Saint Paul's Church
Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India
The destroyed Saint Paul’s Church was the second of the college of the same name, also known as Saint Paul’s of the Arches, founded by the Jesuits next the Holy Faith Seminary. The seminary was established in 1541 by Diogo de Borba and Miguel Vaz, vicar-general of India, and raised next to the Horses Way [Carreira dos Cavalos], a road which still links Old Goa to Ponda. The following year Diogo de Borba was able to convince Francis Xavier, recently arrived in Goa, to involve hiscommunity in managing the seminary, so as to ensure a minimum number of religious personnel who could teach the native boys destined for the Catholic priesthood.
After the deaths of Vaz and de Borba in 1547, the Holy Faith Seminary passed entirely into the Society’s possession. After that date the Jesuits enlarged not just the building but also multiplied the institutions located on the site. First they founded Saint Paul’s College (separating the residence from the seminary) and later a primary school, an orphanage and even a hospital. In the 1580s they instituted a novitiate and a professed house, which were nevertheless soon transferred to other buildings in the city centre and on Monte Santo.
Work on Saint Paul’s Church began in 1560 on the initiative of Father António Quadros and was meant to replace the original house of worship dated 1541. It was consecrated on Saint Paul’s Day, 25 January 1572. The body of Francis Xavier, which lay in the old church, was brought to the new Saint Paul’s Church (where it remained until his canonisation in 1622, when it was moved again). Two years later, in 1574, an epidemic caused very high mortality among members of the community of Saint Paul’s. This may explain why little was built in the Saint Paul’s complex after that date. In 1581 the prefect of the work on Saint Paul’s, Father João de Faria, passed away, leaving unfinished the four additional flying buttresses built to strengthen the church’s vaults, which already had a large crack. Faria’s death was a blow due to the shortage of Society members with construction skills.
The unhealthy location of Saint Paul’s College, which led to complaints from residents at least since 1554, led to gradual abandonment of the college and its dependencies until it was definitively closed when the Jesuits were expelled from Portuguese territories in 1759. What remains today is the ruined central part of the church’s façade, whose restoration, possibly in 1948-52, consolidated though also disfigured it.
Saint Paul’s Church was one of the oldest Jesuit churches outside Europe and predates the Society’s single-naved Portuguese churches. It was built only two years after the first directives concerning its buildings, which nevertheless do not mention the architecture of the churches. Saint Paul’s of Goa would thus also included in the medieval mendicant church type. It was a church without transept, whose three naves culminated in the apse, in three rectangular chapels. The naves were separated by robust Doric granite columns, vestiges of which can still be found on the church site. The deep chancel and the high choir (very infrequently found among contemporary European Jesuit churches) were an important witness to the Jesuits’ missionary activity in Goa. When they perceived the persuasive power of theatrical representations and music in conversions of the local population, they made sure that the church had sufficient spaces for those activities in the scope of religious ceremonies.
Despite the architectural type, the plans for Saint Paul’s entirely reflect the new ‘Roman-style’ way of building. The whole church was closed by (barrel?) vaults with coffers. Although the original designer remains unknown, the construction process is known to have been accompanied by various members of the Society, who alternated in those duties. For example, the Spanish Jesuit Martin Ochoa is reported to have worked there from 1567 on. Ochoa, who came over from Europe with previous experience as a sculptor, also had knowledge of books of prints, and of books on perspectives and of doorways (not identified) by Vignola. He possibly designed the main doorway, whose model is found in the depiction of the Roman triumphal arch in Pula (Croatia), included by Serlio in his Book III. The doorway of Saint Paul’s became in turn the main entrance model used in Goa’s Christian religious architecture.
The church’s main novelty regarding Goan architecture was its façade composition and exterior arrangement. It is modular, expanding via the wall and façade surfaces in a grille of Tuscan pilasters and entablatures, where only one window or door opened in each surface panel. This arrangement materialised the interior’s spatial and tectonic structure (naves, sections, high choir) on the outside, creating a formal stability in the architecture via unchanging repetition of its base-module (two pilasters and entablature). In Goa, this architectural language was appropriated to a missionary context in which Christianity needed to present an image of unmistakeable orthodoxy in an environment where it was unknown. This was therefore not the place to exercise the tectonic instability and hybrid nature of Italian Mannerism, nor to purify and reduce the classical orders’ language to a structural minimum, as in Portuguese chã (plain) architecture. Although destroyed, what remains of Saint Paul’s Church is the oldest attestation of the phenomenon of introducing the European Renaissance in a context of Christian/Catholic missionary activity in the Orient,