Palace of the Viceroys

Palace of the Viceroys

Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India

Housing

The Palace of the Viceroys marked the image of the city of Goa for more than three centuries, with its group of upraised volumes overlooking the Mandovi waters. The palace comprised a number of administrative structures, with buildings arranged around a square called the Terreiro dos Vice-Reis [Courtyard of the Viceroys]. On the river side the palace had a walled façade over another square: the Quay of the Viceroy, which was open to the Mandovi shore. This façade integrated the old city walls. The two squares communicated via the Arch of the Viceroys, nowadays the only formal witness to that formerly huge architectural complex. For aesthetic reasons, both urban and architectural, the palace is also presented as being a late-Manueline royal palace, an almost autonomous unit within the city and without direct contact with the Mandovi, unless by the views offered from the high windows and verandas. The building, usually known as the Palace of the Fortress, integrated an old fort pertaining to the city of Adil Shah and set against its walls. After the city was captured by Portuguese troops, Afonso de Albuquerque ordered that fort restored and the city’s first captain, Rodrigo Rebelo, resided there. In 1554 Viceroy Pedro de Mascarenhas moved in, abandoning the Sabaio Palace that had been the vice-regal residence in the first half of the 16th century. The site near the Mandovi River bank with views over the estuary more resembled the situation of the Royal Ribeira Palace [in Lisbon], and thus will have influenced the viceroy’s decision to stay in the Palace of the Fortress and make this residence the official palace. From the architectural standpoint, the palace was characterised by a group comprising several volumes that succeeded each other organically, joining the gaol to the royal warehouses used to store weapons and munitions. The building took on a certain sumptuousness mentioned by various travellers, more because of the scale and proportions than elaborate architectural arrangement. The 1779 survey of the palace attests to this. The design indicates a tendency towards plain [chã] architecture and an organic feel accentuated by a number of high scissor-truss roofs which simultaneously lent it a marked monumentality. The hub of the palace’s distribution plan was a walled patio whose entrance was marked by a large porch with two flights of stairs and a hip roof sustained by thick stone columns. Running the length of the elevation on each side of the porch were two long columned verandas, a solution later adopted in the large houses of the 18th century. As Pyrard de la Valle indicates, this patio assumed important representative functions; it was where all the aristocracy gathered either on horse or in litters during official ceremonies or when the viceroy travelled outside the palace. As a royal palace paradigm, the building included a large chapel with tribune, whose connection to the palace interior endowed it with the characteristics of a palace chapel. In its complex interior, the palace also had two large halls. The first was used as an antechamber, where the viceroy’s personal guard remained on a day-to-day basis, while the second was reserved for the council and major receptions. The first hall contained paintings of all the fleets since Vasco da Gama landed in India. Pyrard de la Valle comments that all the ships were labelled by name and respective captain, even those that were wrecked. This hall gave onto a larger one decorated in turn with fulllength portraits of all the viceroys, a valuable collection now located in the old Franciscan convent of the city of Goa. In 1695 the Count of Vila Verde was forced to leave the complex due to the plague then raging in the city. He installed himself in the Palace of the Casa da Pólvora [Gunpowder House] in Panelim on the outskirts of Goa. In the 19th century the viceroys moved in turn to Panaji, following the major projects built there as it became the capital of the Estado da Índia. Although the Palace of the Fortress was no longer the vice-regal residence, for many years its large audience hall was still used for official receptions. This is mentioned by Kloguen, who stayed in Goa in 1812, a few years before what remained of the palace was demolished in 1820.

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