Metrpolitan Sé Cathedral of Goa and Daman
Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India
The Metropolitan Cathedral [Sé] of Goa and Daman is the seat of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, which includes the territories of Diu, Dadra and Nagar-Haveli, and simultaneously the seat of the Patriarch of the East Indies. Its patron saint is Catharine of Alexandria. The order to build the cathedral, which still stands in the centre of the onetime city of Old Goa [Velha Goa], was signed in 1562 by King Sebastian and followed the elevation of Goa (since 1530 capital of the Estado da Índia) to seat of a bishopric in 1533-34 and seat of the archdiocese in 1557. The new large-size church begun in late 1564 or shortly thereafter replaced the former parish church of Old Goa, Saint Catherine’s, which was in turn begun in 1514 and elevated to cathedral status in 1534 (called the Old Cathedral [Sé Velha] after 1564), and whose trail is lost after the early decades of the 17th century. From this original church Goa’s current cathedral maintained the dedication to Saint Catharine of Alexandria, in memory of the day when Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the city – 25 November 1510. The space of the baptismal chapel may have been maintained on the ground floor of the north tower. Various signs, among them the 1532 baptismal font and the star-shaped rib vault, suggest that the origin of this section of the building is medieval. Construction of Goa’s cathedral lasted until 1651- 1652, the completion date indicated in an inscription over the main entrance. Most of the work was done in the early decades of the 17th century. It is not known for sure whether the original plan from the previous decade was followed (as António Nunes Pereira claims) or whether, on the contrary, a new plan was drawn up at this time (according to Pedro Dias). It is known that one of the towers was built between 1597 and 1600, but not whether it is the still-existent south tower or the north tower, which collapsed in 1776. The church’s body was completed in 1619, with work continuing on the chancel and sacristy. In 1631 most of the building was finished; the retables and work by artisans remained to be done. The base of a barrel vault on the outside walls of the lateral chapels on the north side indicates a cloister-type patio abutting the north side of the cathedral, which either fell in or was never built. The author of the original plan is not known. Rafael Moreira attributes the design to the master builder Inofre de Carvalho (active from 1538 to 1568). Pedro Dias in turn attributes to the kingdom’s chief engineer, Júliospot at the crossing, on an axis with the chancel arch. His gravestone, nowadays almost completely effaced, indicates that he was “master architect of the works of this cathedral”. Goa’s cathedral is arranged in the form of a Latin cross, with three naves, high choir and side chapels, transept, crossing bounded by arch piers and deep chancel in the spatial extension of the central nave. All these spaces are covered by coffered barrel vaults, except for the crossing, which has a groin vault. The section of the church’s body is that of a false basilica, as there are no clerestory windows between the naves. Despite the small height difference between the lateral and central naves, the longitudinal axial relationship of the pillars between them and of the barrel vaults individualises and makes those spaces autonomous, setting this church apart from churches with naves of similar height such as Portuguese cathedrals from the 1550s. Goa’s cathedral is a rigorously modulated building. This is apparent not only in the spatial organisation but also in the walls’ articulation by means of a grille made of pilasters and entablatures. The entire edifice was built of laterite and later whitewashed. Only noble façade elements such as the porticoes, windows and the aedicula were made of granite brought from Vasai. Vestiges of Renaissance-era mural paintings survive inside, raising the hypothesis that the whole interior once had a pictorial and colourful treatment. Nowadays it is largely coated with whitewash. Despite the long time under construction, the Goa Cathedral reveals great formal and stylistic coherence. Portuguese influence is especially apparent in the arrangement of volumes and the façade flanked by two towers, especially close to the cathedral in Portalegre. But unlike that church in Portugal’s Alentejo region, Goa’s cathedral presents an architectural language almost entirely made up of elements from the European Renaissance – Portuguese, French, Flemish and, naturally, Italian, with special emphasis on the treatises of Sebastiano Serlio, without reminiscences from earlier periods. Repetition of the architectural canon consisting of a pair of pilasters topped by an entablature is one of the most visible features of this Goan synthesis of European influences (> Saint Paul’s Church), quite distinct from contemporary religious architecture in Portugal, especially the so-called chã (plain) architecture. Goa’s cathedral attests to the process of establishing a centre of political and religious power for the Portuguese crown in the Orient which occurred in the 16th century. The building’s size illustrates the strength of the Portuguese presence or at least the image of that presence as it was meant to be transmitted to the local inhabitants and to travellers from various parts of the world who stopped over in Goa. The new building’s location (now unreadable due to the historic city’s disappearance, but which was rotated from 90 to 180 degrees with respect to the Sé Velha/Old Cathedral) is significant. The 1564 cathedral faced a square corresponding to the current forecourt, on whose south side stood the Sabaio Palace. The residence of the governors and viceroys from 1510 to 1554 had housed the Palace of the Inquisition since the latter was introduced in Goa in 1560. The urban proximity of these two buildings conveyed an unmistakeable message regarding the new power and its instruments of coercion. On the cathedral’s façade the Portuguese crown and the Catholic church were also shown as triumphant. On the ground floor two citations of Roman triumphal arches can be seen (the two side entrances framing a bigger central one, the architectural framing of the latter). They (> Saint Paul’s Church) are surmounted by the papal crown over the door and the Portuguese crown over the central window. On top of the façade, the niche with the image of Saint Catharine subjugating the Sabaio (Adihl Shah, Muslim leader of Goa until 1510) was the corollary of the architectural and urban imagery associated with the new Christian power in Goa. The Cathedral’s heritage importance has been acknowledged twice: in 1932, still under Portuguese rule, when it was classified as a National Monument (Catão, F.X. Gomes, Yearbook of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman for 1955, 89); and in 1986, when it was placed along with other Old Goa buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage list.