Convent and Church of Saint Barbara
Chaul [Revdanda Fort], Maharashtra, India
Besides the walls and bastions, Chaul’s most visible archaeological landmark is the tower of the ruined Convent of Saint Barbara. Next to the tower are the scant ruins of the church and convent, nowadays a palm grove and farmland. There is no sure information about the foundation of the Franciscan house in Chaul. Although the Franciscan missionary Friar António do Porto visited Chaul around 1540, the convent’s first mention dates to the period of Viceroy Francisco Coutinho (1561-1564). The convent suffered extensive damage during the 1570 siege of Chaul, as it was converted into the main bastion on the defence perimeter improvised around the primitive fortress. Artillery pieces were set up inside the church; next to it on the west side a wooden bastion was built, which was able to hold off various assaults for several months. The convent ended up being evacuated by the Portuguese towards the end of the conflict. The convent was later re opening built and enlarged. The aforementioned tower, 29 metres high, certainly dates to that reconstruction. Its design and solid construction give it a military appearance; however, besides serving as an observation post and navigation landmark, the Convent of Saint Barbara was probably not fortified again after the 1570-71 siege. The church would have been oriented on an approximately north-south axis. The façade is almost entirely gone. It would have had three doors to the nave. According to the survey by Gritli von Mitetrwallner, there were three side chapels on each side of the nave; vestiges of the ones on the Gospel side are still visible. It has not been possible to determine whether these chapels intercommunicated, but it is natural to suppose that they did, bearing in mind the Franciscan church in Vasai. A circumscribed transept was most likely located between the side chapels and the chancel. The chancel had a stone vault which collapsed between 1847 and 1855. On the left side wall are two rectangular windows, while on the right side are two doors – one leads to a hypothetical fore-sacristy, above which the tower stands, and the other to the space of the sacristy. The church’s nave had a wooden ceiling and tile roof. West of the church, between it and the city’s wall, was a small cloister. Vestiges remain of the extensions bounding it on the west and north.
Paulo Varela Gomes