Saint Francis’s Church and Convent (current hospital)

Saint Francis’s Church and Convent (current hospital)

Diu, Guzerate, India

Religious Architecture

The Franciscans had planned to found a convent in Diu since the 1530s, but it was only accomplished in 1592 or 1593 when the Franciscan Recollects of the Custody of the Mother of God, very active in the Província do Norte, were able to found a house through the efforts of Friar António dos Reis, with the active commitment of the stronghold’s governor, Pedro de Anaia. The foundation title was Our Lady of Porziuncola, or of the Angels. The titles of Our Lady of the Conception or Saint Francis of Assisi are recent. In the time when Friar Paulo da Trindade wrote the chronicle of the Franciscans in the Orient, the 1630s, between 12 and 15 friars resided at the Diu convent. The convent is nowadays used as a hospital and the dependencies are badly cared for. The map of Diu drawn in 1833 by Aniceto da Silva shows the complex basically as it is found today: the church’s main façade faces southward, while the convent is to the west, arranged around a cloister. A second, smaller cloister north of the first one, with a band built to the west, indicated the start of the convent’s expansion, which did not eventually occur. Situated on ground slightly sloping to the south, the complex is raised on a platform which is ennobled by a forecourt accessed by a large L-shaped staircase leading to the church’s two façades: the side one to the west and the front one to the south. The cross marks the corner of the forecourt, where nowadays a large tree also grows. The church’s side façade is as important as the front, because it faces the path coming from the fortress and the Christian settlement. It is arranged in six separate sections separated by abutments topped by spherical pinnacles. A door opens in the third section counting from the façade. The front façade is preceded by a three-arched galilee, a theme which may have been characteristic of the design culture of the Franciscans in India, although very few cases have come down to us: in the north, the convent church of Vasai, Saint John the Baptist of Taná (judging from old photographs), Mahim of Mumbai (according to an English print); in Goa, Nerul and Parrá. It is probable that other free galilees were incorporated in the body of churches when high choirs were added (Pomburpa, Penha de França). The mother church of the Custody of the Mother of God in India presented this galilee type. This was the famous church of the Convent of the Mother of God of Daugim, demolished in the 19th century and only known through a print published by Lopes Mendes. The print also shows that the existence at the Diu church of a forecourt accessed by an L-shaped staircase may have been inspired by the no longer existent church of Daugim (Goa). The Diu church has a single nave, covered by a barrel vault with no exterior roof, as is normal in this territory. The chancel is lower and has a similar vault, but decorated with coffers. After the initial construction, perhaps in the early 18th century, the nave’s corners on the apse side were bevelled by two chapels shaped like semicircular niches and covered by shell-shaped half domes in the style of the Jesuits’ church. The convent’s most notable feature is the tower located next to the chancel in the Franciscan manner. It is two floors high and topped by a dome with a lantern cupola. It is visible from quite far in Diu. The perspective drawn by Aniceto da Silva shows it with four floors opened by windows, besides the dome, but this may be an expressive exaggeration.

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