Convent and Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Chaul [Revdanda Fort], Maharashtra, India
Along with the wall perimeter, the Dominican church’s ruins are Chaul’s most important archaeolog- ical complex. In November 1548 the vicar general of the Dominicans in India asked the archbishop of Goa for authorisation to build a house in Chaul. This was not granted, although the archbishop did allow two Dominican missionaries to go to Chaul and donated to the order the small hermitage chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadelupe. It is not possible to ascertain whether this chapel was located at the same site where only a few years later the Dominicans began building the church and convent which was practically finished around 1569, when the royal contribution assigned to the convent was defined and confirmed. The new building complex suffered considerable damage during the 1570-71 siege of Chaul, as it was on the front line of the improvised defence perimeter defending the city. The Dominican convent was even occupied by the attacking forces at the end of the conflict. After the siege was raised, the convent and church remained in ruins for several years, while the missionaries raised funds to rebuild them. This was done between 1580 and 1590. It is not known how much that work altered the church’s original architecture, but it is very unlikely that it affected the layout and the form of the side chapels. Indeed, the Dominican church of Chaul is probably one of the first in Portuguese architecture to adopt the single nave type with intercommunicating side chapels. According to the surveys by Gritli von Mitterwallner, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Chaul’s biggest church in area) had five side chapels on each side of the nave, connected to each other and to the transept. The type had appeared in Portugal at Saint Francis’s in Évora, during a construction phase in the 1480s, and later at Saint John the Evangelist’s in Vilar de Frades (1513-1523), the Jesuit church of the Holy Spirit in Évora (after 1566) and Saint Dominic’s of Viana da Foz do Lima, which is probably a contemporary of the Chaul church. The façade is almost entirely gone. According to Mitterwallner, it is barely possible to discern that it had three doors. We do not know whether the church’s roof was tiled or vaulted. However, the lateral chapels on the Epistle side still have Gothic ogival rib vaults, the most complex existing in the former Estado da Índia. They are only paralleled by those found in the Church of the Rosary in Old Goa. The intermediate side chapel (third counting from the main façade or transept) presents a vault even more complex than the others. In some vaults vestiges of frescoes are also visible. Each side chapel has two narrow windows flanking the area of the altar. Behind the triumphal arch are the ruins of the chancel. Left of the arch’s stonework is a niche, possibly for a bell. The chancel had a coffered roof. Marks left by the choir stalls can be seen on the side walls; as in the order’s church in Goa, the choir was here and not over the entrance. Its location in the chancel explains the latter’s large size compared to the body of the church. Perhaps conditioned by the existence of the choir, there are two windows and a door on each side of the chancel. There are also two windows and two doors on the headwall flanking the area of the no longer existent retable. These doors lead to the inner chamber. Noteworthy are the projecting corbels on the frieze at the base of the vault. The annex south of the chancel housed the sacristy, where there were still vestiges of an altar and graves in the mid-19th century. The entire floor of the church lies under about a metre of soil that sustains several coconut palms. South and east of the church’s body is the Dominican convent and novitiate, whose ruins have virtually disappeared.