Old Goa has the credit of having a number of churches which have been included in UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Among these are the ruins of St. Augustine Church which was perhaps the largest one in Goa . The Church of St Augustine was constructed by the joint efforts of 12 Augustian Friars after they arrived in Goa on 3rd September 1572 AD. They built the church on the Holy Hill at Old Goa. The construction of the church was completed by 1602 AD. A ban was imposed by the Portuguese government against the Augustines. The church and the convent thereafter were deserted.
The ruins of 46-metre high Bell Tower without the bell can be seen from some distance and attract attention of visitors. Five storied arched belfry tower built of laterite formed part of facade of the church facing east. This tower is one of the four towers of St. Augustine Church. The Church had eight richly adorned chapels and four altars and a convent with numerous cells. The ruins of chapels, altars and extensive convent with numerous cells can be seen even today around the tower. The bell was first placed in the Fort Aguada Light House, where it remained from 1841 to 1871 AD. Finally it was put in the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Panaji in 1871 AD and it is still in working condition. The remaining tower is one of four towers shown in sketch below.
It is reported that the convent was used for missionary and charity work by the charitable institution of the Misericordia .The church buildings finally fell due to neglect and resulted in the collapse on 8 September 1842. The Government appropriated the property and sold the materials of the remains of the church in 1843. The facade and half of the tower fell in 1931.
Archeological Survey of India has undertaken excavation as well restoration work of this monument which has being going on for some years now. When I last visited in January 2006 I noticed lot of activity.
I was very keen to present here some old pictures of this massive structure. After lot of search I located a blog by Mr. Jose F P Lourenco – He writes "I’ve saved the best photograph for last. I found this in my late uncle’s chest while cleaning the musty old attic. It’s from a ‘Souvenir da Velha Cidade de Goa’ by the venerable photographers Souza & Paul. The back cover of this photograph collection reads ‘Unico Representante na India Portuguesa das makinas fotograficas Rolleiflex e Rolleicord’!" The sketch above has been taken from same blog courtesy – Mr Lourenco.
Ramesh Lalwani, New Delhi
Author: Ramesh Lalwani- New Delhi