Chapel of our Lady of the Mount
Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount belongs to the group of votive chapels founded by or due to the wishes of Afonso de Albuquerque. The chapel is built on top of a hill east of the onetime city centre, diametrically opposite Monte Santo and, like the latter, overlooking the Mandovi River. According to Gaspar Correia, the chapel was begun immediately after the city of Goa was conquered from the troops of Adil Shah in 1510. Henrique Bravo de Moraes confirms this information and adds that the chapel was subsequently enlarged, without specifying the date.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount reproduces on a smaller scale (though still sizeable for a chapel) the features of the Portuguese-influenced Christian religious architecture in Goa. The chapel has a single nave; the chancel is lower and narrower than the nave. Both these rectangular spaces are covered by coffered barrel vaults. A loggia and sacristy complete the whole to the north. The chapel façade’s composition somewhat resembles that of Goa’s cathedral, to which Our Lady of the Mount was subordinate. Three sections with entrances on the ground floor and windows crowned by classic triangular pediments on the upper floor are topped by an additional central panel flanked by wings which hide the gable roof over the chapel body’s nave. The double corner pilasters are also a solution found in the cathedral, though rare in Goa (they probably originate in the façade of the destroyed Church of Our Lady of Carmel, of the Italian Carmelites, which was located near the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount).
Although the structure with its Goan arrangement was apparently the configurative reference of the chapel walls, some deviations from this orthodoxy are acknowledged, which should be taken as an innovation. On the chapel’s exterior a superimposition on two levels can be seen, in which bands (not entablatures) run on one level behind the pilasters and divide the chapel body into two floors. But as the pilasters continue from the base to the entablature, we are faced with a colossal order, though its impact is attenuated by the aforementioned bands. Various panels with two windows area also seen; this is contrary to the singleopening principle recurrent in Goan Christian architecture.
The structural problem was revealed in 1980 with the appearance of a lengthwise crack in the nave vaulting. In the 1990s the chapel was restored; to consolidate it, all the roof structure was disassembled. The façade reinforcement elements, built at an unknown date, were also removed. But those elements, while disfiguring the façade, were like many others in Goan buildings a witness to the frail nature of Portuguese buildings in Goan territory and the unsuitability of European architectural forms vis-à-vis the climate and materials of India.
The architectural language of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount shows a plan more differentiated usual in Goan religious architecture. This suggests the authorship of someone who, while recognising or understanding Goan tradition, was clever enough to draw up a very subtle and innovative plan. Some of the arrangement’s solutions recall the south tower of the Goa Cathedral and the Arch of the Viceroys. What we know of this chapel’s history does not enable us to suggest that it was designed by the latter’s architect, Júlio Simão, though the approximation by analogy of forms may be a clue for future investigations.