Church of Saint John the Baptist

Church of Saint John the Baptist

Carambolim, Goa, India

Religious Architecture

Carambolim was, like Divar, one of the first sites of mass conversions that took place in Goa in the 16th century. The church, which already existed in 1541, probably as a rammed-earth chapel with a palm-leaf roof, became well-known due to the Saint John’s festival held in the court, which included equestrian contests for the Old City’s nobles and notables. It was more indelibly described in the historic narrative “Lagoa de Carambolim”, referring to the lake or river branch that dominated the territory southeast of Old Goa, where the epidemics that began to decimate the population in the early 17th century were thought to originate. The existing church is from the early 17th century: a single-naved rectangular building with a tile roof and vaulted chancel. The main façade faces north towards an immense courtyard, beside which passes the road from the Old City. The plan is very simple yet also very treatise-erudite, based simultaneously on Serlio and Vredeman de Vries. The only tower is on the east side and dates to 1858. The original composition of the main elevation (which did not include towers, a characteristic of all Goan façades before the mid-17th century) was inspired by the façade of the Church of Our Lady of the Mount (late 16th century). The two façades can be seen from afar, looming above the coconut grove and rice paddies east of the Old City.

Paulo Varela Gomes