Church of Our Lady Of Divine Providence
Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India
The Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence of Old Goa pertained to the vanished Theatine Convent of Saint Cajetan, a patron saint frequently but mistakenly attributed to the church itself. The convent building was located immediately to the south of where the Palace of the Fortress once stood, near the Arch of the Viceroys. Nowadays only the church attests to the presence of this order of Italian friars in the territories of the Portuguese Padroado of the Orient. And it was precisely due to their refusal to submit to the Portuguese monarchs that the Theatine friars who had arrived in Goa in 1639 were forced to leave the territory. Before that happened, between 1656 and 1672, they built their convent. According to Rafael Moreira, it was designed by the Theatine Father Carlo Ferrari, assisted in the task by Bother Francesco Maria Milazzo. The convent’s builder was Manuel Pereira. Regarding the church, Rafael Moreira establishes the influences of Saint Peter’s in the Vatican only with respect to the façade; its plan derives from the one at the sanctuary of Madonna della Ghiara in Reggio- Emilia. Articulation between the façade and volume of the church, with its centred plan, is done via a galilee running the width of the building. The high altar is located above this entrance space and is possibly the most Portuguese feature of the entire church. The worship space is arranged around a central square crowned by a dome over pendentives, in whose drum are eight rectangular windows. A hemispherical calotte and skylight close this architectural feature in the best tradition of Italian Renaissance domes. Inside, four equally sized arms covered by coffered groin vaults make the Greek cross that defines the church type. Four additional square spaces complete (also in plan) the larger square in which they are placed, if we except the galilee. The church is prolonged on the east side by half the depth of the square where the Greek cross is, making it a plan with a one-and-a-half proportion. The chancel is located here, flanked by two octagonal spaces, with the one on the north side functioning as sacristy. The high altar’s retable and the side altars’ retables are carved giltwork with baroque forms, as are the Solomonic columns. The convent building is arranged parallel to the church, on its north side. Outside, only the south-facing wing perpendicular to the church’s façade is visible. A photo from the turn of the 19th-20th century shows the ground floor with only one central door and two small oval windows. Windows were later opened on this floor, corresponding to the ones on the floor above. The front of the building was enlarged by a wing equal to the first one, framing a central body with a columned portico on each floor. The Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence has architectural features unique in Goa and totally foreign to the architectural tradition of Christian religious architecture directly influenced by the Portuguese. These include: inside, the Greek cross plan, the dome over the crossing with drum lying on pendentives with hemispherical calotte and skylight, the semi-cylindrical back wall of the chancel and the spaces adjacent to the church with its octagonal plan; on the façade, the seven sections (instead of the usual five on façades with towers) articulated by Corinthian columns and pilasters in colossal or Attic order. Also, the high altar’s retable is different from most Goan retables which either resemble a façade due to the niches’ arrangement in levels, or follow the model of a Roman triumphal arch. The church’s architectural features (of direct Italian influence), in contrast, show signs of the specific nature of Goan Christian architecture of Portuguese tradition. The singular nature of the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Goa thus places it in a privileged position as a witness of the Christian missionary endeavour in the 17th century and the complex process of adhesions and resistance to European architectural models.