CONVENT AND CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF PITY
Mandapeshwar (Manapacer, Mount Poinsur), Mumbai Metropolitan Area (Bombay), India
The complex built by the Portuguese Franciscan Recollects of the Piedade Province in Mandapeshwar is potentially one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the history of the meetings and misunderstandings between Hindu and Catholic India. Relatively little is left of the buildings, just enough to recall that history. The Portuguese Franciscan friars labelled as Manapacer the site of Mandapeshwar. Little by little the word came to incorporate the idea of a hill, probably due to the presence of a Sacromonte added to the site in the 17th century; it was thereafter called Monpacer. The English read that designation as Mount Poinsur – the name the area bears today. The Franciscan complex comprises a convent, a college and two churches, besides the Sacromonte, and dates to the missionary activity of Friar António Porto and Friar João de Goa on Salsette Island. Salsette had a number of caves with resident Hindu yogis or hermits. When Friar António do Porto was unable to convert them he tried to expel them and convert the spaces into Christian churches, following in very singular manner a tradition characteristic of the Franciscan order. The Mandapeshwar cave-temple was originally an 8th century sanctuary dedicated to Shiva. It was occupied sometime between 1546 and 1548, the year when Friar António do Porto first referred to the site, in a letter to King João III, as being “a handsome and devoted chapel”, where mass was celebrated every Sunday. It is known that in 1549 the church installed in the former temple was dedicated to Our Lady of Pity. Between this date and 1550 the village of Mandapeshwar was chartered to the Franciscans in perpetuity. In 1552 the Vasai orphanage under the charge of Franciscan missionaries was transferred to Mandapeshwar and the institution was then assigned a royal contribution. This transfer resulted in the designation Royal College of Mandapeshwar.