and preached
the Gospel in the island of Anjediva (near Karwar),
before the reconquest of Goa. They were followed by
the Jesuits (1543), the Dominicans (1548), the Augustinians
(1572), the Carmelites (1612?) and the Theatines (1640).
It is not correct to suggest that soon after the reconquest,
Albuquerque offered them a mosque which was transformed
in a church. The fact is that the Franciscan Antonio
Louro, left Portugal in 1517, in order to build a Franciscan
convent in Goa. He presented to the Governor, Lopo Soares,
a royal letter from the Portuguese King by which he
and his eight colleagues were permitted to erect a Convent
at public expense. The Franciscans wanted to build the
Convent in the city compound, but as this was small
and already crowded, the Governor suggested another
place. The Franciscans would not agree and the Governor
allowed them to choose a big house with an adjacent
garden, which belonged to the deceased tanadarJoão
Machado; the house was near the black stone cross which
we see in the courtyard of the present Church. The Francis-cans
adapted this house for their convent. On further petitions
to the King, they obtained additional ground. In 1521,
the first Fran-ciscan Church was built. This Church
which was dedicated to the Holy Spirit was consecrated
by the Archbishop, Fr. Aleixo de Menezes, in 1603. Later
in 1661, this Church was demolished on account of its
weak structure and a new majestic and richly decorated,
as we see today, was built; however the portico of the
Old Church was retained.
The attached Convent was also ready in 1521. As it was
showing signs of deacy, it was repaired in 1707 and
1762. When this house was closed in 1835, 27 Franciscans
were forced to leave. The Church remained closed for
a long time till 1876 when the Governor, João
Tavares Almeida, opened it and solemnized St. Francis
of Assisi's feast with great pomp at his own expense.
In 1862, the Archbishop had suggested to the Governor
that the Chorão Seminary should be transferred
here, but it did not materialize due to an epidemic.
Many important events took place in this Convent, such
as the 3rd All India Catholic Conference in 1922 and
the Fifth Indian Eucharistic Congress in 1931. At present
the Archaeological Museum is housed in a portion of
The portico which belonged to the former Church, is
the only specimen besides the Rosario Church, of the
Manueline style which was common in Goa in the first
period after the conquest. This exquisitely carved portico,
writes Cunha Rivara, represents two epochs the prosperity
epoch under the Portuguese King, Dom Manuel, and epoch
of decline under Dom Afonso VI. It must be however noted
that this portico conveys only a dim reality of the
rich Manueline architecture of that epoch. According
to Rafael Moreira, this Manueline portico was executed
around 1526 by Leonardo Vaz, who until 1520 had been
one of the contractors active in the Mosteiro de Belem
The side doors have Franciscan emblem above them. Just
inside the entrance we see two basins for holy water,
one in Roman and the other in Indian style. The vaulted
ceiling has square panels with flower designs. The pavement
is covered with stone slabs with epitaphs, adorned with
coat-of-arms of different eminent persons who lay there.
This Church is a real Museum of paintings depicting
different episodes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi
and the history of Franciscans. We find here their Saints,
Martyrs, Kings, Cardinals and Bishops.
The side walls of the main chapel have eight paintings
of Franciscan Kings and 16 episodes from the life of
St. Francis of Assisi:
1. An angel announces the birth of Francis to his mother.
2. Three boys adore the child while three gentlemen
3. Child's Baptism.
4. Two ladies take the child.
5. Christ crucified addresses to the kneeling Francis,
the following words: Vade Francisce repara domum meam
quae, labitur (Francis, go and repair my house which
is falling down).
6. Francis renounces the paternal heritage in presence
of the Bishop of Assisi.
7. Pope Honorius Ill gives to Francis the bull of his
8. Three beautiful dames symbolize the virtues of poverty,
humility and chastity.
9. Francis plays with children.
10. Two religious fall prostrate when they see Our Lady
entrusting the Child Jesus to Francis.
11. Francis accepts the sheep offered by a peasant.
12. Francis converts Meledin, the Sultan of Damascus.
13. Francis resuscitates a child.
14. Francis helps three thieves who later become religious.
15. Francis shows one of his wounds to Pope Gregory
IX who would not believe that Francis had stigmata.
The side chapels have richly carved, images. The retable
of the main altar presents the image of kneeling Francis
embraced by Christ Crucified. The large octogonal tabernacle
is delicately carved: it is supported by the four Evangelists;
it has small doors which are withdrawn when the Blessed
Sacrament is exposed. The pulpit has a beautiful painting
of Francis while preaching to the fish.